Mental health benefit with Daniel Alfredsson raises record-breaking $110K for Ottawa Salus

Soirée Salus returns to Embassy of France with sold-out crowd and special guests

When you drop the name “Ottawa Salus” in the general community, you’re more likely to get blank stares and radio silence than nods of recognition and affirmation.

That wouldn’t have been the case at Thursday night's Soirée Salus, however. The hugely successful fundraiser brought in $110,00 for a “small but mighty” charitable organization that provides affordable housing and support to hundreds of adults living in this city with serious mental illness.

Not only did the soirée sell out, attracting more than 300 guests, but there was a continued demand for tickets after word got out that Daniel Alfredsson would be there.  It didn’t hurt, either, that the benefit was back at the gorgeous Embassy of France on Sussex Drive, hosted by Ambassador Kareen Rispal.

Distinguished guests also included celebrated mental health advocate Sharon Johnston, wife of former governor general David Johnston.

Ottawa Salus
From left, Sharon Johnston with Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Salus executive  director Lisa Ker and French Ambassador Kareen Rispal at the Soirée Salus mental health benefit held at the embassy on Thursday, October 5, 2017. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Alfredsson took to the podium, delighting everyone with his easy-going and obliging introduction (“Je m’appelle Daniel”). He learned some French in high school, while growing up in his homeland of Sweden, but failed short of mastering the language, he admitted. He shared a Swedish expression that sounds quite French if one pronounces and rolls the "r”s. When translated, the expression means, "Eat porridge with a wooden spoon in a wood shed," he said good-humouredly.

Alfredsson, who has a sister with generalized anxiety disorder, has been a long-time champion for mental health. He’s been working with The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health for almost 10 years to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.

But, like many, he hadn’t previously heard of Salus until recently receiving an invitation to attend its signature fundraiser.

“I read up about it and I’m really impressed with what they’ve done, and with how much they’ve supported the community and filled a void in our healthcare system,” said Alfredsson.

Fiona Murray Cook co-chaired the elegant $125-a-ticket evening with Camille Therriault-Power, president of RH Belvedere HR. Committee members also included Elizabeth Gray-Smith, with Bluesky Strategy Group, and mining executive and Canadian Forces reservist Erica Leslie (they’re both daughters of Liberal politicians: the late Herb Gray and Orléans MP Andrew Leslie, who was in attendance).

Ottawa Salus
From left, Camille Therriault-Power and Fiona Murray Cook co-chaired the Soirée Salus mental health benefit, held at the Embassy of France on Thursday, October 5, 2017. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Ottawa Salus
From left, Erica Leslie and Elizabeth Gray-Smith, both part of the organizing committee for the mental health benefit Soirée Salus, upped the glamour in their designs from Sukhoo Sukhoo Couture, at the Embassy of France on Thursday, October 5, 2017. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Ottawa Salus has been around for nearly 40 years and owns and operates 14 buildings, ranging in size from a single family home to a 42-unit apartment building. “We are small but we are mighty,” executive  director Lisa Ker said while standing at the podium, alongside board president and lawyer Paul Taylor, a senior associate at Borden Ladner Gervais.

Attendees included George Weber, president and CEO of the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, and such Salus donors as Stan Ages, president of Paramount Properties, and his wife, Fran. Also seen were Harley Finkelstein, chief operating officer of Shopify, with his wife, Lindsay Taub, and Bay Ward Councillor Mark Taylor, the city's special liaison on homeless and housing issues.

Ottawa Salus
Lisa Ker, executive  director of Ottawa Salus, with George Weber, president and CEO of the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, at the mental health benefit Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Thursday, October 5, 2017. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Ottawa Salus
From left, Ottawa Salus board member Sanjay Srivastava, a lawyer with Soloway Wright, with Ottawa Salus donors Stan Ages, president of Paramount Properties, and his wife, Fran, at the mental health benefit Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Thursday, October 5, 2017. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Ottawa Salus
From left, Taryn Manias, Lindsay Taub, Harley Finkelstein and Chris Knight, president and CEO of Gusto TV, at the mental health benefit Soirée Salus held at the Embassy of France on Thursday, October 5, 2017. Photo by Caroline Phillips 

Ottawa town crier Daniel Richer auctioned off a lunch for six with Alfredsson, at a location of the top bidder’s choosing. It sold to the two top bidders, at $4,000 each. One of those top bidders, Roland Davis, president of Davis Engineering Ltd., told OBJ.social he was planning to bring along his hockey-fan children and grandchildren. The other top bidder was Jana Mitchell, founder and CEO of Wheels for the Wise. She later said it was "a pleasure to support such an amazing cause and one that hits close to home for me".

Marie Anik Desmarais, owner of Anik Boutique in the ByWard Market, blew away her competition bidding on a four-course embassy dinner for 10 with the ambassador. She paid $11,000 but told OBJ.social she was happy to support a cause like Salus.

Ottawa Salus
From left, French Ambassador Kareen Rispal with ByWard Market businesswoman Marie Anik Desmarais, owner of Anik Boutique on Cumberland Street, at the Soirée Salus mental health benefit held at the Embassy of France on Thursday, October 5, 2017. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Ottawa Salus
From left, former Ottawan Salus board president Dwayne Wright with Monica Donnelly and her husband, current Ottawa Salus board president Paul Taylor, at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Thursday, October 5, 2017. Photo by Caroline Phillips

- caroline@obj.ca