Jack Cockwell encourages all canadians to donate to the trail. He will match all gifts under $1,000 until August 31, 2016!
There’s a path along the coast of South Africa that’s linked to the soon-to-be-connected 24,000-kilometre national dream that is The Great Trail.
The African path, a 10-kilometre hike bordering the town of Hermanus, was built in part by a retired nurse named Daphne Cockwell, who spent three decades clearing brush and litter along a trail that ran outside her home. Now, her son, South African-born executive Jack Cockwell, is honouring her legacy, along with that of his mentor in business, Peter Bronfman, by making a significant donation to help connect a Canadian recreational trail that links the country from sea to sea to sea. With the Trail in its final stage of fundraising and development ahead of the country’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 2017, Cockwell is making the single-largest gift to date in Trans Canada Trail’s history: the retired CEO of Brookfield Asset Management is committing an additional $3-million to the Trail. As part of his pledge, Cockwell will match 50 cents for every dollar that Canadians donate before August 31, 2016. Canada’s federal government will match the other 50 cents – effectively doubling the impact of every donation made.
“What better symbol could there be for Canada’s sesquicentennial than connecting a trail linking the country together?” says Cockwell, who retired in 2002 and now spends approximately a third of his time on charity work. “This is a trail for everyone to use, and that was my mother’s goal; she took great joy in building a trail, then watching people walk along that path, near her home in South Africa.” The TCT is thrilled that Jack Cockwell has also accepted to take on the role of Honorary Chair of the TCT’s Chapter 150 Campaign Cabinet. “Jack has been extremely generous with his time and money to various causes in Canada. This is a truly magnificent gift from Jack to all Canadians and to the country that Jack says has given him so much,” says TCT Foundation co-chair Valerie Pringle.
Cockwell came to Canada in 1966 on an assignment as an accountant in his firm’s Montreal office. Arriving just as Canada’s centennial celebration was launched, he had a ringside seat for his new country’s milestone celebrations: working in a finance role at Expo 67 and getting caught up in the spirit of a land coming into its own.
Cockwell’s time in Montreal marked the beginning of a relationship that would dictate the course of his life. In 1969, Cockwell and two colleagues took on an assignment managing the financial affairs of brothers Edward and Peter Bronfman. Over a generation, the Bronfmans, Cockwell and their partners transformed a small family legacy into a global asset manager now known as Brookfield, a company with a $240-billion portfolio of real estate, infrastructure and private equity investments.
Peter Bronfman and Cockwell forged a lifelong bond, and Cockwell picked up his mentor’s passion for volunteer work. “Peter led by example in the community, and was always generous. Peter’s expectation was that if we were successful, we, in turn, would continue his philanthropy,” says Cockwell. “That spirit doesn’t simply mean donating money. It means taking a leadership position and helping out others in times of need.”
Along with his gift to The Great Trail, jointly funded with the Brookfield Partners Foundation, Cockwell is a major donor to educational causes that include the Royal Ontario Museum, George Brown College, and Ryerson University, where the nursing school is named for his late mother.
His mother, Daphne Cockwell, will have her name honoured on commemorative plaques on different sections of The Great Trail across Canada. For Cockwell, support for The Great Trail is also linked to his personal passion for nature. In the 1990s, Cockwell acquired a wilderness property on the edge of Algonquin Park and began spending weekends rehabilitating the land with his two sons, then youngsters, now both professional foresters. Today, Cockwell’s property has 70 kilometres of trails, all open to the public.
“There is a Japanese expression, ‘forest bathing,’ that describes the necessity of spending time in nature for our mental and physical health. Jack believes this; that we need to spend time outdoors and that it is crucial to our well-being,” says Pringle. The vast majority of Canadians have an opportunity to enjoy “forest bathing” on the Trail, as 80 per cent of Canada’s population lives within 30 minutes of The Great Trail.
“Sometimes it seems that we spend our lives working and don’t necessarily see the fruits of our labour clearly in front of us. The thing I love about working on a trail is that you see tangible evidence of your hard work. That’s very satisfying,” says Cockwell. Equally satisfying is the prospect of honouring his mother’s memory and helping Canadians from every region connect The Great Trail, a lasting legacy for future generations.