Oct. 8, 2020

'The more you give, the more you get back'

Dinos alumni and supporters give back to their sporting community

When Royce Baker founded Kinsted Wealth in 2003, he confidently took his business plan to his mentor Ted Hellard, BEd’80, renowned Calgary entrepreneur, philanthropist and Dinos basketball alumnus. Baker was surprised when Hellard asked how Kinsted Wealth planned to give back, and he immediately retorted, “We have nothing to give back, we’re just starting our business.”

Hellard’s response was frank. “If you don’t start giving back immediately, you won’t be giving back. Ever.”

  • Photo above: The men’s basketball program is one of many Dinos teams that benefits from the generous support of alumni and donors. Photo by David Moll

For the last 17 years, Baker and his team at Kinsted Wealth have supported Dinos basketball through charitable giving, internship opportunities, and more creative outlets such as donating cabins for team retreats. From the top down, the corporate culture at Kinsted Wealth embodies the spirit of giving back.

Royce Baker

Royce Baker

Supplied by Kinsted Wealth

A history of impactful giving

The spirit of giving has echoed through Dinos alumni and loyal followers since the program’s inception. Due to the philanthropy of the Dinos community, the number of scholarships available to student-athletes has grown by 64 per cent and their value has increased by 150 per cent since 2010. This translates to an average increase of $1,136 per scholarship given, with 111 more scholarships made available in the past decade.

Philanthropic support is essential to the on- and off-field success for more than 500 Dinos student-athletes. Financial support, combined with the assistance of the Dinos GPS (Grade Point Success) team, means that Dinos student-athletes continue to set UCalgary records for the number of student-athletes achieving Academic All-Canadian status.

Women’s rugby alumna Elysa Sandron, MSc’19, recalls, “The generous philanthropic support I received throughout my career as a Dino allowed me to focus on giving back to the community by co-founding disability programs, achieving Academic All-Canadian status, and excelling in my sport at both the varsity and national level.”

In 2019-20, the Dinos captured two U Sports championships and another five Canada West titles. Though the COVID-19 pandemic has sidelined the fall sports season, student-athletes continue to train with their teams to ensure that they will be competition-ready when the season restarts. As much as ever, student-athletes are earning their scholarships.

Many ways to give back

Men’s basketball alumnus Ian Minnifee, BA’94, a wealth strategist at the financial planning firm Sagium, has given back to the program for many years. Minnifee has served on the UCalgary senate, is currently on the board of the University of Calgary Alumni Association  and is a recipient of the Order of the University of Calgary. Minnifee understands the value of philanthropy as a former athlete and giving back as an alumnus.

Ian Minnifee (receiving OTUC – credit Riley Brandt

Ian Minnifee receives the Order of the University of Calgary.

Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

Jack Neumann, former sports information director, also recognizes that support is important for the long-term success of a team. In November 2017, he created a fund to pay for Dinos football jerseys in perpetuity.

Women’s rugby assistant coach and former player Leah Conforti, BKin’11, BEd’13, shares that despite the 2020 fall season cancellation, her players still train five times per week in preparation for a potential season in the spring. Conforti acknowledges that while the existing support is appreciated, more financial support is still needed within athletics.

Leah Conforti

Leah Conforti. women's rugby assistant coach, and UCalgary alumna.

David Moll

“Women’s rugby is still a pay-to-play program. Although we are able to offer some scholarship money, only some of the players will get that money,” says Conforti.

This has become part of the team identity, where incoming players know they have to work hard and prove themselves to access those resources.

Conforti attributes the success of the program and alumni cohort to the late Jenny Vincent. Vincent was the driving force behind obtaining varsity status for the Dinos women's rugby program in 2009; the team was devasted when she passed away after a short battle with cancer early in 2010. Alumni from the first season became connected after this tragedy.

“Being a Dino means something special and that continues down the pipeline. Every year when there’s a home game, the alumni get together for brunch and we wear our alumni jerseys and cheer for the girls at the top of our lungs,” says Conforti.

She credits the tight-knit women’s rugby alumnae group for their ongoing support off the field, organizing golf tournament fundraisers and donating their time to coach and mentor incoming players.

Creating a legacy

Longtime men’s basketball coach Dan Vanhooren is known for teaching his players to give back to the community. Community sport teams are invited to join the Dinos in practices.

“You would think these kids were trying out for an NBA team,” remembers Baker. “They would be running through walls, trying to dunk when they can’t even reach the nets. It was incredible!”

The emphasis on community and giving back has paid dividends for the program. Formed in 2001, the Dinos Sixth Man Club is a non-profit association of alumni and program supporters backing the Dinos men’s basketball program by way of mentorship, fundraising and community outreach — reminiscent of the gold standard of alumni groups, Dinos Football’s Fifth Quarter Association.

And the results speak for themselves. The Dinos have made five straight appearances at the national men’s basketball championship, playing in three championship games and winning it all in 2018. Baker partially attributes this success to the dedication of the alumni group’s recruitment support and mentorship, noting Hall of Famer Wayne Thomas, BA’67, regularly scouts local high school and club basketball games for the Dinos Class of 2025.

“They’re not just fundraisers, they’re mentors.”

As a Sixth Man Club member, Baker has mentored plenty of men’s basketball players throughout the years, though his most treasured relationship is with Josh Owen-Thomas, BA’16. Though Owen-Thomas has graduated now, Baker’s sons still consider him as their older brother.

Asked about his motivation for donating to the Dinos, Baker’s philosophy was strikingly simple.

“The more you give, the more you get back.”

Dinos alumni recognize that being a Dino doesn’t end when you graduate. If you would like to volunteer, donate or mentor, please contact director of development, Alex Molotsky, at asmolots@ucalgary.ca for more information.

We are all Dinos.