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Supporter Spotlight: David Sparrow

At 13 years old, David Sparrow realized he could make people laugh. At 17, he began taking classes at the Second City in Toronto. It did not occur to him, however, until years later that he could make a living as a performer.

So, he became a paramedic.

Sparrow spent about nine years in emergency services before returning to university, planning to become a lawyer. Short-listed at a couple of law schools, he started teaching English at Humber College. In between sessions, he decided to crash an audition at Second City and wound up in the National Touring Company. Thus began his now 27-year-career in the entertainment industry.

Sparrow has had over 100 roles in film and TV, written a play called The Honey Murders that sold out in Los Angeles, worked as a producer and director, and written a couple of feature films.

Busy enough, about 12 years ago, he also began volunteering with his union, ACTRA (Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists) and has held several leadership positions. Most recently he became the national president of ACTRA, helping to represent 23,000 performers across the country.

“I’ve always tried to pursue things that will give me a certain amount of joy and that make me feel I’m being a constructive force in society,” he says about his career in the arts. “I’m fortunate to have had a very good life. I have great relationships, married for 32 years, two grown daughters and long-time friends. And I’ve been able to spend my time doing things that build people up and strengthen my community.”

“It led to my political involvement with ACTRA, and also a federal run in Don Valley West and municipally in Ward 26,” he says. “These were attempts to make my neighbourhood and community better and to speak on behalf of those who have steeper hills to climb than I do.”

Sparrow’s desire to have a positive impact on people who are struggling is reflected in his support for the work of The AFC. Sparrow started donating to The AFC more than a decade ago and became a monthly donor five years ago.

“Lisa, my wife, and I decided,” he says about becoming a monthly donor, “that we wanted to do something that would have a greater impact on a specific organization and I think that monthly giving is the best way to have long term impact.

“Every month you know a certain amount is going to come off your credit card or out of your bank account; you don’t have to think about it and over time, you make a significant impact on the lives of others,” he explains. “You hear about friends and people you know in the business who have turned to The AFC in their time of trouble and you know they benefitted from this little thing that you do.”

Sparrow is a strong proponent of monthly giving and encourages his colleagues to become monthly donors, too.

“If you are an actor working in Canada, you need to be supporting The AFC,” he says. “Think about giving a monthly donation – it doesn’t matter how much. It’s easy to do, you can forget about it and know that the money you are giving is going to help your fellow arts workers in times of trouble.”

Supporting The AFC is not just important for those who work in the industry, but for all Canadians, Sparrow says.

“Donating to The AFC is one of the most important ways you can support the arts,” he says. “Because being an artist is tough work and it’s important work for Canada. The stories that we project advertise Canada around the world and they help define our culture at home and abroad. Our voices increase the number of people who come here as tourists, the number of businesses that choose to establish themselves here and the number of people who decide to build their families in this great country.

“The arts are imperative to the survival of a nation and in order to have a robust arts sector, you need to have artists that are devoting their lives to creating that art. When artists run into hard times, The AFC is there to help them through those hurdles. And so, as Canadians, giving money to The AFC is investing in and supporting grassroots artists who are doing the heavy lifting in terms of projecting Canada to the world.”

The AFC is extremely grateful to David Sparrow and his family for their ongoing support.

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