You could feel a warm glow of optimism at this year’s Kaleidoscope of Hope Soirée: Start A Fire as organizers shone a critical light on an often dark issue — youth mental health and teen substance abuse.
Some 500 attendees filed into the Infinity Convention Centre on Friday, escaping winter's chill for a spectacular gala setting. From gospel singers belting out their music on stage to children cheering on guests and, later, joyfully parading around the room, there was so much to feel good about.
The ballroom was transformed into an expansive and elegant lounge area, thanks to sophisticated and modern event furniture courtesy of Carole Saad’s LouLou Lounge. Guests cruised between food stations and relaxed on couches and plush chairs, surrounded by lanterns, fire motifs and pretty lights. There was also a performance artist who juggled flaming torches and breathed giant fireballs. Live music was provided by Beverley Mahood and Kenny Munshaw and Paul Wilson and The Academy Choir.
CTV Morning Live hosts Annette Goerner and Henry Burris co-hosted the evening with enough enthusiasm and energy to put any crowd at ease while Cameron Odam and Prabhjot Sumra were this year's guest speakers.
Kaleidoscope of Hope co-founders Sharon Bosley House and her husband, Tony House, CEO of Corporate Hype, were back to co-chair their 8th annual fundraiser. Bosley House owns Avant-Garde Designs, which does the decor for such special events as the U.S. Embassy’s Fourth of July Independence Day celebration, the NAC Gala and the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Gala. The company and its staff donate all their time and services to the gala.
The event committee also included residential interior designer Jennifer McGahan, Linda Seguin-Lawrence, Maria Iglesias, Mark Clatney, Ruth Kemp and Ruckify founder and CEO Steve Cody and his wife, Natalie Cody.
All proceeds from the gala were to go to the Youth Services Bureau, project step (through the Ottawa Senators Foundation) and the Say No For Nick foundation created by the Codys following the accidental drug overdose of their son Nick in 2013.
Guests could also win a $9,000 ring donated by Farrah Fine Jewellers and a trip to Puerto Rico, with airfare from WestJet.
Guests included Ontario cabinet minister Lisa MacLeod and Ottawa’s 2018 CEO of the Year, Bruce Linton, of Canadian cannabis powerhouse Canopy Growth. He’s also a partner in Ruckify, which is an online person-to-person rental marketplace.
The room was so quiet that you could hear a canapé drop when Bob Russell spoke openly and honestly, with his wife Rilee by his side, about the achingly tragic death of their daughter, Teslin, 18, on Dec. 31, 2016. They found her on the bathroom floor of their home, as if she had gone to sleep but never woke up. “It was and always will be the most terrifying moment of our lives,” said Russell, who had it confirmed months later by the coroner that she’d died from an accidental overdose of fentanyl.
“As parents, we all try very hard to be very engaged with our kids’ lives. We live for our children. Everything we do is for our children,” said Russell, who talked about his own strong connection to his children's lives and activities over the years. “We didn’t know she was taking street-level Percocets that contained fentanyl.”
Teslin had been a good daughter, and a good student who worked hard, the room heard. She was very active in sports, particularly in figure skating, and loved music and animals. She’d been taking nursing at Algonquin College and worked part-time. “Teslin was turning into a beautiful young woman."
Because the gala strives to raise awareness and get people talking, Russell shared some advice with his fellow parents: “Never assume you know everything about your kids and what they’re doing, no matter how hard you try. Listen very carefully to everything they and everything their friends say. Car rides are great for this.
“Be patient and try and understand what their issues are. Accept who they are and understand what they’re doing. Question any behavioural changes. Don’t get angry. Offer help. Be involved in any social media communications.
“Don’t let busy life get in the way.”