2017 Was Quite a Year at Spark

2017 was a pivotal year at Spark. So many good things happened that we decided to take a moment and share the highlights with you. We’ve grown tremendously as an organization and we hope you take pride in what you’ve helped us accomplish!


We Launched Spark U

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash


Our biggest news of 2017! In our relentless drive to be a force for good, we founded Spark U - an independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate, advocate for and empower caregivers in our community.  Spark U will offer training opportunities, certifications, social events, cutting edge technologies and a lot more - stay tuned.


We Started Using New Tech

Photo by Nick Jio on Unsplash

Photo by Nick Jio on Unsplash


We’ve always prioritized being great at communication, but last year we took an extra step forward. After some exhaustive research, we began using a digital communication platform that has made us even faster and more efficient. With document-sharing capability and custom, HIPAA-compliant channels for each client, it’s now our official method for all internal communication.

On a smaller but still important note, our care partners began performing their own intakes with Spark-provided iPads in 2017, making everyone’s lives easier. Less admin work = a happier team!


We Attended Some Incredible Conferences


In April, Brad attended the Culture Conference in San Francisco, an invite-only event for leading entrepreneurs from around the world who value workplace culture. Participating in small workshops with culture growers from Disney, Netflix and LinkedIn, he learned from the best on building high performance teams.

Also, members of our leadership team attended the iConic Tour in New York City and Los Angeles, where they heard from and connected with “the most notable business visionaries and provocateurs of our time.”


We Provided Professional Development Opportunities for Our Team


In April, we hosted a large group training on Traumatic Brain Injuries. We discussed common post-injury problems, symptomatology, and the recovery process. The day also included stories from caregivers who have experienced concussions, case studies and small group presentations.

In August we hosted a second large group training on Mental Health and Self Care. Using the same format as the April training, we discussed common mental health conditions like depression, anxiety and trauma, their symptoms, and how best to help people with them. We also focused on workplace stress and caregiver burnout, with each participant developing a self care plan to use going forward.

In addition to the trainings, we hosted three seminars for our caregivers over the course of the year all designed to help them develop and grow:

The Managing Expectations seminar focused on strategies for building rapport, the differences between motivation and initiation, readiness, and the importance of meeting clients where they are at.

At the Documentation seminar we dug into the different types of documentation, how it can be used, and how to do it well.

Last but  not least, the “Behind the Scenes” & Navigating the Insurance World seminar went through the Spark referral process, from the first moment of contact to the first day of care. We also examined types of insurance funding, how they differ, and how each type impacts services.


We Made Memories Together


Work needs to be balanced with play and we had some incredible fun together in 2017.

The Spark softball team took the field again last summer and dominated. Ok, maybe we didn’t dominate but we had a blast!

In the fall, the leadership team visited our Kingston-based crew and bonded by having the Dickens scared out of us together at Fort Fright.

And, the Ottawa–based team had a positively cosmopolitan day of axe throwing, beer and coffee tasting, thanks to the good people at Brew Donkey. To be clear, the axe throwing happened before the beer tasting.


We Said "Thank You"

Zack and Brett on their Spark vacation in the Dominican

Zack and Brett on their Spark vacation in the Dominican

Every year we hold a draw for a one-week all expenses paid vacation to a sunny destination. It’s one way we can thank an all-star caregiver who has gone above and beyond in their work. This year the winners were Zack and Brett, who spent a week lounging in the sun in the Dominican last February. Apparently it’s kind of nice there!

In March, our leadership team went on a planning retreat at Chateau Montebello. Together we cast vision for the future, strategized some big projects, and engaged in some much-needed self care.

In the summer we brought new staff on our annual trip to a Toronto Blue Jays game, fitting in some business meetings and a great time at the Madi.

Finally, one of our easiest 2017 decisions: renewing our season tickets with the Sens. While the team hasn’t quite reached the heights of last season (to put it mildly), our caregivers, community partners and clients have still had a blast cheering them on.


We Helped Educate the Next Generation of Caregivers


Last fall, our Director of Care, the incomparable Nicole Van Gendt, was invited to teach a class at Algonquin College. Concepts in Mental Health was a 2nd-year course and part of the OTA/PTA program.

Over the course of the year, Nicole also mentored two students from Algonquin College. Enrolled in the Occupational Therapy & Physiotherapy Assistant program (OTA/PTA), Nicole supervised their clinical placements at Spark.


We Made New Beginnings


2017 was the year we made our new office at 4 Florence St home. Spark HQ is open concept - from care partner to CEO, we share the same big desk and co-working space. It’s played host to meet-and-mingles, trainings, virtual town halls and sit downs with community partners. Designed to be welcoming and full of positive energy, the common refrain from visitors to HQ is “I come out of the office and I feel better.”

Inspired by Shopify’s cutting-edge recruitment practices, we successfully hosted our first meet-and-mingle with candidates for a full time HQ Admin Assistant. It was great fun, streamlined the hiring process, and netted us the incredible Serap, who has quickly become indispensable!

In October, the stupendous Allison Carroll returned to the office after a year spent playing full-time Mom to the adorable Hannah. Upon returning, her role shifted into being fully focused on caregiver well being and workplace culture.

Lastly, we’re very proud of having launched our Therapeutic Mentoring Program last year. It’s a structured, goal-oriented, strength-based approach that addresses emotional, behaviour and social communication needs.


We Learned from Our Community

In June we attended the Vista Brain Injury day, an annual conference hosted by Vista Centre for ABI caregivers, survivors and families.

We also participated in Best Practices in Post-Trauma Community Re-Integration - a conference hosted by a number of Ottawa-based healthcare community partners.


2017 was also the year we:

  • Grew by 61% in new client support.
  • Hired our first nursing care partner
  • Strengthened relationships with our community partners, including CHEO, Coordinated Access and Apollo Physio.
  • Continued hiring the best of the best. Out of 1935 applications, 891 were interviewed, and 63 were ultimately hired - 3% of all applicants.
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Thanks everyone for an incredible year. We have big dreams for 2018. We can't wait!


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