It's called An Unlikely Pairing but the signature gala for Christie Lake Kids has become a knockout combo, year after year, as its raises significant funds while also heightening awareness over the tremendous work the local charity does to help disadvantaged children and youth.
Business sponsors and supporters gathered Thursday at Ashbury College private school, located in Rockcliffe Park, to collectively raise a net total of $130,000.
An Unlikely Pairing: Adventures in Food Trucks & Fine Wines matches a unique five-course dinner catered by Ottawa mobile food trucks with a selection of vino from around the world.
The family-run Taggart Parkes Foundation was back as title sponsor with community leader Scott Parkes returning as the evening’s honourary chair. The graduate of Ashbury and father of three is on the board of directors for Christie Lake Kids and is vice president of home builder Tamarack Homes, which is part of Taggart Group of Companies.
Spotted in the crowd were Huntington Properties partner Derek Noble, Hydro Ottawa CEO and president Bryce Conrad, Hobin Architecture founding partner Barry Hobin, Merkley Supply president Robert Merkley, Bell Let's Talk representative Sandy McDonald, and ExcelHR co-founder Kathryn Tremblay.
Tremblay shared with OBJ.social the story of how Christie Lake Kids’ summer camp program made such an indelible mark on her late husband, ExcelHR co-founder Antonio (Toni) Guimarães, a former Canada's Top 40 Under 40 recipient.
The camp, one of the oldest in Ontario, welcomes more than 360 children and youth from low-income families in Ottawa every summer to take part in recreational and skill-building programs. It's located near Perth, Ontario.
Guimarães, who was the son of an upholsterer and cleaning lady, moved to Ottawa from Portugal as a child. He had a tough upbringing after arriving, but one day, while sitting on his doorstep, an individual from Christie Lake Kids approached the boy and suggested he try — without any costs incurred by his family — CLK's summer camp. He did, and loved it so much that he returned for the next six summers.
“I still have his paddle that everyone signed when he became a master canoeist,” said Tremblay. “He always said that Christie Lake made such a difference for him.”
Tragically, Guimarães was diagnosed in 2014, at age 49, with advanced prostate cancer. The father of four daughters passed away two years later. In his memory, Tremblay sponsored the cocktail lounge that night. “He loved a good party and would have loved to have been here,” she said.
The 300-person business crowd dined that night on baked lobster tail, kimchi pork dumplings, beef brisket, chocolate raspberry cheesecake sticks and other dishes from Culinary Conspiracy, Urban Cowboy, Ad Mare, Angry Dragonz, Dash mobile cookery and Bijoux Bakery.
As well, the guests bid on silent and live auction items, including a $10,000 gift certificate from Muskoka Cabinet Company. Serving as emcee and live auctioneer was Ryan Watson from Raising the Bid.
Attendees also included CLK ambassador and elite sprinter Segun Makinde.
The room heard from CLK youth, including Wal Wal, who’s studying computer science at Carleton University and is the recipient of a Christie Lake Kids scholarship.
His involvement with CKL began nearly a decade ago, when he was 10. He participated in the STAR (Skills Through Arts and Recreation) inner-city program that's run during after-school hours and on weekends for at-risk youth. Proceeds from the Unlikely Pairing galas have helped fund the STAR program. He was also part of the charity's leadership program.
“Christie Lake has played such an integral role in who I am today. Even right now, actually, I was not informed that I would be speaking,” he said, followed by audience laughter. “But, thanks to Christie Lake, I’m actually very, very comfortable with speaking in front of large crowds such as this.
“On top of public speaking, Christie Lake has taught me so many things, first and foremost being leadership skills, and second being interpersonal skills and being able to work together with teams of people.”
CLK got its start in 1922 through the support of a juvenile court judge who saw too many young people getting in trouble with the law. He felt the young offenders would have a better chance of becoming active, healthy and contributing members of society if they had an opportunity to experience recreational programs away from the city, with positive adult role models.
Later, the program became more preventative, working primarily with low-income youth.
Of the roughly 600 children who participate annually in the CLK programs, 90 per cent come from families surviving on less than $35,000 per year. As well, three-quarters of the youth live in subsidized housing and half are being raised by single parents.