Most of us think of Rick Campanelli as the always-smiling, high energy, former host of Much Music and ET Canada. But as we sat down for a chat just hours before he took the “virtual” stage to MC the 2021 Inspiration Awards, he acknowledged 2020 has been a tough year for all of us. The following conversation has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.
Is there a personal connection or story you’d like to share that inspired you to host the 2021 Virtual Inspiration Awards?
"2020 was a dark year for me - beyond the pandemic and being a people person - I was dealing with a separation from my wife. I lost 30lbs and I’m already a skinny guy! I lost my mother a few years ago but this was a different experience than grief. I identify so much as a father and husband. I love it, it’s who I am. I didn’t know how to cope. So, when the opportunity arose to MC for the Inspiration Awards it made perfect sense."
How did you get through your mental health struggles?
"I talked with my family a lot. I felt very lonely and pretty vulnerable. I’m so thankful that I have a very supportive family and my wife and I are now back together and working things out. We like to be a happy family! It was a shock to the system when that changed. The recipients are amazing people – so inspiring. They’ve faced much more challenging obstacles and have thrived beyond them."
Has there been much of a learning curve needing to do things virtually?
"Not really. I’ve been around cameras my entire career, so I adapt well. I miss the people though."
Has 2020 given you some perspective for those who have struggled with their mental health?
"Absolutely. I’m lucky to have a support network. I know that’s a privilege that many don’t have. Truthfully, I don’t know much about how the system works, like when people need help where do they go? Organizations like The Royal are so important. It’s a good thing that we talk about mental health more openly now."
What’s next for Rick Campanelli?
"I loved my time as a stay-at-home daddy but I’m definitely ready for some new opportunities. I’m in talks with a couple media companies and have toyed with the idea of a podcast focused on 80’s and 90’s music. I‘m still passionate about music. I’ve done charitable work with World Vision since ’97 and not to be cliché but it’s taught me so much about life and what matters. When you see kids that have nothing relative to our society/culture - but they’re happy! It’s pretty special."
More than 450 people came together virtually with host Rick Campanelli to honour individuals for their contributions to mental health advocacy and awareness. This year’s 18th annual Inspiration Awards, presented by TD, raised over $415,000 in support of patient care, comfort, and much-needed research at The Royal. Read more here.