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March 4, 2021 — Women in Philanthropy: Today & Tomorrow

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

International Women's Day event

Thank you to everyone who attended the event, our speakers and to our generous sponsors.

Our CAGP 2021 International Women’s Day event brought women together to discuss “Women in Philanthropy: Today and Tomorrow.”

Meet the speakers

Pearl F. Veenema, FAHP

Chief Executive Officer

Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation

Pearl joined Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation in 2007 as CEO. She serves on the Children’s Miracle Network, Canada’s Children’s Hospital Foundations, Mohawk College Foundation and Theatre Aquarius Boards and is a member of the MacKay CEO forum.

Prior to joining Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation, Pearl served as President and Chief Development Officer for the former Orthopaedic and Arthritic Foundation in Toronto, and both Managing Director of Campaigns and Vice President Advancement for the Toronto General & Western Hospital Foundation at University Health Network (UHN).

Pearl is a Fellow of the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP) and is a Certified Fund Raising Executive, CFRE International. Pearl is a recipient of the prestigious Harold J. (Si) Seymour Award from the Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP) in recognition of a career that reflects exemplary standards of excellence in fostering volunteerism and philanthropy. She also served for two terms as Chair, AHP University-based Programs and Director of the Madison Institute for Healthcare Philanthropy in addition to 14 years on the Faculty. Pearl was a contributing author for the first-ever Canadian Fundraising Textbook, Excellence in Fundraising Canada.

Nicole Danesi

Associate Manager, Donor Marketing


Nicole Danesi is a communications and digital marketing professional active in Canadas charitable sector over the last nine years. Nicole is Associate Manager, Donor Marketing at CanadaHelps, a charitable foundation on a mission to increase giving in Canada by building technology to make giving simple. 

As an active volunteer in her community, Nicole is an executive committee member on CivicActions Emerging Leaders Network, a student mentor at the University of Toronto, and has previously volunteered as a mentor with Girls E-Mentorship to support high school girls in the GTA. For the last six years, Nicole has also led MississaugaGives, a grassroots movement bringing charities, businesses, government, and communities together to give and celebrate philanthropy on GivingTuesday in Mississauga.

Jessica M. Durka

Associate Investment Advisor, BMO Wealth Management, BMO Nesbitt Burns

Jessica Durka is an Associate Investment Advisor at BMO Nesbitt Burns. After receiving life-saving cancer treatment in 2017 Jessica was inspired to give back. She is the founder of the fundraising project Our Journey with the Juravinski Cancer Centre where she continues to grow community donors and volunteers. Jessica serves on the Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation Gift Planning Service Committee and is the creator of her Community Care for Cancer project.

In her professional life Jessica encourages people to look at their own financial goals in

philanthropy and counsels them with ideas to create the most efficient gift.

Celeste Licorish

Access Program Manager, Office of Community Engagement, McMaster University

Celeste is a dynamic speaker, presenter, host and storyteller with an exceptional ability to

inspire, motivate and challenge audiences to find resilience and focus on their strengths. She is an award nominated on-air personality at Cable 14. Her keynote presentations and workshops in the areas of diversity, inclusion, anti-oppression and finding one’s voice include a TedX talk and have been shared with thousands across Canada and the U.S. A passionate Hamiltonian, she has worked for Hamilton Health Sciences, United Way of Burlington and Greater Hamilton, the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction and Hamilton Community Foundation.

Celeste is currently with McMaster University as their Access Program Manager in the Office of Community Engagement where she is building a program to assist underrepresented and underestimated students with post-secondary aspiration and attainment. She has served on a variety of local Boards, as Thought Leader with Vibrant Communities Canada, is one of Hamilton’s Fabulous 40 Women Over 40, and most recently was named as the first recipient of the McMaster University President’s Award for Early Achievement. Celeste lives in Hamilton with her three daughters. She believes in the power of community and is an inspired advocate for positive change.

Rebecca Raven

Executive Director

Canadian Federation of Library Associations

A passionate believer in the power of public libraries to stimulate positive change through community engagement, Rebecca Raven is the current Executive Director of the Canadian Federation of Library Associations and the recently retired CEO of Brampton Library. Rebecca's 30+ years in public library service have focussed on modernizing traditional library approaches to ensure continued growth and success in the 21st century, as captured in her 2018 TedX on Next Level Libraries. Rebecca's philosophy and commitment to personal philanthropy were inspired and informed through her years volunteering on the Board of Directors for the Royal Botanical Gardens as Chair of the Development Committee.

Thanks again to our generous sponsors

Halton Learning Foundation

“Jane is a single mom raising her daughters in a rented room. Jane works an hourly service job and hours have been cut due to the pandemic. Her girls require new winter coats, hats, waterproof mitts and boots.”

“Mom tragically lost two of her other children while in Nigeria, which is what prompted her to flee to Canada with her remaining child. They have no family here and are living in a basement apartment. Mom is working, however she is struggling emotionally and finances are tight.”

“This student is living in a rented room by herself. She has no food and no family support.”

These are just three of the stories of girls and women among hundreds whom the Halton Learning Foundation has provided a financial helping hand this school year. While HLF supports any student in need from the Halton District School Board, the majority of requests are to help support single parent families, which are disproportionately headed by women.

Funds from HLF are designed to provide immediate support for basic necessities such as food, clothing and school supplies that help ensure all students of the Halton District School Board can remain engaged in learning with their peers. Funds also help students participate in learning and development opportunities such as field trips and co-ops.

Halton Learning Foundation is pleased to sponsor this year’s International Women’s Day event, to help to shed light on the challenges and inequality faced by low-income women and girls in our communities.

Hamilton Health Sciences Foundation




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