It is a rare and beautiful thing when strategic vision and passion for a cause convene, yet it is a combination that Marnie Smith and Michael Flux seem to bring together often. Marnie and Mike decided to get involved at Baycrest when they learned about the new Baycrest@Home suite of services and the impact it would have in making life easier for older adults and their families in the community. This is a cause which spoke to them both and one to which they knew they wanted to contribute.
“Effectively caring for the generations before us is critical to the well-being of all of us,” says Marnie. “The work that Baycrest@Home does in offering support to older adults in need, and their caregivers, is a very important initiative.”
As a Managing Partner at Lighthouse NINE Group in Toronto, Marnie heads the High Performance Teams and Change Management Discipline, helping major corporations and their talent thrive. Mike, an Executive Vice President and Portfolio Manager at Connor, Clark & Lunn Private Capital, helps his high net worth and foundation clients develop tailored solutions that meet their unique investing needs. The conviction they bring to their careers is perhaps equaled only by their fervent devotion to charitable causes, including Baycrest.
“Supporting Baycrest@Home is near and dear to us,” says Mike. “It is one of the ways our family hopes to leave much good behind.”
Mike works to marry his personal passions with his business passions – helping his clients to benefit from alternative investments, socially responsible investing, and strategic philanthropy (for example, helping clients to establish their own family foundations). His reputation as a strategic businessman with a philanthropic agenda, coupled with the Connor, Clark & Lunn Foundation’s alignment with Baycrest’s causes, prompted the initial connection. However, it was Marnie’s personal connection to Baycrest’s mission that really ignited this powerful relationship.
As a loving, compassionate person who always put her family first, Marnie was close with her grandparents through whom she gained an intimate perspective on Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Her paternal grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in the 1980s at a time when there were limited support systems available. Marnie watched as her grandmother tried to care for him at home for as long as possible, but when his wandering began to pose a risk to his safety, other options had to be explored. Without technologies to prevent wandering that exist today, her grandfather’s only option was to be moved to a hospital, in a locked ward.
Later on, her maternal grandfather, affectionately known as “Gampi,” was diagnosed with dementia and his story followed a very different path. Despite experiencing cognitive decline and memory difficulties in some areas, he remained positive and retained the essence of who he was. She recalls him saying once at their family cottage “I could’ve been here a month, I could’ve been here a day, I am just really happy to be here.”
This first-hand experience, combined with her results-driven professional track record, makes her a visionary leader and unyielding advocate in the pursuit of better care for older adults and a perfect match for helping Baycrest realize its vision.
Now, as one of Baycrest@Home’s newest Founding Partners, Marnie brings her impressive and diverse expertise in organizational design and effectiveness, team development, and leadership coaching to one of Baycrest’s most innovative programs.
Marnie has not only made a significant gift in support of the Baycrest@Home program, a suite of services that address the gaps left by traditional home care, but she will also use her expertise to help create and implement the strategy of this new program and help steer its successful growth. To Marnie, that successful growth includes expanding the program nationally so all Canadians can benefit from it, as well as leveraging her professional network to include the service in corporate wellness programs.
Mike and the Connor, Clark & Lunn Foundation also chose to match Marnie’s contribution, doubling the impact of her donation and again proving not only how much this exceptional couple supports each other, but also their community. The Connor, Clark & Lunn Foundation contributes to the communities in which they operate by creating conditions and opportunities for both philanthropy and volunteerism from employees and partners of the Connor, Clark & Lunn Financial Group and its affiliates. This includes a broad range of organizations that focus on promoting a better environment, improving education, advancing science and medicine, creating stronger communities and encouraging the arts. In 2020, the Connor, Clark & Lunn Foundation donated more than $1 Million to 135 diverse organizations, including much needed funding to COVID-19-related programs.
Over the years, the couple has helped many organizations that focus primarily on healthcare and the alleviation of poverty. St. Michael’s Hospital Foundation, SickKids and United Way of Greater Toronto are just a few of their causes, and they always ensure they take an active role.
One of their most meaningful projects dates back to 2004 when a tsunami devastated much of the Sri Lankan coast and they helped to fund the reconstruction of a school in the area. Eventually, an organization called Step Up realized a longer-term solution was needed to support the students’ education. Working with Step Up, the Flux family provided the final funds needed to establish The McElwain Educational Institute, named for Marnie’s grandparents – her grandmother Marion, who had a career as a teacher, and her “Gampi” George, who was a principal. The institute provides free English tutoring to children in the community so they can pursue higher education. One graduate is currently attending medical school in Belarus and hopes to pay it forward in her local community by working with people with disabilities.
The couple, along with their two children Caitlyn and Ryan, who are also consistently involved in the family’s projects, have visited the school to see first-hand the difference they have made. For Marnie and Mike, this aspect of noticeable impact is central to their decisions about where they pledge their support.
They see Baycrest as an agent of change and know that Baycrest@Home will make an impact on families everywhere. Their contribution and involvement will leave a meaningful legacy that brings together Marnie’s life-long love for her grandparents and her passion for older adult care and Alzheimer’s and Dementia research.
“Cognitive decline does not mean life ends, it just means there is a different version of life,” Marnie says.