Annual Christmas Cheer Breakfast moves to Lansdowne to spread holiday spirit

Money raised will ensure fewer individuals and families go hungry this Christmas

What began as a bitterly cold walk to a charity breakfast in predawn darkness soon turned into the stunning sight of a 40-foot Christmas tree, with twinkling lights, on prominent display outside Lansdowne’s Aberdeen Pavilion. Some 650 business and community leaders filed inside the building Friday for the annual Christmas Cheer Breakfast.

The crowd raised — under one big heritage roof — funds that will result in fewer disadvantaged families and individuals having to go hungry this Christmas. Among the beneficiaries were the Ottawa Food Bank, Caring and Sharing, YMCA-YWCA, Youville Centre, Debra Dynes Family House and the Youth Services Bureau.

breakfast cheer
This year's Christmas Cheer Breakfast was moved to the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne. Photo by Caroline Phillips
christmas cheer
Members of the Governor General's Foot Guards added pomp and circumstance to this year's Christmas Cheer Breakfast, held at the Aberdeen Pavilion on Friday, December 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The breakfast is organized by the Christmas Cheer Foundation chaired by Jim McConnery, a partner at Welch LLP.  

"It's easy to get caught up in the commercialism of Christmas, and to take the spirit of the holiday for granted," McConnery told OBJ.social. “That’s why it’s great to see everyone come together, at a venue like this one, and share in the goodwill that goes along with Christmas."

New to the volunteer board is Janice Barresi, executive director of the charitable foundation launched last year by the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group. OSEG owns and operates the Ottawa Redblacks, Ottawa Fury and Ottawa 67's sports teams, as well as manages the stadium/arena complex.

christmas cheer
From left, Janice Barresi, executive director of the OSEG Foundation, with fellow Christmas Cheer Foundation board member Chris Kincaid, vice president and COO at Mediaplus Advertising, at this year's Christmas Cheer Breakfast, held at the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne. Photo by Caroline Phillips
christmas cheer
Jim McConnery with his daughters, Stella, eight, and Regan, nine, at this year's Christmas Cheer Breakfast. Photo by Caroline Phillips

It was the first time the event took place at Lansdowne Park, after having been held for so many years at The Westin hotel. In the pavilion, one could watch the place become bathed in soft morning light as the sun rose and shone through the windows.

christmas cheer
Some 650 guests gathered inside the Aberdeen Pavilion on Friday, December 7, 2018, for the Christmas Cheer Breakfast. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Police Chief Charles Bordeleau, Mayor Jim Watson, OSEG chief executive Mark Goudie and several CTV News reporters and personalities were among the celebrity servers to dish out eggs, sausages, and hash browns. Also joining them were Ottawa Redblacks coach Rick Campbell and players Brad Sinopoli, Alex Mateas and Lewis Ward. A couple of them donned Christmas sweaters beneath their orange serving aprons.

christmas cheer
From left, Redblacks offensive lineman Alex Mateas with the team's head coach, Rick Campbell, Ottawa Redblacks kicker Lewis Ward and receiver Brad Sinopoli helped out as servers at the Christmas Cheer Breakfast. Photo by Caroline Phillips
christmas cheer
From left, Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubley with Shannon Gorman from Telus, former mayor and provincial politician Bob Chiarelli, Police Chief Charles Bordeleau, OSEG CEO Mark Goudie and Ottawa South MPP and interim Liberal leader John Fraser volunteered as servers at the Christmas Cheer Breakfast. Photo by Caroline Phillips
christmas cheer
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson, seen alongside Stefan Keyes from CTV, helped to serve breakfast at the annual Christmas Cheer Breakfast held at the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne on Friday, December 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
christmas cheer
Alex Mateas from the Ottawa Redblacks serves breakfast at the Christmas Cheer Breakfast, held Friday, December 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

TD Place/Levy Restaurants executive chef Jason Moore and his sous chef, Gouhar Yaqoob, had been up since 2 a.m. preparing the fresh pastries and breakfast food. It’s hard to say who got less shut-eye — them or the hundreds who slept outside in their tents on the adjacent TD Place field for the YSB SleepOUT for Youth.

christmas cheer
From left, Jason Moore, executive chef for TD Place/Levy Restaurants, with sous chef Gouhar Yaqoob at the Christmas Cheer Breakfast held at the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne on Friday, December 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

For many, the Christmas Cheer Breakfast is the unofficial kickoff to Christmas with its holiday decorations and live Christmas music. Members of the Ottawa Police Services continued their tradition of peddling raffle tickets to help raise more money.

christmas cheer
Anthony Costantini retired from the Ottawa Police Service in March but was back to volunteer at the Christmas Cheer Breakfast with Const. Jenna McElravy and Const. Fay Zouroudis. Photo by Caroline Phillips
christmas cheer
From left, Michael Prittie and Duane Francis, both senior financial advisors with Mandeville Private Client, at the Christmas Cheer Breakfast held at the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne on Friday, December 7, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
christmas cheer
From left, Chris Taggart, president of Tamarack Homes, with newlyweds Hayley Magermans and Danial Taggart, at the Christmas Cheer Breakfast. Photo by Caroline Phillips

McConnery, who was joined on stage by his adorable two daughters, led everyone in the annual fundraising game of heads or tails, where participants predict the coin toss outcome by placing their hands on their heads or backside. If they’re wrong, they’re disqualified and are asked to sit down. Once most of the room has been eliminated, the remaining contestants go up on stage to continue until only one winner remains. This year, it was Lesley Mackay from Ottawa Tourism. She scored tickets to an Ottawa Senators game, a gift certificate to The Shore Club and a stay at the Fairmont Château Laurier.

christmas cheer
The Christmas Cheer Breakfast gots its coin toss game of heads or tails down to two remaining players. Photo by Caroline Phillips
christmas cheer
And the winners was ... Lesley Mackay. Photo by Caroline Phillips
christmas cheer
Michael Maidment, executive director of the Ottawa Food Bank, with Goldie Ghamari, Progressive Conservative MPP for Carleton, at the Christmas Cheer Breakfast. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca