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Ellen Reeves

Event management with heart

For avid polo player Ellen Reeves, work is very close to play. And close to home. As the Executive Director of Polo For Heart, she plans the charitable organization’s largest annual event, raising thousands of dollars for the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

It is a lot of pressure, but nothing this graduate of Seneca’s Event Management – Event and Exhibit Design program (and horse enthusiast) can’t handle.

Three years ago, Ellen’s world came to a screeching halt when she was diagnosed with cancer. She had been battling chronic fatigue when a battery of tests discovered a tumor the size of an orange on her left kidney. Surgery was required, and after a year of grueling treatment, Ellen’s doctors declared her cancer-free.

Feeling lucky to be alive, Ellen decided to pursue a career that allowed her to give back. A conversation with a career counsellor at Seneca led her to enrol in the Event Management – Event and Exhibit Design program, which trains students to plan, organize and design décor for social and charitable events. The program was everything Ellen thought it would be and more.

“It really gave me insight as to what was going on in the events industry right now,” she says. “When my studies were over, I didn’t want to leave.”

Ellen, a long-time volunteer at Polo for Heart, was first hired by the charity when they found out she was completing the Event Management program. Once she graduated, the board of directors offered her the organization’s top job as Executive Director.

Since then, Ellen has worked around the clock on Canada’s largest polo tournament. The three-day competition, now in its 34th year, is held each June at the Gormley Polo Centre in Richmond Hill.

Ellen is responsible for every aspect of the event, including marketing, sales, media, sponsorship and logistics. It may seem overwhelming for one person to take on so much, but that’s just the way Ellen likes it. The event has taken on even more meaning for Ellen since her father, an accomplished artist, suffered a stroke.

“I’m happy where I am,” she says. “I feel like I’m in the business of saving lives. When you are doing something that you love, it never feels like work.”