Ottawa Salus sets new record of $165K at annual soirée held at French embassy

Funds to give increased access to supportive housing and services to "much too long" waiting list of people living with mental illness
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Not only are France and Canada great friends and allies but so, too, are the French embassy and Ottawa Salus, for whom the embassy opens up its decorative doors, year after year, to help the local charity raise money to better assist individuals living with serious and persistent mental illness.

Several hundred guests filed into the resplendent residence of French Ambassador Kareen Rispal on Wednesday for a lively cocktail reception, complete with auction bidding, music (played by the most glamorous DJ around), and a special fire-dancing performance.

This year's Soirée Salus was the most successful yet, grossing $165K in support of community mental health services.

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DJ Emily Jones's music selection at Soirée Salus included French tunes from the 1960s. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Guests of Soirée Salus were able to watch, from inside the Embassy of France, a fire dance performed outdoors by Sophie Latreille. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Fiona Murray was back to co-chair the popular soirée with Camille Therriault-Power, who is also the new board president for Salus. The non-profit organization has been around for more than 40 years, providing a range of services — including supportive housing options — to more than 500 clients. "With your support, we hope to continue to provide these important services and grow to meet the needs of our wait list that is much, much too long," Therriault-Power, president of RH Belvedere HR and senior fellow with the University of Ottawa's School of Public and International Affairs, told the room.

The current wait list includes hundreds of names, which can mean more than five years for an individual to move into their own home.

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From left, Camille Therriault-Power and Fiona Murray are co-chairs of Soirée Salus, which returned to the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, to raise funds for Ottawa Salus and the work the charity does to provide supportive housing and services to individuals living with serious mental illness. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Bringing his trademark energy and fun to the evening was Harley Finkelstein, COO of Ottawa-based e-commerce powerhouse Shopify. He entertained the crowd with his funny shtick as the emcee and live auctioneer. “I’m available for bar mitzvahs!” Finkelstein jokingly told the sophisticated and well-heeled crowd.

Finkelstein's wife, Lindsay Taub, sits on the board of directors at Salus and is the owner of Sundae School ice cream shop on Beechwood Avenue.

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From left, Ottawa Salus board member Lindsay Taub and her husband, well-known entrepreneur Harley Finkelstein, with French Ambassador Kareen Rispal at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Salus has been holding its signature fundraiser at the embassy for the past four years. This year marked the third time Rispal has been the host.

“It’s always a great, great, great pleasure to have all of you here,” said Rispal in welcoming members of the local community. “I really wanted, as French ambassador, to open the doors of this embassy.”

She spoke about her interest in supporting a few local charities that she cares about. “Salus is one of them and, believe me, I receive lots and lots of requests for support from many charities,” Rispal told the room. 

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French Ambassador Kareen Rispal, centre, is flanked by Ottawa power couple Adrian Burns and Greg Kane, at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The soirée attracted a mix of long-time Salus supporters, along with some newer faces and a strong showing from the legal profession. Former prime minister Joe Clark and his wife, Maureen McTeer, a long-known advocate on women's health issues, were in attendance again this year.

Serving as the honorary patron was Shirley Greenberg. It's hard to believe the Ottawa philanthropist is turning 88 this Sunday, especially when one considers how active she remains on the charity circuit. She told OBJ.social that she might slow down after this year, but we'll believe it when we see it.

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Maureen McTeer and Joe Clark, former prime minister of Canada and former leader of the federal Progressive Conservative Party, at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, in support of Ottawa Salus, a local charity that helps individuals with serious mental illness. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The ambassador donated a group dinner at her residence that includes an overnight stay in the embassy’s presidential suite, for the highest bidder and their guest. It sold for $8,500 to Sanjay Shah, president of ExecHealth.

Rispal added a last-minute surprise item: a Halloween dinner, in costume. The embassy has never hosted such an event before. “It’s for 14, 16, or whatever,” Rispal said in an easy-going manner, while recognizing that there could be a party-crashing ghost or two in attendance.

