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Community Builders: Merrick Palmer dribbles his way to a better Ottawa

By Samantha Pope and United Way East Ontario on November 26, 2019

Samantha Pope is one of Apt613’s correspondents at United Way East Ontario. With its Community Builder Award program, United Way East Ontario honours outstanding volunteers in Prescott-Russell, Ottawa, Lanark and Renfrew Counties: the organizations, partnerships, agencies, neighbourhood groups and individuals who work tirelessly to make our communities better for everyone.

From being one of the top basketball trainers in Canada to becoming president of an organization working to support those affected by sickle cell disease, Merrick Palmer does it all.

Alongside his success in founding Capital Courts Training Centre in Ottawa, Merrick also knows the importance of community and exemplifies the true meaning of local love. Merrick is changing the lives of people in Ottawa through tireless hours of volunteering, educating, advocating and inspiring.

That’s why United Way East Ontario presented Coach Palmer with a Community Builder Award, an awards program that celebrates the contributions of incredible local volunteers. During a fundraiser dinner honouring community leaders for work surrounding sickle cell disease, Merrick was also recognized for his dedication to the community.

L to R: Merrick Palmer and Sarah Onyango

“I was not expecting anything. I was just here to honour two people and the fact that I got honoured [as well] is more than surreal and totally unexpected,” Merrick said.

In the world of Canadian basketball, Merrick Palmer is a familiar name. After playing professionally in South Africa, and then coming back to Canada where he grew up, he is now sharing his expertise in Ottawa.

Merrick also dedicates his time volunteering as the technical director for the Gloucester Cumberland Basketball Association and as the director for the Capital Courts Academy. Training over 200 youth on the technical skills of basketball as well as having a positive attitude on and off the court.

But it’s not just his major contributions in training local youth to become great athletes that makes Merrick an integral part of his community. After his daughter was diagnosed with sickle cell disease in 2003, Merrick has given countless hours to the Sickle Cell Action Network (SCAN), a meaningful initiative for his family.


“What I do in the community is just my duty. I think that everyone should be doing something for their community,” he said. “It’s a part of who I am.”

In addition to serving as the President of SCAN’s board of directors, Merrick leads fundraisers, Youth Career Days and events during Black History Month—all of which exemplify what the Community Builder Award celebrates: a person who helps to build a stronger, healthier and safer community for all.

Merrick also inspires young people to create change in the community by giving inspirational talks to African and Caribbean youth at risk through Jaku Konbit, a local non-profit organization.

“Merrick shares his life story as a way of showing youth that they too can make it, and make a difference in the lives of others,” said Sarah Onyango, a member of United Way’s volunteer recognition team who presented Merrick with the award.

With his Community Builder Award, Merrick will now be recognized for years to come as someone who is dedicated in making Ottawa a great place for everyone. His name will be permanently added to the Community Builder Wall of Inspiration at City Hall as a lasting representation of his contributions.

“I’m just going to use this as motivation to continue my work in the community,” he said, with a smile on his face.

Through research, evaluation and partnerships with community experts, United Way East Ontario identifies the root causes of the biggest social challenges facing our community, and helps find solutions that change tens of thousands of lives for the better. One hundred percent of donations stay in Prescott-Russell, Ottawa, Lanark and Renfrew Counties to help those most in need.