How fitting that there were grey skies, to go with the Grey Cup-winning RedBlacks' season home opener, during a year that will see the Grey Cup football championship come to Ottawa.
Dozens of guests packed The Rideau Condominium unit at Lansdowne belonging to RedBlacks president Jeff Hunt for Friday night's Kick Off For Kids tailgate party, held in partnership with the IBD Foundation, for the Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) Centre at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.
It was the second year Hunt, who is also a partner with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group, hosted the fundraiser to help children who suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis.
The event ambassador was 11-year-old Angus Albinati. He was seen admiring the 2016 Grey Cup ring worn by Hunt, who promptly slipped it off his finger for the boy to try on.
Guests mingled on the spacious terrace overlooking the football field while Ottawa’s grilling-gourmet chef, Steph Legari, fired up the barbies to cook bourbon whiskey ribs, grilled sirloin with a roasted-corn salsa, Cajun shrimp served with bocconcini and fresh dill, and other mouth-watering goodness. The RedBlacks’ mascot, Big Joe, dropped in to show his perma-grin while two members of the team's cheer and dance team also paid a friendly visit.
Attendees included Jim Durrell, former mayor of Ottawa and a self-professed football fan.
“I never miss a game,” said Durrell, who’s chairing the 2017 Grey Cup Festival. It’s holding a kick-off event this Wednesday at Lansdowne to announce the lineup of events happening as part of year’s championship game on November 26th.
Also seen were marijuana industry trailblazer Chuck Rifici, former Grey Cup champ Jed Tommy and Hunt’s fiancée, Vanessa Richardson (he proposed on their flight together to Paris).
On hand was Michele Hepburn, president of the IBD Foundation, and co-organizer Colleen McBride-O’Brien, a sales representative with Royal LePage (she’s also married to entrepreneur and former Ottawa mayor Larry O’Brien).
An endearing Albinati got everyone into the spirit of giving to the tune of $17,000 (with more donations still coming in). He spoke of the fundraising lemonade and cookie stands that his pal Liam Bishop, 10, has set up to fill their joint piggy bank with $165.
“For kids, that’s a lot of money,” added Albinati.
The boy was diagnosed last year with Crohn’s. “Some may think, because I have IBD, they want to feel sorry for me but the truth is, because of all the help I’ve gotten from CHEO, I’m feeling like Angus again,” he told the room.
Dr. David Mack, director of CHEO’s IBD Centre, was there. The room heard how the children’s hospital is getting a new IBD treatment room, slated to open in January, but that it now needs to stock up on specialized pediatric equipment. The centre has seen a “massive increase” in its number of child patients since its humble beginning some 17 years ago, said Mack.
The good doctor expressed his best wishes for a successful football game that night and for a second Grey Cup win to earn Hunt a companion championship ring. “I saw the first one; it’s really good, but it looks lonely.”
Later that night, the RedBlacks took on the Calgary Stampeders in a rematch of last year's Grey Cup final. The two teams tied 31-31 in overtime and will meet again Thursday in Calgary.