When you drop the name “Ottawa Salus” in the general community, you’re more likely to get blank stares and radio silence than nods of recognition and affirmation.
That wouldn’t have been the case at Thursday night's Soirée Salus, however. The hugely successful fundraiser brought in $110,00 for a “small but mighty” charitable organization that provides affordable housing and support to hundreds of adults living in this city with serious mental illness.
Not only did the soirée sell out, attracting more than 300 guests, but there was a continued demand for tickets after word got out that Daniel Alfredsson would be there. It didn’t hurt, either, that the benefit was back at the gorgeous Embassy of France on Sussex Drive, hosted by Ambassador Kareen Rispal.
Distinguished guests also included celebrated mental health advocate Sharon Johnston, wife of former governor general David Johnston.
Alfredsson took to the podium, delighting everyone with his easy-going and obliging introduction (“Je m’appelle Daniel”). He learned some French in high school, while growing up in his homeland of Sweden, but failed short of mastering the language, he admitted. He shared a Swedish expression that sounds quite French if one pronounces and rolls the "r”s. When translated, the expression means, "Eat porridge with a wooden spoon in a wood shed," he said good-humouredly.
Alfredsson, who has a sister with generalized anxiety disorder, has been a long-time champion for mental health. He’s been working with The Royal Ottawa Foundation for Mental Health for almost 10 years to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.
But, like many, he hadn’t previously heard of Salus until recently receiving an invitation to attend its signature fundraiser.
“I read up about it and I’m really impressed with what they’ve done, and with how much they’ve supported the community and filled a void in our healthcare system,” said Alfredsson.
Fiona Murray Cook co-chaired the elegant $125-a-ticket evening with Camille Therriault-Power, president of RH Belvedere HR. Committee members also included Elizabeth Gray-Smith, with Bluesky Strategy Group, and mining executive and Canadian Forces reservist Erica Leslie (they’re both daughters of Liberal politicians: the late Herb Gray and Orléans MP Andrew Leslie, who was in attendance).
Ottawa Salus has been around for nearly 40 years and owns and operates 14 buildings, ranging in size from a single family home to a 42-unit apartment building. “We are small but we are mighty,” executive director Lisa Ker said while standing at the podium, alongside board president and lawyer Paul Taylor, a senior associate at Borden Ladner Gervais.
Attendees included George Weber, president and CEO of the Royal Ottawa Health Care Group, and such Salus donors as Stan Ages, president of Paramount Properties, and his wife, Fran. Also seen were Harley Finkelstein, chief operating officer of Shopify, with his wife, Lindsay Taub, and Bay Ward Councillor Mark Taylor, the city's special liaison on homeless and housing issues.
Ottawa town crier Daniel Richer auctioned off a lunch for six with Alfredsson, at a location of the top bidder’s choosing. It sold to the two top bidders, at $4,000 each. One of those top bidders, Roland Davis, president of Davis Engineering Ltd., told OBJ.social he was planning to bring along his hockey-fan children and grandchildren. The other top bidder was Jana Mitchell, founder and CEO of Wheels for the Wise. She later said it was "a pleasure to support such an amazing cause and one that hits close to home for me".
Marie Anik Desmarais, owner of Anik Boutique in the ByWard Market, blew away her competition bidding on a four-course embassy dinner for 10 with the ambassador. She paid $11,000 but told OBJ.social she was happy to support a cause like Salus.