Elmwood School Gala continues record-breaking streak by raising $450K

Speakeasy gala theme delivers big on style and glamour as school gym is transformed into opulent nightclub
Editor's Note

OBJ.Social is supported by the generous patronage of Mark Motors, Bruyère Foundation, the Foundation (WCPD)Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties, the Shaw Centre and Sparks Dental. Read their stories here.

There was a speakeasy operation in Ottawa on Saturday night and — if you can keep it hush-hush – we’ll disclose to you its not-so-secret location: Elmwood School.

The all-girls private school of 375 students, located in Rockcliffe Park, hosted its 30th annual fundraising gala in Roaring Twenties style. 

The cocktail reception area felt like a warehouse-styled club, with seemingly illicit barrels of booze doubling as cocktail tables and vintage music, from scratchy old vinyl records, drifting out from a nearby record player.

The glamorous crowd of 260 was summoned into the school gymnasium — not that it looked anything like a place for basketball layups or volleyball spikes. The room was jaw-droppingly gorgeous and ready for a night of dining and dancing with its white ostrich feathers, elegant chandeliers and spectacular lighting.

By the end of it all, the crowd ended up raising a staggering $450,000 — making it Elmwood's most successful gala to date.

elmwood
Elmwood  School held its 30th annual gala at the all-girls private school in Rockcliffe Park on Saturday, May 4, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Elmwood
From left, Elmwood School gala committee members Alexei O'Connor and Aileen Conway with Tracy Pratte and Karen Turner, who was also on the gala committee, at this year's 1920s-themed benefit for Elmwood School. Photo by Caroline Phillips​​​ 

The evening’s Hear us Roar title paid a nod to the 1920s as a time of liberation for women, when they wanted to be seen as individuals outside of their familial roles. At that time, speakeasies were a popular place for people to go and get their alcohol fix during the Prohibition Era.

The gala team, made up of dozens of volunteers, was co-chaired this year by Antonia Betts and Aileen Conway, both of whom are lawyers by profession. Elmwood alumna Jamilah Taib-Murray, chairwoman of Sakto Corporation, was back as gala patron.

Betts and her husband, Craig Betts, executive chairman and founder of Solace — a Kanata-based smart data movement technology company — hosted several high-profile guests that night, including capital market executive Mark Mulroney, son of former prime minister Brian Mulroney, and his wife, Vanessa, along with Canadian ski legend Erik Guay, and two-time Olympic skier Patrick Biggs. Solace is a major sponsor of Alpine Canada.

Interestingly, Biggs also has artistic talent; he donated one of his paintings, Weightlessness, to the silent auction.

Other major boosters included Elmwood School board of governors chair Peter Hudson, founder and CEO of HTG, a leading national provider for major sporting events, and his wife, Kelly, as well as Telesat CEO Dan Goldberg — who's also on the school board — and his wife, Whitney Fox. Together, the couples matched $50,000 made in donations by attendees that night. The generosity didn't end there, either. Hudson offered to match additional pledges, thereby helping the school to raise another $16,600. Also later, French Ambassador Kareen Rispal offered up a dinner for 15 people at her official residence. It sold for a remarkable $15,000.

The money raised from the gala will go toward two causes: the school’s scholarship program to help promising girls who would not otherwise be able to afford to attend Elmwood, and the renovation of its visual art studio.

The evening's diamond sponsor was gala committee member Janice Saunders and her husband, Tim Saunders, executive vice-president and chief financial officer of Canopy Growth and a member of the Elmwood School board. Other big boosters included Marilyn Wilson and daughter Reba Wilson from Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties.

