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Last month, Larry and Gloria Macdonald received the United Way’s highest honour, the Alexis de Tocqueville Award for their contributions in Calgary and abroad.

The donors: Larry and Gloria Macdonald

The gift: $1.5-million and climbing

The cause: The United Way in Calgary and globally

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In 1988, a friend talked Larry Macdonald into making some fundraising phone calls on behalf of the United Way in Calgary. Mr. Macdonald, who was building his career in the energy sector at the time, said the volunteer work opened his eyes.

"It gave me a different perspective of the community," recalled Mr. Macdonald, who is chairman of Calgary-based Vermilion Energy Inc.

Mr. Macdonald and his wife, Gloria, eventually became more involved in the United Way, donating money to the local organization and taking on a role internationally.

Much of the work involved travelling around the world to engage business and society leaders in the work of the United Way. They also donated to various causes, including a health clinic in Uganda.

Last month, the couple received the United Way's highest honour, the Alexis de Tocqueville Award. They were the first recipients of the prize from outside of the United States.

"We get far more out of it than we've ever put into it," said Mr. Macdonald, who is 68. "It has been wonderful for us."

pwaldie@globeandmail.com

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