John’s Story

Like his father, John is a lawyer. He also followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a dedicated United Way volunteer.

“Dad felt strongly that the system worked,” says John. “He liked the idea of the United Way – an impact organization that would invest in the top priorities.”


Fifteen years ago, John was preparing to ask his professional colleagues to support the annual United Way campaign when he noticed relatively few lawyers listed among the previous year’s most generous donors.


He decided to change that by organizing the first Sopinka United Way Legal Luncheon in honour of the late Supreme Court Justice John Sopinka. The inaugural luncheon raised $3,000. Last year, it brought in $182,000, lifting the 14- year total to just under $2 million.


John finds the luncheon rewarding for a variety of reasons. “Giving is the best therapy for your mind. It’s very satisfying,” he says. Then he adds, “There’s also a profound pleasure in chasing high amounts of money out of lawyers.”


The Sopinka United Way Legal Luncheon has been so successful and influential that it was named the United Way’s 2015 Community Event of the Year.


That, however, is not the only award connected to John’s volunteer efforts. In 2011, United Way Burlington & Greater Hamilton created an award in his name to recognize a member of the legal profession who has made exceptional contributions to the community.


John was the first recipient. He takes great pride in the now well-established generosity of his fellow lawyers. “My hope for the city,” he says, “is that it continues to develop a vibrant, sophisticated culture, business and arts community.


I hope we continue to support kids, building adventure in their lives and building a community that is great for everyone.”

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Bobbie OatesJohn’s Story