The only way the Christmas Cheer Breakfast could've been more festive was for snowflakes to start falling gently from the ceiling of the Westin Ottawa, as the downtown hotel once again hosted its two-hour fundraiser packed with holiday spirit, from start to finish.
The event, held Friday morning, raised $120,000 and drew some 800 community and business leaders to the popular breakfast, which features holiday music and decor, celebrity servers, live music and prizes. The list of beneficiaries includes the Ottawa Food Bank, the Caring and Sharing Exchange, Shepherds of Good Hope and Youth Services Bureau.
The event is organized by the volunteer Christmas Cheer Foundation. It's chaired by Jim McConnery, a partner at Welch LLP, and includes the hotel’s general manager, Ross Meredith.
The breakfast raises funds through ticket sales, donations and corporate sponsorship. McConnery was joined on stage by his two youngest daughters for the ceremonial cheque presentations.
There was a surprise announcement that Lisa Mierins, co-president of major sponsor Mierins Automotive Group, was doubling the firm's corporate donation from $10,000 to $20,000.
Former long-term board member Hassa Mirchandani, president of Bytown Travel, had to take a break from working the room in order to hear McConnery express his gratitude to the businessman for his persuasive volunteer fundraising powers.
“A typical phone call from Hassa might go along the lines of, ‘Hi, I’m calling on behalf of Christmas Cheer and I’d like to sell you a table to the event,’” said McConnery on stage. “The person might say, ‘Well, we’re not sure.’
Mirchandani’s response: “‘OK, I’ve got you down for two tables. I’ll see you there.’”
Leanne Cusack from CTV Ottawa was back to co-emcee the breakfast with her carol-singing colleague Michael O’Byrne. Young students from Sing House Studios, owned by Chantal Hackett, entertained the crowd with their sweet voices. The live music also included a big brass band and a violin player with keyboard accompanist.
Highlights included the coin-flipping fundraising contest that saw participants guess the outcome of the toss by placing their hands on their heads or derrières. Lucky ducks continued to the next round, with the final contestant winning a stay at the Westin, dinner for four at the National Arts Centre's Le Café, with tickets to one of its shows, and a Rideau Centre gift card.