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Corporate Leadership: A liberator in the time of COVID 19


It would be an understatement to say that the last year has been difficult for most of us, each with our own fears, challenges, and worries. Many of us have turned to substances to cope with these uncomfortable feelings, or to relieve the symptoms of an existing or emerging mental health issue.  

Drug Free Kids Canada (DFKC) supports families in their efforts to reduce the harms of problematic substance use and promote healthy behaviours among youth, and our work has never been more important than it is right now.

Certainly, the demand for DFKC’s services has gone way up. Unfortunately, the funding to support these services has not increased to meet the need, and like many other not-for-profit organizations1, Drug Free Kids Canada has been seriously impacted.

DFKC has never received direct funding from the government, and competes with many similarly modest organizations for dollars from other sources. Many corporate and foundation funders, however have their own challenges right now, like lost revenue, layoffs, and overwhelming requests for support. Everyone is trying to navigate the outcomes of the pandemic and figure out how they can move toward recovery.

So where does that leave an organization like DFKC? What innovations can we apply in order to stay responsive to need, while keeping our heads above water?

We can start by examining two common observations on today’s funding landscape from some of the top philanthropic voices of our time:

  1. Individuals want to be part of the solution. In this context defined by stretched resources, “the overall total of donation dollars [from individuals] has been increasing.” (CanadaHelps Giving Report, 2020) We know giving can be therapeutic and empowers people to help address societal challenges. Individuals seem to be responding to this call, and are in fact, demonstrating that they want to be involved, hands-on in driving the solution; they want to give more than money alone and are keen to be a part of something that has a collective impact.
  2. Initiatives that can engage employees in volunteering are more attractive to potential corporate donors, and can increase the likelihood of securing funding from these sources. According to the Harvard Business Review, “companies are discovering that when they integrate volunteer programs with their corporate giving plan, it’s good for their business. Research has shown that these programs improve employee satisfaction, foster employee engagement, and boost retention.” (HBR, 2020) Today’s employees want to work for companies that care.

These are encouraging trends in philanthropy and fit well with DFKC’s work to mobilize Canadians; after all, creating a social movement to prevent substance use harm among youth, is what we’re all about. The question for us, especially now when our work is so critical, has been “how can we leverage that fit to better meet the needs of families and communities in Canada“?

As it turns out, an exceptional mix of partner innovation, advocacy and national leadership was the game-changing solution. Enter Raymond James Ltd…

Canada’s premier independent investment firm, Raymond James Ltd is a long-time, trusted partner to DFKC, leading on some of our most valued corporate initiatives. As an Imagine Canada Caring Company, they are widely recognized as one of the country’s leaders in community investment and social responsibility, and proudly put people at the centre of their work.  Not surprisingly, they have attracted staff and associates who exemplify this promise, and they are harnessing the shared commitment to drive social change.

Nationwide from May 1 to June 11, we and our friends at Raymond James Ltd are participating in the first ever RJ5K4Kids, a signature charitable & employee engagement event developed by the Raymond James Canada Foundation (RJCF). In these difficult times, the initiative offers the chance for participants to pursue personal wellness while working together toward a common goal – completing 5K, any way to raise funds and awareness for Drug Free Kids Canada.

As each day passes, support for the #RJ5K4Kids, and for #DFKC grows, and we couldn’t be more grateful to Raymond James Ltd and the Raymond James Canada Foundation for their investment in us. It has empowered DFKC to move confidently into a phase of recovery and to enhance our work with families across the country.

In championing this initiative – which demonstrates the power of social-justice-minded individuals to make a profound collective impact, Raymond James Ltd. is helping to redefine corporate philanthropy as a force for social innovation. This is truly, leadership in action.

#RJCARES @raymondjamesCDN  @rjcfoundation

By Pauline Bondy, National Director of Philanthropy, Drug Free Kids Canada

  1. Sixty-eight percent of charities have seen a decline in donations since the onset of the pandemic – with demand for services trending upward (Imagine Canada, Sector Monitoring Study, 2020)

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Press Release – The Pill Fairy returns for National Drug Drop off Month



For immediate release

OTTAWA, August 4, 2020 – A parallel crisis that has been exacerbated by the pandemic – Canada’s opioid crisis continues to grow.

The challenges of COVID 19 have overshadowed the fact that the opioid crisis continues to grow, with increased instances of problematic drug use, overdoses and accidental poisonings reported across the country.

Young Canadians aged 15 to 24 are the fastest-growing population requiring hospital care from opioid overdoses. (Government of Canada – Canada’s Opioid Crisis Fact Sheet)

While we are all facing unique challenges during this pandemic, we don’t want the risk of non-medical use of medications by our kids to be one of them” says Chantal Vallerand, Executive Director of Drug Free Kids Canada. “We encourage parents to be even more vigilant and keep all prescription medications safe, secure, and out of reach of children and others in the household.”

 Drug Free Kids Canada’s annual National Drug Drop-off month focuses on the need for secure storage of medications within the home, and the importance of returning expired prescriptions for safe disposal to their pharmacy.

Last year, one in 10 high school students in Ontario reported using prescription painkillers without a prescription. (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, CAMH, OSDUHS Drug Use Report 2019) – most of them say they got the pills from home. That represents close to 310,000 kids across the country. (A DFK estimate)

There is concern that youth may consider using substances to cope with feelings of stress, anxiety, boredom or isolation during the pandemic. To reduce potential of recreational use of medications by youth, it is more important than ever for parents and caregivers to securely store and properly dispose of unused medications.

48% of Canadian households contain potentially harmful prescriptions, yet only 11% of those homes keep their medications locked up or secure. (DFK Tracking Survey, 2017) Prescription and over the counter medications that are kept in unlocked medicine cabinets at home are susceptible to diversion, non-medical use and problematic use. 

“Secure your old medications until you can return them, it’s a great move.”

The Pill Fairy returns this year to remind parents that he doesn’t exist – so they need to take positive action themselves to keep their kids safe. The National Drug Drop-off campaign is supported by a multi-media campaign led by ad agency FCB in Montreal.

 Several organizations are joining Drug Free Kids to promote National Drug Drop-off Month, including the Health Products Stewardship Association.

We can all play a part in keeping young people safe from the harms of non-medical prescription use. Medications in the home can be accidentally ingested by children, used by family members or even stolen and diverted to the black market. Positive actions like securing all medications in the home and returning them to the HPSA network of community pharmacies for safe disposal go a long way to ensuring that Canadian children are protected from the harms of accidental overdose and problematic use of these drugs. Terri Drover, Director General, Health Products Stewardship Association


About Drug Free Kids Canada

Drug Free Kids Canada is a private sector, non-profit organization that creates and disseminates drug education and prevention messages with the help of their partners in advertising, research and media. DFK also offers parents valuable tools and practical tips on how to start the conversation with their kids at



For more information:

Chantal Vallerand

Executive Director




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