Stuntman Stu’s Pool Party makes giant splash for charity

Gemstone Developments and business sponsors raise $65,000 for bone marrow donor registry

It’s an incredible story of hope and inspiration filled with a mixed bag of emotions for popular Ottawa personality Stu Schwartz, whose life was saved two years ago by a bone marrow transplant.

While still in hospital, Schwartz, publicly known as “Stuntman Stu,” had told his best friend Josh Zaret — a real "mensch" of a man — how he wanted to pay it forward at some point, somehow, somewhere. Schwartz is both a radio host on Majic 100 and public address announcer for the Ottawa Senators' home games.

“Josh said, ‘Leave it to me, I’ll take care of everything’, and sure enough he did,” Schwartz told the large crowd of friends and supporters who attended a benefit held Thursday at the headquarters of Zaret’s family-owned real estate development company, Gemstone.

Stu's 'Pool' Party had nothing to do with swimming pools and cannonball contests and everything to do with building a donor pool in Schwartz's name in order to continue saving lives. 

The evening far exceeded its original goal by raising $65,000-plus for the Ezer Mizion bone marrow donor registry. It's the non-profit organization that found the transplant match for Schwartz. He had required the medical procedure, which replaced damaged bone marrow with healthy bone marrow, after being diagnosed and treated for leukemia. The funds raised from the benefit will cover the costs for 1,000 DNA tests.

Schwartz joked that his only contribution to the 'pool' party was the cardboard cutout of himself looking buff and bare-chested. Sure, it was his face on the life-sized figure but everything below the neck belonged to Hollywood star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Stu's pool party
From left, "Stuntman" Stu Schwartz and Josh Zaret, vice president and general manager of Gemstone, with a life-sized cardboard cutout off Schwartz's face on Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's body, at Stu's Pool Party, held Thursday, June 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Established 20 years ago, Ezer Mizion is the world’s largest Jewish bone marrow donor registry. Most of the Israeli soldiers voluntarily join, by means of a simple cheek swab sample. That’s how Schwartz, a father of two, was able to find his donor, David Levi, whom he met in person back in March.

“It’s been a roller-coaster ride of emotions. Everybody says, ‘How did you get through it?’ I got through it with her,” Schwartz said of his wife, Connie Bernardi, who was shyly standing close by as he and Zaret announced the fundraising total.  

Stu's pool party
"Stuntman" Stu Schwartz with his wife, Connie Bernardi, at Stu's Pool Party in support of the Ezer Mizion bone marrow donor registry, held at the headquarters of Gemstone Developments on Thursday, June 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Barely a year has passed since Gemstone threw a big bash to celebrate its beautiful new space, which involved its extensive renovations of a run-down old heritage building on Argyle Avenue in Centretown.

It took the soirée a step further this time by setting up a giant party tent in the backyard and securing sponsorship, as well as selling close to 200 tickets, priced at $250 each. Restaurateur Domenic Santaguida from Vittoria Trattoria supplied most of the food, including the 180 pizzas that were baked that night in the wood-burning ovens.

Stu's pool party
Vittoria Trattoria president Domenic Santaguida with his son, James, 16, at Stu's Pool Party, held in support of the Ezer Mizion bone marrow donor registry, at Gemstone Developments' Centretown headquarters on Thursday, June 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
Stu's pool party
From left, Brian Boucher, general manager of Euro Tile & Stone, with Paramount Properties vice president Stuart Ages and Josh Engel, a partner with accounting firm GGFL, at Stu's Pool Party held Thursday, June 21, 2018, in support of the Ezer Mizion bone marrow donor registry. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Stu's pool party
From left, Fred Seller and Don Brazeau, founding partners of Brazeau Seller Law, at Stu's Pool Party held Thursday, June 21, 2018, in support of the Ezer Mizion bone marrow donor registry. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Stu's pool party
From left, Ian Shabinsky, principal and vice president of leasing and operations at Glenview, with Gemstone president Neil Zaret, at Stu's Pool Party held Thursday, June 21, 2018, in support of the Ezer Mizion bone marrow donor registry. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
Stu's pool party
From left, Dr. Karen Palayew with Danya Vered, a director at StrategyCorp, and Rhoda Miller at Stu's Pool Party held Thursday, June 21, 2018, in support of the Ezer Mizion bone marrow donor registry. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
Stu's pool party
Sanjay Shah, president of ExecHealth, and his wife, Dr. Bella Mehta, at Stu's Pool Party held Thursday, June 21, 2018, in support of the Ezer Mizion bone marrow donor registry. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
Stu's pool party
Steve Ramphos, president of District Realty, with his wife, Doris, at Stu's Pool Party held Thursday, June 21, 2018, in support of the Ezer Mizion bone marrow donor registry. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
Stu's pool party
From left, brothers Peter Scrivens and Michael Scrivens from Scrivens Insurance and Investment Solutions with Irv Hoffman  with Arthur JGallagher Insurance, and Mike Casey, vice president of leasing and development with Arnon Corporation, at Stu's Pool Party held Thursday, June 21, 2018, in support of the Ezer Mizion bone marrow donor registry. Photo by Caroline Phillips 

In the crowd of lawyers, accountants, property managers and insurance brokers were Schwartz's Majic 100 "work wife", morning show co-host Angie Poirier, as well as Jill Scheer, wife of federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer. She was invited by Ezer Mizion through her own advocacy work, inspired by a bone marrow transplant that was successfully performed on her young nephew.

The mayor, Jim Watson, also dropped in on what was a busy night of events in Ottawa.

Stu's pool party
From left, Harjeet Singh with his Vittoria Trattoria business partner, Domenic Santaguida, Mayor Jim Watson, Jen Zaret and Josh Zaret at Stu's Pool Party held Thursday, June 21, 2018, in support of the Ezer Mizion bone marrow donor registry. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
Stu's pool party
From left, Jill Sheer with Dena Bensalmon, director of the Ezer Mizion organization in Canada, at Stu's Pool Party held Thursday, June 21, 2018, in support of the Ezer Mizion bone marrow donor registry. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
Stu's pool party
Stuntman Stu with his Majic 100 radio co-host Angie Poirier at Stu's Pool Party held Thursday, June 21, 2018, in support of the Ezer Mizion bone marrow donor registry. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
Stu's pool party
Fenway, five, and Marlowe, four, seen with their parents, Jen and Josh Zaret, and grandfather, Neil Zaret, made a brief but cute appearance in their pizza-making aprons at the start of Stu's Pool Party held Thursday, June 21, 2018, in support of the Ezer Mizion bone marrow donor registry. Photo by Caroline Phillips 

— caroline@obj.ca