Proud To Be Bullyfree Gala fosters inclusivity and acceptance for Ottawa youth

Sold-out event at Brookstreet Hotel raises funds for programs, services and initiatives that promote inclusive and accepting environments for youth
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The night had hardly begun when party-goers took it to the dance floor to whoop it up during the 8th Annual Proud To Be Bullyfree Gala held Friday night at Brookstreet Hotel.

Nearly 400 guests came together for this year’s A Night Under the Stars theme to raise funds for the Proud To Be Me (PTBM) organization and its efforts to empower and educate youth in its mission toward inclusion and anti-bullying.

Montreal-based entertainer George Thomas couldn’t have asked for a better crowd. He got guests belting out Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline and dancing like a Rockette to Sinatra’s New York, New York. Guests boogied to classic female empowerment song Respect. They also happily stomp-stomp-clapped in unison to the thunderous beat of Queen’s We Will Rock You. It was like a really fun wedding, minus the lovebirds.

The team at PTBM consists of executive director and CEO Cindy Cutts, chief operating officer Jody McCombe, director of finance Marco Campagna and director of events Shari Lynn-Lawson, who’s also head of conference services and events at Brookstreet.

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That's former NHLer Jason York with Deloitte LLP partner Mark Noonan singing "Sweet Caroline", along with pretty much everyone else in the room, at the Proud To Be Bullyfree Gala, held at the Brookstreet Hotel on Friday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Karen McCrimmon, the Liberal MP for Kanata-Carleton, was seen having a blast on the dance floor at the Proud To Be Bullyfree Gala held at the Brookstreet Hotel on Friday, March 29, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Mark Saunders, right, was kicking his legs up to Frank Sinatra's New York, New York at the Proud to Be Bullyfree Gala held at Brookstreet Hotel on Friday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Jody McCombe from Proud To Be Me formally welcomes the audience to the Proud To Be Bullyfree "A Night Under the Stars" Gala, while joined on stage by the rest of the team, Shari-Lynn Lawson, left, Marco Campagna and Cindy Cutts. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The evening also featured GleeCeptional singers, Ottawa-based pop sensation Michelle Treacy and a live auction led by sponsor Kent Browne from Royal LePage Team Realty.

The gala was presented by BMO Financial Group, represented that night by Victor (Vittorio) Pellegrino, who was recently promoted to the bank's regional president.

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From left, Sylvain Brisebois, managing director and senior vice-president at BMO Nesbitt Burns, with his wife, Sonia, and Stefania Ianni with BMO regional president Victor (Vittorio) Pellegrino. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, David Svaluto with his wife, Lauren Brecher, an associate at Emond Harnden, and the law firm's COO, Antoinette Strazza, and her spouse, Christopher Fisher, at the Proud To Be Bullyfree Gala, held at the Brookstreet Hotel on Friday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
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From left, Jody McCombe, Cindy Cutts, Ottawa MP Karen McCrimmon, Shari-Lynn Lawson and Marco Campagna at the Proud To Be Bullyfree Gala, held at the Brookstreet Hotel on Friday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips 

The evening raised funds for Proud to be Me, a grassroots organization that funds youth programs, workshops and services in the community through its grants. Its initiatives have also included the PTBM friendship buddy bench program, its PTBM Youth Day, and the anti-bullying awareness walk it organized last year in partnership with the Can’t Dim My Light organization launched by former Ottawa Senators captain Erik Karlsson and his wife Melinda.

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Scott Lawrence, board chair of the Youth Services Bureau (YSB) Foundation, gets comfortable on the PTBM friendship buddy bench on display at the Proud To Be Bullyfree Gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Spotted in the crowd were Kanata-Carleton Liberal MP Karen McCrimmon, Mayor Jim Watson and Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubley. He's a long-time supporter of the cause. So is real estate agent Kristine Johnson from Kristine in the City.

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Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubley with his wife, Wendy Hubley, and Proud To Be Me committee member Shari-Lynn Lawson at the Proud To Be Bullyfree Gala held at Brookstreet Hotel on Friday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Kristine Johnson poses with her husband, Dave McGahan, next to the dessert table that she sponsored for the Proud To Be Bullyfree Gala, held at the Brookstreet Hotel on Friday, March 30, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, entertainer George Thomas with sponsor Kent Browne from Royal LePage Team Realty at the Proud To Be Bullyfree "A Night Under the Stars" Gala, held at the Brookstreet Hotel on Friday, March 29, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Young singers with GleeCeptional performed at the Proud To Be Bullyfree "A Night Under the Stars" Gala, held at the Brookstreet Hotel on Friday, March 29, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The Ottawa Senators' chief financial officer, Brian Crombie, attended with former dress designer Justina McCaffrey, who's running as a Conservative candidate in the Kanata-Carleton riding. Also from the hockey team were player development coach Shean Donovan and Danielle Robinson, president of the Ottawa Senators Foundation. Avant-Garde Designs owner Sharon Bosley House was out supporting the cause, as was Mark Saunders of Saunders Farm, which is again hosting the PTBM Youth Day on Wednesday, June 5th.

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Brian Crombie with Justina McCaffrey at the Proud To Be Bullyfree Gala, held at the Brookstreet Hotel on Friday, March 29, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Sharon Bosley House with Linda Pietrantonio at the Proud To Be Bullyfree Gala held at the Brookstreet Hotel on Friday, March 29, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Sarah Grand, a real estate sales representative with Engel & Völkers, and Nicola Powadiuk, director of exhibitions for Canderel Group, at the Proud To Be Bullyfree Gala held at the Brookstreet Hotel on Friday, March 29, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, former Ottawa Senators player Radek Bonk, with his wife, Jill, and Laurel York with her husband, former Ottawa Senators player Jason York, at the Proud To Be Bullyfree Gala, held at the Brookstreet Hotel on Friday, March 29, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Trie Donovan with her husband, former Ottawa Senators player Shean Donovan, at the Proud To Be Bullyfree Gala, held at the Brookstreet Hotel on Friday, March 29, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Mayor Jim Watson with 10-year-old volunteers Henry Doucet, left, and Dylan Cutts at the Proud To Be Bullyfree Gala, held at the Brookstreet Hotel on Friday, March 29, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Kelly Gabie, Sid Cratzbarg, Darpan Ahluwalia and Sasha Taylor at the Proud To Be Bullyfree Gala, held at the Brookstreet Hotel on Friday, March 29, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

— caroline@obj.ca