Weyburn family honoured to give back to community

The Cugnet family from Weyburn was honoured as Outstanding Philanthropists on Wednesday at the 17th annual National Philanthropy Day luncheon in Regina, presented by Greystone Managed Investments. The award was presented by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), South Saskatchewan Chapter, at the Conexus Arts Centre.

The Cugnets are well-known in the southeast and throughout the province as tireless volunteers, philanthropists and committed community builders. They have donated more than $4 million to more than 20 worthy organizations, facilities and charities, such as the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Weyburn and District Hospital Foundation and the STARS Foundation. STARS nominated the Cugnet Family for the award.

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In accepting the award, Joanne Bannatyne-Cugnet and her son, Dan Cugnet, both spoke about the legacy of giving that had been passed on to them, and is a part of their way of life as they continue to give back to the community in support of various charities and organizations. In particular, Joanne paid tribute to her parents, Babe and Dave Bannatyne, and her late husband Ken’s parents, George and Irene Cugnet.

“Our family has been contributing to our community much earlier than Ken and I, long before recognition awards were given out. We were mentored by these good people. They left to us a legacy to be proud of being known as ‘good neighbours’,” said Joanne. “We were taught to share what we have, whether it be money, ideas or more importantly, our time. We are the story of Saskatchewan.”

She noted the family is proud of those who came before them, and noted examples of how the family’s forebears had given in various ways to the community they lived in.

“I think of Ken’s grandfather, Edmond, who served on the rural municipal council for 28 years, and who back in 1955 generously donated the land for the creation of Nickle Lake Regional Park, which has been enjoyed by thousands. My grandfather David Bannatyne served as Estevan’s mayor for seven years and made the treks to Ontario to convince the Sisters of St. Joseph to come out west to establish and staff a desperately needed state-of-the-art hospital in 1937. Ken’s grandmother Teresa fed all who arrived on her doorstep, and with the farm located by the railroad in Ralph, Saskatchewan, there was many a hungry traveller — read ‘hobo’ — who jumped off the passing train for a meal,” said Joanne, going on to note how her family has continued this tradition.

“I am proud to see the decision made by my sons and my daughter-in-laws, and already they are teaching this to my young grandchildren. I see them volunteering, serving on boards, contributing time and dollars, which is building a better community, building a better future,” said Joanne.

She spoke of the personal reward of being a giving person. “Giving of money, ideas and my time has brought me lifetime friendships. Giving has provided me opportunities to learn. Giving has been great for my own personal mental health — I have value. Giving has allowed me to be creative and to live a purposeful life each day. And I must mention that it has brought much laughter into my life,” she said.

In his acceptance speech, Dan noted that they were in good company at this presentation.

“Everyone in this room is here because they have a passion to help. I think that connects us all, whether we realize it or not. Whether that’s funding for the arts, or finding a cure for a disease or building a hospital like the Pattison Children’s Hospital in Saskatoon, or for an organization that is so very dear and important to me, my good friends with STARS, who have been so kind to nominate our family today for this recognition,” he said, going on to note the example of his parents and the family who came before them.

“This honour is being bestowed on our family, but the two people who really deserve this are my mom and dad. As a son, you could not ask for finer examples of parents or in people involved in their community,” he said, paying particular tribute to his late father Ken.

“A message I think he would want you all to hear is, ‘Did you increase shareholder value today?’ Now this is something my father would ask of me and my brothers, often if not daily. ‘Did you increase shareholder value today?’,” said Dan. “It was his way of checking in and seeing where everything was at with the group of businesses, and of course the connotation of a shareholder is something that we as his kids always translated into something to put a monetary value on, but as I grew older I came to realize what he was asking went far behind that.”

He explained what his dad was really asking was, “Did you make a difference today? Did you make a difference in business? Did you make a difference in the community? Did you make a difference in your family? Did you make a difference to another person? That was at the core of it. That was what it really came down to and what he wanted us to strive to do each day.”

Even four years after his father passed, he has people who tell him that they miss him, and that he had helped them and encouraged them in various ways.

He left the audience at the awards ceremony with words that his father passed on to them before he passed away, a quote from former U.S. President Calvin Coolidge:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men and women with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved, and always will solve the problems of the Human Race.”