Donald Murphy is one of our community’s local heroes, an artist, author, professor, entrepreneur and social activist. He is a champion and local advocate of charitable work in Toronto and across Canada. Behind his unassuming, deferential and friendly personality, Murphy is a powerhouse of creativity and volunteerism in support of worthy causes in our community.
Modestly professorial in his deportment, nevertheless he has been known to sport Clint Eastwoodian cowboy boots from time to time. Murphy developed ingenious creative social marketing strategies for a myriad of non-profit and charitable organizations including Raising the Roof, the AIDS Committee of Toronto, The Ontario Literacy Fund, St. Joseph’s Women’s Health Centre, the Rachel Carson League and HomeComing.
Murphy’s roots run deep, born in Cabbagetown. He later moved further east into our community attending Earl Beatty Public School, followed by a visual arts education at Danforth Technical School. He has remained in the Beach and raised his family here. Murphy established a career in advertising. As a partner/past owner of Vickers and Benson, he managed leading-edge marketing strategies for Canadian corporations, winning numerous awards from the advertising industry. Later, he was asked to lead a number of creative election strategies.
For almost 20 years, Murphy has turned his heart and mind to the charitable sector. He has committed thousands of hours of volunteer time to helping groups brand and position them in the market place. The list is long including Variety Village, Kidney Foundation, Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, YMCA, CNIB, Red Cross and Alzheimer’s Society. Murphy feels, “what stirs the heart and inspires the mind will undoubtedly move the feet.”
Co-founder of Raising the Roof, Canada’s first and only national organization committed to long-term solutions to homelessness, Murphy created the name and the symbol, the toque for the organization’s logo. The toques are sold nationwide to raise funds to help the homeless and at-risk youth break away from street culture. His work over a three-year period contributed to over one million dollars in free media coverage.
Murphy turned his attention to organizations like HouseLink and HomeComing, which are dedicated to promoting the rights of people with mental illness to live in the neighbourhood of their choice — the equal right to accommodation, free from discrimination on the basis of mental illness, disability or income. HomeComing received its compelling name and marketing strategy from Murphy.
As a volunteer at Variety Village, many may have admired the foyer’s beautiful mural, which was created and executed by Murphy, displaying his creative skill as an artist.
He has published two books. One, Gone to America, is about the early struggles of his family in Ireland. His second book entitled Pluck is a rare book that is a testament to his erudite and varied interests in political, historical and religious themes. Murphy describes it as an eclectic novelized historical collage, based on letters, diaries and commentary regarding secular and religious history and events over the past 1,000 years in Great Britain.
Presently, Murphy is working on a children’s book about Toronto’s Riverdale Farm, based on a true story and accompanied by his own illustrations.
Murphy is a modest man, never seeking recognition, a quiet, behind-the-scenes kind of guy — just doing. He is an example of one of the gems that helps make our community and our neighbourhoods civil and livable. We can all count on Murphy to continue making a contribution to the life of our community.
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