Thank You Ryan and Blake

2020 was an especially difficult year for food banks across our countryLong lineups of our neighbours who were struggling made us fear that the worst was yet to come.  

With the intense impact of the pandemic, the team at Food Banks Canada knew that it would be all hands on deck to support the country’s 4750+ food banks and community organizations. We needed something extraordinary to help them make it through..

It was a daunting task, but something unexpected happened.

A few days before the team rolled out the big donor campaign, Food Banks Canada received their first donation in the amount of $750,000. It came from Canadian film star Ryan Reynolds and his wife Blake Lively. When Tania Little, Chief Development and Partnerships Officer received the news about the first cheque, she was delightfully shocked. “I was totally surprised. It was out of the blue and we were so caught off guard. But it came at the perfect time. We needed to take bold action and this first contribution and the profile this gift brought, was the impetus to do it.”

This first cheque would be the boost that Food Banks Canada needed to inspire people to support their local food banks.

“The news about Ryan & Blake’s donation went viral in a matter of hours. It awakened an awareness across the country for people and so the day we launched the campaign, the phones started ringing and it was non-stop. Generosity began flowing and that seemed to inspire even more people, companies and foundations to give.” says Tania.

And if that was not enough, the team was able to do something that would help even more communities: The Stronger Together Concert, which raised almost $9 million.

“Less than a month after receiving Ryan & Blake’s donation, we were nominated as one of the potential charity organizations to be the beneficiaries of a large-scale concert being put on by all of the major media companies and within the span of a few days, we found out that we were selected as the sole recipients. Then the reality set in that we had 9 days to pull off this concert.”

The team was in action mode after receiving the news, but once again, Ryan was there to support.

The amazing part was this wonderful collection of creatives in so many disciplines came together to rally support. And then there was Ryan, who brought friends to the table. We had representation from the greatest legends. Musical and literary artists and producers were all part of this. And then, Ryan volunteered to do this one-minute video for us and the way he spoke about Food Banks Canada’s vision and mission was truly from the heart and was just incredible. Speaking from the heart, we knew something incredible had happened.”

Ryan and Blake’s support continued.

Ryan and Blake also continued their philanthropy donating to other food banks, such as the Ottawa Food Bank and Airdrie Food Bank. And earlier this year, Ryan and Blake made another exceptional gift in support of Food Banks Canada’s COVID-19 Response Fund.

This act inspired many others to donate to their local food banks and set a wonderful example of helping your neighbours in need.

By the end of the fiscal year, with thanks to Ryan and Blake and so many wonderful philanthropists, Food Banks Canada completed their $150 million Covid Response Fund. This support was something we never dreamt possible and allowed the food bank network to be there for their communities throughout the pandemic in real and meaningful ways.

Saying “Thank You” a million times isn’t sufficient to express our heartfelt gratitude.

So, when we got the opportunity to do something special for Ryan, our team could not say no.

On November 26, Ryan received the Governor General’s Award for the performing arts, but it wasn’t just about his talent. He was chosen as a recipient in recognition of his creativity as an actor, marketer, as a spokesperson, and as a philanthropist.

The Food Banks Canada team was asked to do something special in honor of the award. With her creative thinking hat on, Tania came up with an idea. “I wanted to do something creative, sassy, and unique, just like Ryan”, says Tania with a glint in her eye. Next came the idea of creating his portrait with cans of food. “I reached out to a talented local creative (Emma Jenkin) who did the illustration of Ryan and then I reached out to our partners from Daily Bread Food Bank who have a deep relationship with the  “Canstruction” team in Toronto and through them connected to the fabulous teams from Aercoustics Engineering and Diamond & Schmitt Architects to to help us create something special. Together, we were able to bring together a wonderful team to bring the engineering, design know-how and hard work to create this beautiful work of art – an expression of donor love for Ryan”

Click here for a video timelapse of the “canstruction”, created with thanks to our partners at Skylar Media Group.

“This was such a great way for us to bring our mission and gratitude to Ryan in a way that’s really unique and special for him. Its our small way of saying