Elmwood
From left, Elmwood Gala committee co-chair Aileen Conway with Cheryl Boughton, head of school at Elmwood Gala, and Elmwood Gala committee co-chair Antonia Betts, at this year's 1920s-themed gala: Hear Us Roar. Photo by Caroline Phillips
elmwood
Sakto Corporation chairwoman Jamilah Taib-Murray, patron of the Elmwood Gala, with her husband, Sean Murray, president and CEO of Sakto Corporation, at this year's 1920s-themed gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips
elmwood
From left, Brian Morley, president of development and construction management firm Morley Hoppner Ltd., and his wife, interior designer Erin Morley, were guests of Canopy Growth executive Tim Saunders and his wife, gala committee member Janice Saunders, at this year's 1920s-themed Elmwood Gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips
elmwood
Ottawa businessman Peter Hudson, chair of the board of governors at Elmwood School, and his wife, Kelly Hudson, were among the major supporters of the 30th annual gala for the all-girls' private school, held Saturday, May 4, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Elmwood
Recently retired skier Erik Guay — one of Canada's most decorated skiers — and his wife, Karen, were guests at the Elmwood School Gala, held Saturday, May 4, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Elmwood
Entrepreneur and angel investor Simon Nehme and his wife, gala committee member Clara Nehme, were among the sapphire sponsors of the Elmwood School Gala, held Saturday, May 4, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Elmwood
Gala committee member Whitney Fox and her husband, Dan Goldberg, president and CEO of Telesat, were among the major supporters of the 30th annual gala for the all-girls' private school, held Saturday, May 4, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
Elmwood
Mark Mulroney and his wife, Vanessa Mulroney, were guests of this year's Elmwood School Gala, held Saturday, May 4, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Elmwood
From left, Solace executive chairman and founder Craig Betts and his wife, gala co-chair Antonia Betts — who were among the sapphire sponsors of the Elmwood School Gala — with their guests, Marie Boivin and Tom Manley, lead director at Solace. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Elmwood
The sapphire sponsors for this year's Elmwood School Gala included Ted Woodhead and his wife, Aileen Conway, as well as Telus, for which Conway is the SVP of federal government and regulatory affairs. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The evening marked the final Elmwood School gala for its head, Cheryl Boughton. She’s leaving later this year to lead St. John's-Kilmarnock School, a co-ed private school near Waterloo. The annual gala has raised some $2 million over her 11 years with Elmwood. Boughton will be succeeded by the school's deputy head, James Whitehouse.

Some of the exciting prizes sold off that night were: a three-night stay for two in the Newfoundland Suite at the exclusive Fogo Island Inn, with plane tickets from Air Canada; a dinner and wine for 30 hosted by the restaurant-owning Fraser brothers, in partnership with Jacobsons Gourmet Concepts; embassy dinners at the official residences of the Korean and Swedish ambassadors; original artworks by Christopher Griffin and Andrew Berks; a scotch tasting night for 21 people; and a six-night trip to Ireland that features filming locations from the popular Game of Thrones show.

At least one 2019 Forty Under 40 award recipient was spotted in the crowd: Stephanie Appotive from Howard Fine Jewellers & Custom Designers. It donated a pair of diamond earrings to the auction.

Elmwood
From left, Neil Malhotra, CFO of ruby sponsor Claridge Homes, with his wife, Ainsley Malhotra, along with sister-in-law Louise Malhotra and her husband, Shawn Malhotra, COO of Claridge Homes, at the Elmwood School Gala, held Saturday, May 4, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
elmwood
Karen Sparks, a director with the Wesley Clover Foundation, with her husband, Andy Sparks, at the Elmwood School's 30th annual gala, held Saturday, May 4, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
elmwood
From left, retired Olympic skier Patrick Biggs with Denis King, COO at Solace, at the Elmwood School Gala, held Saturday, May 4, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Elmwood
From left, Terry McLaughlin, owner of ruby sponsor Terlin Construction, with his wife, Catherine McLaughlin, and emerald sponsors Gayle McClelland (who's also on the gala committee and on the board of Elmwood School) and her husband, John McClelland, at the Elmwood School Gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
Elmwood
From left, pediatric cardiologist Lillian Lai with Vanessa Mulroney and Trisha Verbrugge at the Elmwood School Gala, held Saturday, May 4, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Elmwood
From left, Sylvie Bourgeois, Clara Nehme and Parmoun Eatemadi at the 1920s-themed Elmwood School Gala, held in Rockcliffe Park on Saturday, May 4, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
Elmwood
Cheryl Boughton, head of school for Elmwood School, with her husband, David Boughton, director of capital projects and biomedical engineering at The Ottawa Hospital, at the 30th Annual gala for the all-girls' private school. Photo by Caroline Phillips

– caroline@obj.ca