For a disease that can be extremely lonely and isolating, there was no shortage of partygoers looking to mingle the night away at the 13th annual Martini Madness benefit held in support of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada.
On Thursday, more than 300 attendees filed into Lago Bar and Grill. They were there for one the best charity cocktail parties in town while raising awareness and funds for a cause not typically talked about at cocktail parties: illnesses that affect the gut.
The evening grossed roughly $60,000 for research to help find cures and lead to better treatments for individuals suffering from the lifelong conditions of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. To date, Martini Madness has raised more than $400,000.
“This is a fun event,” said Ottawa lawyer Pat Santini, whose law firm Kelly Santini LLP sponsors the event every year. His daughter, Lauryn Santini, who runs Santini Gallery on Preston Street, donates tonnes of artwork to the silent auction and is part of the organizing committee. “People let their hair down and just enjoy themselves.”
Lago Bar and Grill is owned by Dale Hill, a partner in Gowling WLG's Ottawa office and national leader of the Gowling WLG transfer pricing and competent authority team. He didn't show any visible signs of jet lag at the party, despite having flown back that day from his business trip to South Africa.
Returning to co-chair the evening were Jon Beckman from sponsor Beckman Wealth Management, located in the Glebe, and NHL player agent Andy Scott, a lawyer with Scott Coulson + Scott and a 2016 Forty Under 40 recipient. Also on hand was Sherry Pang, development coordinator in Eastern Ontario for Crohn’s and Colitis Canada.
This year’s guest speaker was Matthew O’Halloran, whose piano keys necktie and personalized business card were both tell-tale signs that he's a kid with style, talent and ambition. He played background jazz music on the keyboard all evening.
What wasn’t obvious, however, was that the 15-year-old Brockville teen has Crohn's, one of two major forms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). He served this year as Crohn’s and Colitis Canada's national honorary chair for its Gutsy Walk.
“I was diagnosed with Crohn's when I was about two and a half years of age, meaning I've lived with it for as long as I can remember,” O’Halloran told the room.
“However, I've been able to cope quite well with the condition due to a powerful medication that I take. Once every five weeks, one of my parents takes the day off work and takes me into the medical clinic at the Ottawa Trainyards, where I stay for a few hours to receive the medication, via infusion. It's the ‘miracle drug’, as my mom calls it, that has been keeping my Crohn's in remission," said O'Halloran, who attended with his mother, public school teacher Jennnifer Klatt, and his father, assistant Crown attorney John O'Halloran. "I am still able to get good grades, play music, play competitive hockey and, overall, live an active, happy life, for which I am so grateful for."
Canada has one of the highest rates of pediatric inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in the world. The presence of Crohn’s and colitis in children, particularly among those under the age of five, has risen more than 50 percent in the last 10 years. By 2030, the number of Canadians with IBD is expected to rise to 400,000, or roughly 1 percent of the population.
The evening attracted a good mix of folks, from CIBC Wood Gundy's Steve Gallant, founder of the popular Ringside for Youth benefit for the Boys and Girls Club, to Albert Chang, who organizes an annual lawyers' benefit rock concert for the Food Bank, to retired NHL player Jason York, who's witnessing a second-generation of Yorks achieve success on the ice. His eldest son Jack York, 18, is playing in the OHL with the Kitchener Rangers, while younger son Matthew York, 16, plays at the Junior A level.
The evening featured a live auction that included a seven-night stay at a luxury private villa in Cap Cana, Dominican Republic, for up to eight adults and four children. The trip triggered a bidding war that saw Caitlin Cogan from RBC Wealth Management emerge as top bidder, at $12,500. She's chair of the annual Crohn's and Colitis Guts and Glory Golf Classic.
It was too bad the Ottawa Redblacks couldn't make it this year but everyone understood that they had more important priorities, like trying to clinch their second Grey Cup championship this Sunday in Edmonton. The team did donate a football and a jersey, both signed by the team.