Ottawa man commits to year of challenges to raise money for charity

By Hollie Grace James

A new year provides an entirely new set of challenges, but that isn’t such a bad thing for Ottawa small business owner, Alex Dorward.

On the first day of January, the 31-year-old launched a unique initiative called 12beCAUSE where, over the course of the next 12 months he has committed to performing 12 uniquely challenging feats, each benefiting a different charity.

A community-oriented individual at heart, Dorward has participated in fundraising initiatives before, and was keen on providing support during the pandemic, but was finding it difficult to choose just one charity. His options were further limited because he’s involved in the care of his blind father, who is in the midst of a four-year battle with leukemia.

And so was sparked the idea for 12beCAUSE, although Dorward explains that his driving force isn’t entirely selfless.

“I’ve been kind of dreading the winter since last March, when the pandemic hit. Doing anything outside in the summer is great – I kind of prefer it. In the winter it’s tough to find activities. Especially with a mild case of asthma. So I was wondering what am I going to do? How am I going to stay motivated and stay in good shape?” 

Dorward has faced his fair share of challenges throughout the past year, as the effects of COVID-19 restrictions wreaked havoc on his small businesses. He says the e-learning company, GS5, that he is co-owner of, was immediately affected when its space, the Cornwall based NavCan Centre, was used to quarantine cruise-ship passengers upon disembarkment.

Dorward's challenges haven’t just professional. In addition to his father’s compromised vision, his mother resides in a wheelchair and he provides aid to her as well. 

The various feats that Dorward will be engaging in over the next year include a 50 km walk for Breast Cancer, a four-hour underwater stint for the World Wildlife Fund, and an Olympic Triathlon for WarChild. He’s purposefully left April open to suggestions, in regards to both feat and charity, so he’s relying on community members to help him decide. 

“The weather’s not dependable – it’s kind of tough to plan something for April. And charity-wise, I chose 11, I think it might be good to let other people decide one. And this way I’ll probably learn about new charities as well. Ideally the feat would somehow align, either symbolically, or very literally, with the charity.” 

Even though Dorward has decided to highlight a different charity every month, people can donate to any charity at any point. He explains that the overarching goal was to have a combination of local, national and global charities, reflected in choices like the Youth Services Bureau, Breast Cancer Society of Canada and Action Against Hunger. Furthermore, Dorward explains that his angle remains data-driven, incorporating charities that have the largest impact on the highest number of recipients, as well as those that streamline the highest percentage of funds towards actual programming. 

Since12beCAUSE has only been in the works for a couple of weeks, Dorward is only on the beginning leg of this journey, although he’s still managed to raise around $400. Which is very minimal, he says, compared to his goal of $30,000. 

“I’m not a huge fan of fundraising goals because I don’t want it to limit me but at the same time I don’t want to let people think I don’t need anymore support if I’m close to my goal. I would love to surpass that goal.” 

Furthermore, Dorward will be documenting it all – the training, the feats and awareness for his chosen charities and their causes – through his social media channels. And after a year, just because the challenges are over, doesn’t necessarily mean that Dorward is going to stop.

“Maybe it’s just a 12 month thing and it’s done. Which is great! If I raise money for charity, that’s awesome. But, maybe I’ll want to do something every year where I set aside 12 goals, or one goal per month. And maybe other people will start that too. Whether they’re fundraising or not, I think it’s still beneficial for people to be setting something new or challenging every month.” 

He’s open to seeing this project evolve, and is more than happy to have other people join in.

“As long as people are setting a goal that they can work towards, that’s great.”

To make a donation, suggestion, or for more information, visit And be sure to keep up with the challenge progress on Instagram @12because_ca.

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