Derek Clarke’s itch to organize a major event every now and again is serving Pictou County Roots for Youth Society well.
As organizer of the Roots for Youth Charity Golf Scramble, Clarke has raised more than $10,000 for the organization and increased public awareness of its mission to assist youth who are experiencing difficulties with regards to homelessness.
“I fully support Roots for Youth and I’ve got a soft spot for all young people but I’m not a spokesperson for the agency. I’m just a guy who can organize an event and likes to help out,” he said.
When Clarke started planning a scramble he looked back on his own experiences to establish his game plan. He works at Michelin these days but his background is in tourism and event-planning.
‘There are a lot of events for good causes, tons of them. You can have a good cause but you still have to have a good event if you are going to build support so that’s what I’ve tried to provide for Roots for Youth the last two years,” he said.
When Clarke graduated from Pictou Academy he went to San Francisco to study tourism management.
“I knew from the time I was 14 that’s what I wanted to do. My parents thought it was crazy but when they saw I was determined they supported me and hoped for the best,” he said.
Clarke went on to work for cruise and tour companies, seeing Canada, Europe and beyond in the process.
“I’ve been pretty lucky to see as much of the world as I have. I don’t think there is any other way I could have seen as much,” he said.
He also worked with people from a lot of different backgrounds, making friends in the process.
“I met people from all over the United States, a lot of whom were there for the adventure, but I also got to know plenty of people from the Philippines who were working as hard as possible to send money home for their children who were being raised by grandparents,” he said.
He remembers a night on a cruise ship when a new roommate arrived.
“He looked kind of familiar and we started talking, telling each other where we were from. I was pretty surprised to find out he was Shane Hampton, also from Pictou County, but it was great to meet someone I had so much in common with,” he said.
While visiting different countries and meeting people from different cultures opened Clarke’s eyes to the diversity of the world it also showed him people are pretty similar.
“I recognized we all have the same need to be appreciated and supported and I realized how much it means when people treat each other with kindness and love. We just have to get out and do it,” he said.
Whether overseeing children’s activities on a cruise ship or conducting a train tour through the Canadian Rockies, Clarke was guided by the principle of ensuring the clients’ needs are met.
“I worked over three years at Disney and there is no better place to learn how to provide service. We had an overriding obligation to provide the client with the best possible experience and that’s not a bad goal for any business,” he said.
While living in Toronto, Clarke continued working for a tour company but also had a business providing luxury bachelor and bachelorette parties.
“The goal was to take the organizing work away from the clients. We figured out what they wanted and how to provide it so they just had to show up,” he said.
The same philosophy was employed in organizing the golf scramble.
“It had to be easy for people to take part. It had to be fun and well-run with good food and good prizes. Fortunately for me, the staff at Abercrombie Golf Club was terrific to work with and the Roots people were also great,” he said, adding he got satisfaction from helping the Roots organization but also from seeing that he still had the ability to run a successful event.
Clarke moved back to Pictou three years ago to be closer to family.
“My parents are active and healthy but they are getting older and my brother has a couple of little girls I didn’t see much of when they were babies so it felt like time to come home,” he said.
Clarke has built and sold one house with his father and is working on a second one but most of his spare time is dedicated to the martial art of jiu-jitsu.
“Jiu-jitsu is a passion for me. It is less aggressive than some sports and I like that. All ages train together and we learn from each other. I like that opponents are treated very respectfully,” he said.
Clarke may say he is just a fundraiser but he can’t resist making a pitch for an upcoming event Roots for Youth is involved with.
“Homeless for a Night takes place Sept. 21 in Westville,” he said, adding the event will help spread the message that youth in our community do not always have a safe, comfortable place to stay. “We’ve got to show a little more compassion for our youth and make life easier for them. It is what will pay off for all of us in the long run.”