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Nic Ahola

2012 Richmond Hill

When Nic Ahola, owner of Richmond Hill SNAP Magazinei, and former owner of Aurora SNAP, decided to purchase a SNAP franchise four years ago he never expected his exposure to community events to be so inspirational. “I never knew how many people out there were involved in charity work. It inspired me. It moved me forward. It raised my awareness, and it reminded me about the importance of giving back to the community.” He’s since become a part of local charitable initiatives that touch and transform the lives of people every day. Coming from a family that was actively involved in community work, Nic learned early about the importance of charity. “I learned to contribute from my mother and father. They gave back. They instilled that quality in me. They sold daffodils for the Cancer Society and Dad was president of the Kinsman Clubii of Thornhill. He was actively involved in that organization for years. I have early memories of attending Kinsmen events and watching these gentlemen give back to their community.”

The tragic loss of his father at fifteen-years-old sent Nic’s small family into a tailspin. However, it also served as a future lesson about the importance of community. His younger brother was just seven at the time. As Nic struggled to deal with his loss it was hard for him to be there for his brother. “I was out all the time. I was trying to deal with my own pain.” That’s when Big Brothersiii stepped in. The whole family benefitted when Nic’s brother got a Big Brother. “That helped everyone to go through their own grieving process, and it gave my mother a break too. It gave her the space she needed to heal.” Today Big Brothers Big Sisters is an organization that Nic contributes to substantially.

Nic found his passion young, entering the restaurant industry where he’s worked in everything from Chef to management. Still, he found himself foundering as a young man. Realizing his life was not going the way he wanted it to, Nic made the decision to sell everything and join the Finnish military. Of Finnish heritage, Nic and his family had travelled to Finland often when he was young. He became reacquainted with his relatives and lived with his grandfather on weekends away from the military barracks. The military changed his life forever. “It tore me down and built me back up into someone I can be proud of. The biggest thing it taught me was how to be a man; to be responsible.”

When he returned to Canada Nic re-entered the restaurant industry, eventually owning his own wine bar and lounge in Newmarket. But at thirty-one he felt stuck. He had looked for a dream restaurant location in Newmarket for two years without success. Feeling frustrated, he called SNAP one day and forty-eight hours later he found himself owner of the Richmond Hill franchise. “The biggest benefit of owning SNAP Richmond Hill and Aurora is the huge network of people I have developed. I have met so many amazing people! People who own their own businesses; who are busy but still find the time to give back.”

Nic suddenly found himself immersed in heartwarming community events that made it easy to develop those relationships. “I just picked it up. I built the relationships. I was going around high-fiving everyone – especially at the really good events. I discovered that I really wanted to become involved.”

Building charity initiatives that his SNAP franchise supports, Nic continues to be inspired to give. A few of the community events and organizations he’s been involved in are: Royal LePage Your Community Reality Golf Tournamentiv, Yellow Brick House Mending Heartsv gala, Richmond Hill Chamber of Commerce golf tournaments, Ambassador and sponsor for Bowl for Kids Sakevi, Neighbourhood Networkvii and so much more. He also orchestrated a program in 2011 that resulted in fulfilling Christmas wishes for six local families. He found it both heartwarming and sad. “It felt good and bad; good to be able to fulfill their wishes, but bad because there are so many people out there who have so little.” Growing up, Nic didn’t have a lot either. Nic was there – he knows how it feels. “However, I’m now in a position where I can give back; I’m fortunate enough now that I am able to do that.”

A current initiative that will be Nic’s focus in 2012 is a brand new event that combines fun with philanthropy to benefit six regional charities. Dream Halloween... an evening of philanthropyviii will take place in October 2012. The gala invites us to don our favourite Halloween costume and enjoy live entertainment, a sit down dinner, prizes and “philanthropic stars”ix vying for the title of “Dream Philanthropist 2012.”x

Nic has had a great time with SNAP, but his passion still resides with the restaurant industry. “My ultimate goal is to return to the restaurant business, but leaving SNAP will be bittersweet. The saddest part of leaving the newspaper business will be not seeing SNAP people every day. Prior to SNAP I never knew how many people were involved in charity. I was involved before, but not like I am now.”

Following his dream of opening a restaurant in Newmarket is a journey that Nic needs to take. However, his time at SNAP has changed him forever. “I intend to continue my involvement in the community. It’s definitely something that is very important to me now. It helped me to see that there is a big need in York Region – a need for people to help.” The last thing Nic wants is to have what he does publicized. He chose to be a part of Portraits of Givingxi for a reason. He wants to share some of the inspiration that has motivated him. “My hope is that by talking about my life, people will understand that even with our busy schedules we can still give back. If I can send out a call to people to volunteer or give back in some way, than my job is done. I want them to know that ‘if Nic can do it, so can I!’”


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