This article is sponsored by the CHEO Foundation.
Vibrant colours, whimsical decor and Dr. Seuss-like characters will transport guests of the 2020 For the Kids Gala, presented by BLG to a land of imagination alongside some CHEO patients looking to inspire the crowd.
Planned and hosted by the CHEO Foundation, the annual gala is a highly anticipated fundraiser for development and rehabilitation services at CHEO, the local children's hospital. The unit offers services and support for children and youth who have injuries, physical or mental disabilities, complex care needs, degenerative conditions and developmental delays. With CHEO’s help many children who face life-long conditions will learn to enjoy and participate in their lives to the fullest of their potential.
“We work with businesses to develop this gala and to give them the chance to meet the families they’re helping,” says Chantal Charbonneau, director of annual giving and employee engagement at the CHEO Foundation.
Previously known as the For the Kids Auction under the auspices of the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre – which merged with CHEO in 2016 – the event has grown to become a huge hit for guests and patients alike.
This year’s gala, which takes place Wednesday, April 1 at the Infinity Convention Centre, will feature an online silent auction, networking, a gourmet three-course dinner and live music performed by former CHEO patients and their siblings. Sticking with this year’s theme of “imagine,” there will also be a raffle in which guests will have the chance to win a bucket-list trip to a destination of their choosing as well as a fashion show starring some of the children currently being cared for by development and rehabilitation at CHEO, such as Mikayla House.
Mikayla is the gala’s 2020 champion and has been a CHEO patient since birth. She has made strides in her development, and was recently featured in a CTV Ottawa story about the hospital’s school program, a fundamental service that benefits from fundraising events like this:
Staff will also be on hand the night of the event to showcase some of the equipment and technology the program uses to assist its patients. From power wheelchairs and eye-gaze machines to toys that have been adapted to suit the children's needs, the goal is to demonstrate to guests the importance of their fundraising efforts, says Lydia Blanchard, director of community engagement at the CHEO Foundation.
“We want people to interact with the technology and actually see what they are fundraising for and the good it does,” she says, adding that the team hopes to surpass the $116,000 raised last year.
A personal connection
While the gala is a fun way to give back to the community, network with clients, partners and friends, and rub shoulders with local celebrities and media personalities – Ian Mendes will be on hand to emcee, Melissa Lamb will be the voice of the fashion show, and local athletes have been known to make an appearance – the cause hits much closer to home for some attendees.
Am-Tech Electrical president James McKellar is a member of the Foundation’s board and a strong supporter of the gala who’s also seen CHEO’s work up-close. McKellar’s daughter has cystic fibrosis and needed surgery at the children's hospital shortly after birth. The team at CHEO were caring and compassionate, he says, recalling how they brought him a Polaroid photo of his newborn daughter – the only image he had to share with family and friends while she was in CHEO’s extended care.
“I just can't say enough about how much support CHEO gave us as parents,” says McKellar, who made several return visits to the children’s hospital with his daughter for follow-up treatment. “They need the support that the gala gives, and for other families to know that they’re not alone.”
One of the most rewarding parts of the evening is seeing the smiles on the children’s faces and how much joy they bring to the event, he adds. It’s also a fantastic place to gather with other local business owners to celebrate a worthy cause.
“I bump into all of these people inside my own community that I really never get to see. I get to sit and talk to them and we have a wonderful night together,” says McKellar, who hasn’t missed a gala since joining the board around five years ago. “There's a lot of room in Ottawa to support the CHEO Foundation, because giving back to our community is really giving back to our children.”
CHEO For the Kids Gala, presented by BLG: Ticket information
When: April 1, 2020
Where: Infinity Convention Centre
*If you can’t make the gala, be sure to check out the online silent auction - you can still bid even if you aren’t attending!