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My first charity gala

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My first charity gala

My first charity gala Guest Post by Leah Morrison On May 24 I attended the Friends of We Care gala, my first charity event. I was expecting a plated dinner and some feeble dancing. Instead, what I experienced changed my entire perspective on the world of charitable giving. “Friends of We Care is solely made up of 85 companies in the foodservice and hospitality industry,” executive director Kevin Collins explains. Founded by Gary Wright in 1983, the organization focuses on raising money for The Easter Seals of Canada Society (a charity supporting disabled children and their families). The money raised goes towards helping these children attend summer camp. The camps offer kids, who often have conditions that require them to use mobility aids, the chance to have a “normal” childhood experience and to be the same as every other kid attending camp. Since its conception, Friends of We Care has raised more than $17.5 million and sent over 40,000 children to camp. The charity even holds Camp Days for those who donate. “We invite the supporters and their family members to come to one of the camps,” Collins says. “This allows the organization to show supporters where their money is going and what they are helping to achieve.” Many fundraising events are held throughout the year with the cheque for the year’s donations presented at the annual charity gala. I have numerous family members in the foodservice industry, including my father (before he retired). It was my uncle who invited me to the gala after being offered an extra ticket. A black-and-white event, I donned a black dress and hitched a ride to the venue with my cousin (also in the industry). As soon as we walked into the reception, it was clear that this was a big-deal kind of night. Companies that had helped raise funds throughout the year were serving hors d’oeuvres. (Maple Leaf Foods had chocolate-covered bacon. Enough said.) Some people wore bright colours, and I realized they were Easter Seals children who had been invited to wear colours to stand out. A silent auction was also underway. When I glanced down I did a double take—people were making huge bids. Some guests wore flashing pins, a sign that they had donated at least $25 that evening. Attendees could also donate via the donation cards placed at each table. City TV’s Breakfast Television host Kevin Frankish, a longtime supporter of The Easter Seals, emceed the event. He introduced Justin Hines, a Canadian singer with Larsen’s syndrome who is wheelchair-bound, as the night’s entertainment. (He was fabulous.) The charity, promoted in such a fun and entertaining way, did a great job of reminding attendees how much difference even a dollar could make. Frankish illustrated this point between dinner courses by asking people to come up to the stage with any spare change, even if it was only a quarter. People went up in hoards, eager to participate. It was announced later in the evening that over $3000 had been donated. In under five minutes! Collins' favourite part was watching well-deserving Friends of We Care supporters being acknowledged. “The recognition of the award recipients was great,” he says. “It was important that they get the proper recognition for going above and beyond with helping the charity.” During the evening I watched children ambassadors tell the crowd how much the charity meant to them. They were anticipating the summer camp vacation they would soon enjoy. The kids then hit the dance floor with no thought to their mobility aids. (I myself danced up a storm to “It’s Raining Men” with a young girl.) The passion everyone had for this charity was overwhelming, and that level of enthusiasm made it all the more special to see. I felt truly honoured to witness the dedication of the charity’s supporters. One day I hope to bring that passion to an important cause. Looking to start donating to a special cause? Click here to learn to make a difference when giving to charity. Photo courtesy of Thomas Hellberg 
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My first charity gala

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