Riaz Mamdani unveils first public Friendship Bench in Canada

On behalf of all Team Members of Strategic Group, CEO Riaz Mamdani joined with the Canadian Mental Health Association – Calgary Region and the The Lucas Fiorella Friendship Bench to unveil the first Friendship Bench accessible to everyone in the community. The bright yellow bench inspires conversations about mental health to reduce the stigma and encourage people to get access the resources they need for mental wellness.

“It is undeniable that there is significant need for mental health resources in our community. Projects like the Friendship Bench are more than symbols; they encourage important conversations and help remove the stigma around mental health. As we eliminate the stigma of mental health, we are taking a major step to help all people seeking mental wellness and resilience.” 
– Riaz Mamdani

The Friendship Bench is located on the corner of 7th Avenue and 10th Street SW on the property of Parallel Centre–the home of CMHA Calgary and a building own and managed by Strategic Group. This project is a perfect fit with Strategic Group’s community values of Pride, Legacy, and Impact, and we are proud to be the sponsor of this important first for in our city.

Below is a full news release from CMHA Calgary.


Becomes the first non-school location in Canada to receive Friendship Bench for mental health

Calgary AB – May 6, 2019 – Today, Canadian Mental Health Association – Calgary Region becomes the first location in Calgary, and also the first non-school location in Canada, to receive a Friendship Bench for mental health. The bright yellow bench will serve as a safe space for anyone to connect with peers and serves as a permanent and visual reminder of the importance of speaking openly about mental health issues.

After a long and secret battle with depression, Sam Fiorella, founder of The Friendship Bench, lost his 19-year old son to suicide in October of 2014. Since, Sam has dedicated his time to spreading awareness of post-secondary mental health issues, getting students talking and encouraging them to seek help. Through the installation of yellow benches (and supporting the #yellowisforhello campaign) in high schools and post-secondary institutions, across Canada, and now CMHA Calgary, Fiorella is providing tools to inspire peer-to-peer conversations.

Fiorella says, “We’ve seen an increase in the number of students who have asked for help after unveiling our campaign, including the now iconic yellow Friendship Bench. Students want to crowdsource everything and when their peers make it OK to talk about mental health, they’re more likely to seek help from a professional. We are excited to extend the reach of the Friendship Bench to outside a school and in front of CMHA Calgary.”

CMHA Calgary’s Peer Support program provides the opportunity for anyone, individual, family member or professional, looking for a connection with others who understand what it’s like to go through a mental health or substance use concern the opportunity to connect with someone by providing hope, support and guidance.

“We are thrilled to kick-off Mental Health Week 2019 with the installation of Calgary’s 1st Friendship Bench,” said Laureen MacNeil. “The philosophy behind the Friendship Bench aligns directly with CMHA Calgary core values of providing belonging, connection and hope through our programs and services, including our Peer Support program. To be the first organization to have a Friendship Bench in Canada outside of a school-based organization is an honour.”

The Friendship Bench is being sponsored and installed by Strategic Group, which owns and manages Parallel Centre where CMHA Calgary’s head office is located. CMHA Calgary is thankful to Strategic Group in providing the funds to permanently place the Friendship Bench in a publicly accessible space in front of the building.

“It is undeniable that there is significant need for mental health resources in our community,” said Riaz Mamdani, CEO of Strategic Group. “Projects like the Friendship Bench are more than symbols; they encourage important conversations and help remove the stigma around mental health. As we eliminate the stigma of mental health, we are taking a major step to help all people seeking mental wellness and resilience.”

Photo: Strategic Group Team Members surround the new Friendship Bench.

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Arts champions celebrated

Strategic Group was the proud Champion Sponsor for the fifth consecutive year of Calgary’s highly awaited Mayor’s Lunch for Arts Champions. Held on March 13, 2019,  the event honoured arts and business leaders through engaging conversation and an awards presentation.

Together, we are all arts champions, and recognize the smart, passionate, and committed individuals that lead and support our arts organizations which make our community thrive.

The new Mamdani Arts Leadership Award launches Strategic Group as a Cultural Legacy Leader. It was created to recognize the role of board members who lend their expertise, talent, and time to support art organizations and festivals that make Calgary such a great city. Congratulations to this year’s award recipient, Peter Schryvers with the Beltline Neighbourhoods Association. Peter spearheads the Beltline Urban Murals Project. He is celebrated for helping to energize the popular Beltline community with public murals, inspiring other local communities to follow suit.

Congratulations to all of Wednesday’s award winners and a big thank you to Calgary Arts Development, the City of Calgary, Strategic Group team members, guests, and volunteers who helped on the event. For more information on the Mamdani Arts Leadership Award, click here or read CEO, Riaz Mamdani’s message from the event program here.

Photo credit: City of Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Peter Schryvers, and Strategic Group CEO, Riaz Mamdani. Benjamin Laird Arts & Photo.

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Mayor’s Lunch for Arts Champions – A message from CEO Riaz Mamdani

The following was published in this week’s Mayor’s Lunch for Arts Champions program, a special message from Strategic Group’s CEO, Riaz Mamdani:

Whenever we experience art—be it in a theatre, gallery, our homes, or public places—our lives are enriched, and our community becomes stronger. A healthy creative economy makes Calgary a better and even more attractive place to live and work.

At Strategic Group, the arts inspire us to be creative and unconventional. Our support of the creative economy, today and every day, is an important part of who we are. As a Calgary-based real estate company with a strong sense of responsibility in our community, we challenge our peers to join us as champions for the arts.

Attend, promote, and invest in our cultural sector. In that challenge, we all win.

Congratulations to all of this year’s award recipients. We are proud to honour you and celebrate with you today. Together, we’re making more space for the arts in our lives and in this city—and we will continue to do great things.

Read more about the Mayor’s Lunch for Arts Champions event, here.

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