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Cathy Loblaw: ‘I now know why we walked that path’ Add to ...

Cathy Loblaw, 53, is chief executive officer of Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) Canada, based in Toronto.

My day starts with a scan of e-mail and a look at our Make Fun Matter website to see what fundraisers are happening across the country. Then it’s breakfast with my boys, hugs and school drop-offs. Once I get into the office, I have a full day of meetings, exploring partnerships and creating programs to generate support for families with sick children, followed by dinner at home.

Like many parents, my evenings are filled with homework and conversation, followed by stories and goodnight hugs. And then it is off to begin my B shift to get current with e-mails, catch up on reading and take some focused thinking time. With my eldest now off at first year university, we exchange texts to keep in touch, offer support and encourage good choices, while my youngest, 11-year-old Blake, is still at home.

I know what it means to be a mother, and a family with a sick child. When I had my first son, he had serious health complications that found us in the hospital filled with fear, prayers and questions of “Why?” I didn’t understand why I had to walk that path. Why him? Why me? Why us? 14 years later, I had the answer. I know now why we walked that path. For me, being part of RMHC Canada is more than a job, it’s a destination. RMHC is a place of caring, leadership and contribution that makes a difference for families with sick children. Today, I am as honoured and humbled by this role as I was when I first accepted it six years ago.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked in the area of advancing social issues for children and families, in partnership with leading Canadian companies. Before, I was president of Companies Committed to Kids [formerly Concerned Children’s Advertisers] for 15 years. I’ve always had a passion for leveraging the good of business to support social causes. Just like people have morals and values, so, too, do companies. And when you can channel that incredible corporate resource base against a specific issue or cause, you can truly make a powerful difference.

I love measuring our impact in smiles, hugs, tears and laughter. I love leading a social profit organization that lives in service to over 30,000 families with sick children each year. I love helping to enable treasured family moments, caring shoulders to lean on and compassionate words of support and courage.

It’s a privilege to be inspired by the courage and strength of our families each and every day. It is often said that a nation is best judged by how it cares for its most vulnerable. RMHC is part of our nation’s response to caring for our most vulnerable, families with sick children.

Every day I know just how true it is that when you have your health, you have everything. From our founding and forever partner, McDonald’s Canada, I have learned what it means to give back, and embed caring for families into the DNA of a corporation. From Canadians, I have learned just how caring a nation we are, from the small child who gives their change at the coin box at their local McDonald’s, to the volunteer who gives countless hours of their time to bake cookies, welcome families or simply give a hug.

At the start of my career, I didn’t realize I was part of pioneering what today we call corporate social responsibility. To me, I was simply taking a cause – self-esteem for boys and girls, to saying no to drugs and bullying, to media literacy and child abuse prevention – understanding it, and then partnering with industry to find meaningful, effective and caring ways to help drive solutions. I always felt I was making a difference, so I just kept doing it. Creating new ways to give back while driving social impact and demonstrating corporate social responsibility is my passion.

The worst part of the job is not being able to support every family who needs RMHC. Last year alone, we had to turn away 2,462 families due to lack of space and accommodation. Once you know our families, you know you never want to turn even one family away, let alone hundreds of families.

I have high expectations of myself, our organization, and by extension, my team. When you do mission-based work, there is always more you can do – help one more family, one more child. Everything you do, each and every day, has the potential to make a difference.

As told to Leah Eichler. This interview has been edited and condensed.

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Follow on Twitter: @LeahEichler

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