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Back to Blog Social Impact In The Digital Age: Leafs Great Darryl Sittler Talks About Johnny Bower, Terry Fox, And The Values He Learned Growing Up In St. Jacobs Ontario

They say that you “can’t go home again,” however having grown-up in the village of St. Jacob’s in Southwestern Ontario being able to go home isn’t even a question because home and the values I learned from my Mom and Dad never left me.

Being one of eight children – my Dad came from a family of twelve, there was a sense of responsibility not only to the family but the greater community. It meant that you were thankful for what you had, and didn’t dwell on what you didn’t have. It also meant that you were there for one another in both the good times and the difficult times. I can still remember when a fire destroyed a Mennonite barn near our village, and many families in the area got together to rebuild the barn ‎immediately.

There was a sense of humility in all that we did back then and a belief that it was important to contribute to the collective good of everyone. In fact, and along the lines that charity begins at home, we all gave 15 percent of whatever we earned back to the family. Despite having to support a big family, my Dad even made the time to become President of both the local minor hockey association and the Lions Club. All of this came from having a sense of responsibility and gratitude for what we had and the desire to be part of something bigger than yourself.

This mindset or way of thinking is what I brought to the Leafs when they drafted me in 1970. At the time I was fortunate enough to be able to play on the same team as some of the greats who had just a couple of years earlier won The Stanley Cup including Johnny Bower. Sadly, Johnny recently passed away, but we can learn a lot from him even today. I consider Johnny to have been a mentor, someone whose kindness and humility shone through in the way he listened to you and how he took a genuine interest in not only his teammates but the fans.

Terry Fox is another individual who, like Johnny, left a lasting impression on me. During his memorable run, both Bobby Orr and myself were made aware of the fact that Terry was a big fan of ours. So when his journey took him through Toronto, we were there to meet him. In the short time, we spent together I was moved by his humility and courage, and his desire to make a difference despite the challenges he was facing. Even though they didn’t come from St. Jacobs, I think that there was a little bit of my village in both Johnny and Terry.

Terry’s courage continues to make a difference today having raised $750 million for cancer research. His impact during his life and after he passed away has a special meaning for me because I lost my wife, Wendy to colon cancer. There is never a right time for losing a loved one, but it was particularly hard because with our youngest child starting college, both Wendy and I were looking forward to spending more time together. Through Terry’s efforts, I hope that cancer will one day be defeated so that no family will have to experience the loss with which far too many of us have had to deal.

Of course, good intentions and wishing aren’t enough. If you want to make a difference, you can’t sit on the sidelines; you have to get in the game!

One of the reasons why I am excited to be part of the ActivateDigital2018 conference in Guelph on the 27th of February is that I can help to raise not only awareness but money for another worthy cause; Craigwood Children, Youth & Family Services.

The conference, hosted by Long View Systems will feature a line-up of leading Canadian high-tech executives like Microsoft’s new President Kevin Peesker, Cisco’s President Rola Dagher, HPE’s John Dathan, and Blackberry’s Margaret Stuart. While these industry leaders will be talking about the future of Southwestern Ontario and the rest of Canada in the emerging digital era, we will all have an opportunity to make a difference during an evening get together.

I look forward to meeting you then.

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