Elmwood Gala raises record-breaking $325K for all-girls private school in Rockcliffe

Black-tie dinner draws a mix of business leaders, politicians and sports celebrities to annual fundraiser

The school gymnasium at Elmwood was transformed into a dazzling delight as parents and supporters came together Saturday for the 29th annual "Dare to Dream" Elmwood Gala.

Strands of Edison bulbs and fairy lights covered the walls and hung from the ceiling, illuminating the venue like brilliant stars.  While it took two days to put them all up, as well as the use of a vertical-moving scissor lift, the end result was beyond stunning.

It was in this dreamy atmosphere that a black-tie crowd of nearly 300 guests dined, and later danced, in support of the 365-student school, founded in 1915 and located in upscale Rockcliffe Park. The $300-a-ticket event raised funds for the school’s scholarship and bursary program and for the refurbishment of the school’s science labs.

The gala netted $325,000, which is the most it's ever raised.

Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson and his wife, Melinda — who seemed in good spirits following their personal tragedy a month prior— were there as guests of Craig Betts, founder and executive chairman of Solace Systems.

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From left, Craig Betts, founder and executive chairman of tech firm Solace, with Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson and his wife, Melinda Karlsson, and Antonia Moquette Betts at the "Dare to Dream" Elmwood Gala held at the all-girls private school in Rockcliffe on Saturday, April 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The who's who of attendees also included Mayor Jim Watson, Redblacks president Jeff Hunt, and Sakto Corp. chair Jamilah Taib Murray, who served as gala patron. The former Elmwood parent and student was featured, along with some of the girls from the school, in a sweet and inspiring video played for the room before dinner.

Enjoying a night out with their spouses were former Cognos CEO and current Sussex Capital president Michael PotterDaniel Alfredsson, former captain of the Ottawa Senators; Shopify chief operating officer Harley Finkelstein; retailer David Segal, co-founder of DAVIDsTea and founder of the Mad Radish salad eatery; and Marilyn Wilson, who sells multimillion-dollar homes.

On hand to welcome everyone was the head of Elmwood, Cheryl Boughton.

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Elmwood Gala patron Jamilah Taib Murray, chair of Sakto Corporation, with her husband, Sean Murray, president and CEO of Sakto, at the "Dare to Dream" Elmwood Gala held at the all-girls private school on Saturday, April 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, David Segal and his wife, Emily Segal, a clinical neuropsychologist, with Lindsay Taub, a former child psychotherapist and founder of the Sundae School ice cream store, and her husband, Harley Finkelstein, at the Elmwood School gala, held Saturday, April 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From right, Marilyn Wilson of platinum sponsor Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties Inc., Christie's International Real Estate, with her husband, Dr. Allan Wilson, with their daughter, Reba, and her boyfriend, Dean Solloway, who works in corporate finance for Apple, at the Elmwood Gala held Saturday, April 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Cheryl Boughton, head of Elmwood School, with her husband, David Boughton, director of capital projects at The Ottawa Hospital, at the "Dare to Dream" Elmwood Gala held at the all-girls private school in Rockcliffe Park on Saturday, April 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Daniel Alfredsson and his wife Bibbi were guests at this year's Elmwood Gala, held at the all-girls private school on Saturday, April 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

This year’s gala was co-chaired by Elmwood parents Aileen Conway, angel investor Denise Carruthers and Whitney Fox, who lauded the "amazing talent" of volunteers who helped out on the organizing committee. It was tasked with soliciting auction items, securing sponsors and handling the planning of the key fundraiser.

"I know that I speak for both Aileen and Denise when I say it's been both humbling and an honour to serve with the high caliber of women on this committee," said Fox, who listed a university professor, a molecular biologist, small-business entrepreneurs, and a professional event designer as being among the committee members.

Fox and her husband, Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg, along with HGT Sports Services founder and CEO Peter Hudson and his wife, Kelly, offered to match all $500 donations made by guests, who pledged their support that night by raising their bid paddles in the air. The pledges added up to $54,500 — which was then matched.

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From left, Aileen Conway, Denise Carruthers and Whitney Fox co-chaired the organizing committee for this year's Elmwood Gala held at the all-girls private school in Rockcliffe Park on Saturday, April 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Elmwood parent and board chair Peter Hudson with Cheryl Boughton and Melinda Karlsson and Erik Karlsson at this year's school gala, held Saturday, April 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The evening's emcee, broadcast journalist and Elmwood parent Evan Solomon, had the job of coaxing the crowd of social butterflies to sit down for dinner. 

There was also table after table of silent auction items to bid on. Later, auctioneer Ryan Watson sold off private group dining experiences at E18hteen restaurant and the French Embassy, and a private tasting at nearby Fraser Café’s Table 40, with unique cheeses from Jacobsons Gourmet Concepts. As well, there were donated stays in the Bahamas, Barbados and Jamaica, a whisky-tasting night for 21, a behind-the-scenes Redblacks football experience, original works of art by Andrew Berks and Christopher Griffin, and a one-week stay at a luxury chalet at Tremblant.

Howard Jewellers donated a diamond pendant necklace while anybody craving nostalgia could bid on a private box to next month's The Eagles concert in Calgary, donated by Telus.

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Gala committee member and parent Clara Nehme and her husband, angle investor Simon Nehme, were entertainment sponsors at the Elmwood Gala held Saturday, April 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Michael Potter and Diane Cramphin at the Elmwood Gala held Saturday, April 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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WCPD Foundation president Peter Nicholson, with his spouse, Anabel Bane, helped to donate to the Elmwood Gala auction a week at the Grand Isle Resort and Spa in Exuma, Bahamas. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca