Tailgating with Jeff Hunt: Ottawa RedBlacks president hosts party to open 2017 season

Kick Off For Kids raises $17,000-plus to help kids at CHEO with inflammatory bowel disease

How fitting that there were grey skies, to go with the Grey Cup-winning RedBlacks' season home opener, during a year that will see the Grey Cup football championship come to Ottawa.

Dozens of guests packed The Rideau Condominium unit at Lansdowne belonging to RedBlacks president Jeff Hunt for Friday night's Kick Off For Kids tailgate party, held in partnership with the IBD Foundation, for the Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Centre at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

It was the second year Hunt, who is also a partner with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, hosted the fundraiser to help children who suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.

The event ambassador was 11-year-old Angus Albinati. He was seen admiring the 2016 Grey Cup ring worn by Hunt, who promptly slipped it off his finger for the boy to try on.

Kick Off for Kids
Eleven-year-old Angus Albinati checks out Jeff Hunt's Grey Cup ring at a tailgate party fundraiser hosted by Hunt at his condo with a view, at Lansdowne, during the Redblacks' home opening game on Friday, June 23, 2017. (Photo by Caroline Phillips)
Kick Off for Kids
From left, Chuck Rifici, chair of National Access Cannabis and CEO of Nesta Holding, with his father, Chuck Rifici Sr., and Jeff Hunt, president of the Ottawa Redblacks and a partner with OSEG, at a tailgate party he hosted at his condo at Lansdowne during the football team's home opening game, on Friday, June 23, 2017. (Photo by Caroline Phillips)

Guests mingled on the spacious terrace overlooking the football field while Ottawa’s grilling-gourmet chef, Steph Legari, fired up the barbies to cook bourbon whiskey ribs, grilled sirloin with a roasted-corn salsa, Cajun shrimp served with bocconcini and fresh dill, and other mouth-watering goodness. The RedBlacks’ mascot, Big Joe, dropped in to show his perma-grin while two members of the team's cheer and dance team also paid a friendly visit.

Attendees included Jim Durrell, former mayor of Ottawa and a self-professed football fan.

“I never miss a game,” said Durrell, who’s chairing the 2017 Grey Cup Festival. It’s holding a kick-off event this Wednesday at Lansdowne to announce the lineup of events happening as part of year’s championship game on November 26th.

Also seen were marijuana industry trailblazer Chuck Rifici, former Grey Cup champ Jed Tommy and Hunt’s fiancée, Vanessa Richardson (he proposed on their flight together to Paris).

Kick Off for Kids
Former Ottawa mayor Jim Durrell, chair of the 2017 Grey Cup Festival, with his wife Sam at the home opening game of the Ottawa Redblacks, held at the condo owned by team president Jeff Hunt on Friday, June 23, 2017, as part of a fundraiser for the IBD Centre at CHEO. (Photo by Caroline Phillips)
Kick Off for Kids
From left, 1986 Grey Cup champion Jed Tommy with former CFL player Ray Bernard and Tommy's wife, Roxanne Tommy, at the Kick Off For Kids benefit for the IBD Centre at CHEO, held during the home opening game of the Ottawa Redblacks, at team president Jeff Hunt's condo, on Friday, June 23, 2017. (Photo by Caroline Phillips)
Kick Off for Kids
From left, Annette Quinet with Bernie Myers, vice president at Morguard Investments, Deanna Fleck and Ken Fleck, vice president with Modern Niagara Group, and Mike Fleming, CEO of Fleming Property Management, and Claire Fleming,  at the Kick Off For Kids benefit for CHEO's IBD Centre, held during the home opening game of the Ottawa Redblacks, at team president Jeff Hunt's condo, on Friday, June 23, 2017. (Photo by Caroline Phillips)

On hand was Michele Hepburn, president of the IBD Foundation, and co-organizer Colleen McBride-O’Brien, a sales representative with Royal LePage (she’s also married to entrepreneur and former Ottawa mayor Larry O’Brien).

An endearing Albinati got everyone into the spirit of giving to the tune of $17,000 (with more donations still coming in). He spoke of the fundraising lemonade and cookie stands that his pal Liam Bishop, 10, has set up to fill their joint piggy bank with $165.

“For kids, that’s a lot of money,” added Albinati.

The boy was diagnosed last year with Crohn’s. “Some may think, because I have IBD, they want to feel sorry for me but the truth is, because of all the help I’ve gotten from CHEO, I’m feeling like Angus again,” he told the room.

Dr. David Mack, director of CHEO’s IBD Centre, was there. The room heard how the children’s hospital is getting a new IBD treatment room, slated to open in January, but that it now needs to stock up on specialized pediatric equipment. The centre has seen a “massive increase” in its number of child patients since its humble beginning some 17 years ago, said Mack.

The good doctor expressed his best wishes for a successful football game that night and for a second Grey Cup win to earn Hunt a companion championship ring. “I saw the first one; it’s really good, but it looks lonely.”

Kick Off for Kids
From left, Michele Hepburn, president of the IBD Foundation, with Dr. David Mack and co-organizer Colleen McBride-O'Brien at the Kick Off For Kids benefit held at Ottawa Redblacks president Jeff Hunt's condo at Lansdowne on Friday, June 23, 2017. (Photo by Caroline Phillips)
Kick Off for Kids
From left, Sprint Courier president Eddy Cook with Larry O'Brien, chairman and CEO of Inquisit Solutions, at the Kick Off For Kids benefit for the IBD Centre at CHEO, held during the home opening game of the Ottawa Redblacks, at team president Jeff Hunt's condo, on Friday, June 23, 2017. (Photo by Caroline Phillips)
Kick Off for Kids
 Andre Albinati with his son, Angus Albinati, and wife, Corianne Bell, and Angus's friend, Liam Bishop, at a benefit for the IBD Centre at CHEO, held at Ottawa Redblacks president Jeff Hunt's condo overlooking the football team's opening home game on Friday, June 23, 2017. (Photo by Caroline Phillips)

Later that night, the RedBlacks took on the Calgary Stampeders in a rematch of last year's Grey Cup final. The two teams tied 31-31 in overtime and will meet again Thursday in Calgary.

– caroline@obj.ca