• DeepBlue2020 Vanguard

Game Changer: Scott Maxwell, Executive Director, Wounded Warriors Canada

Scott Maxwell’s personal connection with the defence industry goes back to the fateful day of June 11, 2007. It was on that day a high school friend of his, Trooper Darryl Caswell, was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan.

Scott Maxwell

“I’ll never forget that day, and I struggled to comprehend how the war, which felt so distant and detached from our every day at home, could have such a devastating impact on a young man, his family and the community of Bowmanville, Ontario,” said Maxwell. “Following Darryl’s death, I made a personal pledge to find a way to give back to those who so bravely serve Canada.”

But this passion started to come together a year later when he was working for Hon. Dan McTeague in Ottawa. It was then that he became aware of Sapper Mike McTeague’s harrowing story. Mike was McTeague nephew, and on September 18, 2006, he was injured badly by a suicide bomber travelling on a bicycle who killed four Canadian soldiers and injured a number of others. Mike survived and later that year the Sapper Mike McTeague Wounded Warrior Fund was established by members of his regiment and supportive civilians.

“During my time working in Ottawa, I met members of the Fund and began to pay close attention to the issues facing our ill and injured veterans and their families. It is the above-mentioned experiences that led me to where I am today,” said Maxwell.

Due to his work in providing the means to give back to those who served Canada, Scott Maxwell was selected as a Vanguard Game Changer for the December/January 2020 issue.

What is your role in your organization today?

As Executive Director, I am responsible for the two primary functions of Wounded Warriors Canada: the operations of the charity (fundraising) and our mental health service provision (programming).

What was your most challenging moment?

The most challenging moment – or period of transition in our case – was transforming Wounded Warriors Canada from a fundraising/dispersing organization to a direct mental health service provider. Amongst a number of challenging steps that we faced; the process required several difficult conversations with third party program providers – many of whom we had worked with for years – informing them that they were no longer going to be receiving funding from WWC.

What was your “aha” moment or epiphany that you think will resonate most with our reader? Tell us that story.

My “aha” moment occurred in 2017 when we completed our first pilot program delivery with first responders. At the time, we weren’t sure how our programs (built for veterans struggling with the effects of Operational Stress Injuries like PTSD) would respond to police, firefighters and paramedics. Following the program, we reviewed the participant feedback, which outlined how their injuries had affected both themselves and their family members. The information provided was virtually indistinguishable from the responses we were accustomed to receiving from the veteran population. It highlighted explicitly that, in short, trauma is trauma. It wasn’t long after this that we officially expanded our scope to include support for ill and injured veterans, first responders and their families.

What is the best advice you received?

Have passion for what you do, and let your work speak for itself.

What is the one thing that has you most fired up today?

Mental health awareness has improved drastically over the last five years. Having said that, a fundamental disconnect remains in Canada between having a conversation around mental health and actually receiving psychological healthcare in a timely fashion. Waitlists are increasing, and it is imperative that all stakeholders work closer together to reduce barriers to care. This is a topic that fires me up and one that our team is working hard to keep pace with internally.

What is a habit that contributes to your success?

The habit I strive to live by is hard work. I find that when I work hard success has come to the organization at its own pace and at the right time. You can’t force success, but you can certainly work hard to achieve it.

How is your organization changing the game within your industry sector?

Our ability to build mental health programs to support not only ill and injured veterans and first responders but also their spouses and children has seen us change the game within our industry sector in this regard. Historically, support has been offered solely to the member themselves with little regard to family members.

What are some of the biggest impediments to innovation in your industry sector?

The charitable sector exists most commonly at the community level to help fill gaps that exist in the provision of a wide array of services. While this work is much needed, it tends to be focused more on helping to provide near-term support with less focus and capacity to work on innovative change to help mitigate the gaps themselves.

How has innovation become engrained in your organization’s culture and how is it being optimized?

As an organization, we always wanted to do what wasn’t being done. We call this “taking leaps of faith” and have been able to optimize several different programs nationally as a result of our innovation in key areas of our sector: PTSD Service Dogs and trauma support for couples, as two examples.

What is your parting piece of advice?

My parting piece of advice would be: create a plan that unites your team, stick to it, and trust the process.

Author: Marcello Sukhdeo

Marcello is the managing editor of Vanguard, IT in Canada and Canadian Government Executive and the host of Vanguard Radio and WRLWND Radio podcasts. He is an avid technology and security enthusiast, who has worked on content leadership strategies for a number of industries including the public sector, life science, technology and defence.

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