Well-known philanthropist Gary Zed, CEO of Treehouse Family Advisory, didn't get spooked by the rising cost of the auction item. He bought the dinner for $8,000.

For $3,000, Finkelstein sold off the choice of a golf or tennis lesson with Daniel Alfredsson, former captain of the Ottawa Senators and a high-profile advocate for mental health awareness. The item went to Finkelstein's good friend, Dan Goldberg, CEO of Telesat and the recently announced Ottawa 2019 CEO of the Year.

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Harley Finkelstein in action as the live auctioneer at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Alfredsson also agreed to hold, for the highest bidder, a hockey practice for 20 participants. The bid opened at $5,000 but Finkelstein quickly took it up to $5,500 on behalf of him and his wife — putting the successful entrepreneur in the unusual position of being the auctioneer and bidder, at the same time. 

Only when Finkelstein is the charity auctioneer will you likely ever hear the words: “Sold to us!”. 

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From left, Telesat chief executive Dan Goldberg with NCC chief executive Tobi Nussbaum and Harley Finkelstein, COO of Shopify, at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Mother-daughter team Marilyn Wilson and Reba Wilson from Marilyn Wilson Dream Properties at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, in support of Ottawa Salus, a local charity that helps individuals with serious mental illness. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Westboro Village BIA operations administrator Tara Beechey and executive director Michelle Groulx came out to Soirée Salus at the Embassy of France to support Ottawa Salus, which they recently learned operates a resident facility in their neighbourhood. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Honorary patron Shirley Greenberg is seen with her dear friend Jerry Grey (seated), and Camille Therriault-Power, board president of Ottawa Salus, at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Anabel Bane and Peter Nicholson, president and founder of The Foundation (WCPD), with Errol Kuszner and Ingrid Ridout from BNY Mellon Wealth Management, at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Salus supporter Nila Matthews, from Coldwell Banker Rhodes & Company, with Dwayne Wright, a former board president of Ottawa Salus, at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Sarah Baxter, publisher of Ottawa arts coverage site Artsfile, and husband James Baxter, former publisher of iPolitics, were out to support Ottawa Salus at its signature fundraiser, Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Ottawa Salus board member Sanjay Srivastava, partner at Soloway Wright LLP, with Ottawa lawyer Danny Fernandes at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Ottawa lawyers Warren Creates (Perley-RobertsonHill & McDougall) and Peter Hagen (Soloway Wright) were seen chatting in the Birch Room at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Thomas d'Aquino, chair of the National Gallery of Canada Foundation, with retired federal court judge Michael Kelen at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, strategic change coach Maureen Cunningham with Erin Clatney from DISH Catering at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Also deserving of serious attention was the silent auction. It featured desirable trips to places like Fogo Island, jolly London, Tuscany, France and the Bahamas. There were WestJet flights to Banff and a horseback riding trip in Ireland, along with a chef’s dinner for 10 donated by Thyme & Again, a monthly cheese experience from Jacobsons Gourmet Concepts, and a wine-tasting and small bites reception at the residence of German Ambassador Sabine Sparwasser. For the sweet-toothed set, there was a party for 10 at Taub's Sundae School to make sundaes and ice cream delights (with unlimited toppings, I might add).

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Ottawa lawyers Mélanie Vadeboncoeur and John Peters, principal at Jaimac Risk Management, at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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David Cork, director of wealth management and a senior wealth advisor at ScotiaMcLeod, with his wife, Jenni Tipper, at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Commercial litigation lawyer Kenneth Wright, with Soloway Wright, with Julie Nott at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Elizabeth Finak with Harvey Slack and Ottawa Salus board member Susannah Dalfen at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Former Salus Ottawa board president Paul Taylor, a law partner at BLG, with his wife, Monica Donnelly, at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, French Ambassador Kareen Rispal with Anik Boutique owner Marie Anik Desmarais — who donated gift certificates to the silent auction — and long-time supporter Ellen Wright, at Soirée Salus, held at the Embassy of France on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Photo by Caroline Phillips

– caroline@obj.ca