Saunders Farm unofficially became the most bountiful farm land in the region Thursday — not for the few crops that it harvests each year but for the generous amounts of money raised that night for the Queensway Carleton Hospital and its mental health campaign.
The sold-out Harvesting Hope at the Farm benefit was presented by Tomlinson Group. It drew a denim and plaid-wearing cream-of-the-crop crowd of 450 to the 100-acre, agri-tourism destination located in the village of Munster, in the southwest corner of Ottawa.
Partygoers were surrounded by pumpkin patches, bales of hay, heritage log barns and bright, yellow flowers on what turned out to be a perfect late-summer evening. Guests chowed down inside the picturesque party tent while seated at long tables, just like one big family.
It was our caring community at its best.
The gala grossed $464,127 toward the west-end hospital’s $6-million Hopes Rising campaign to expand and renovate its acute mental health unit. With the campaign nearing completion, organizers hope to have the shovels in the ground by this spring.
Now, it wasn’t just the corn that was all ears when returning gala chair Sara Cinq-Mars addressed the room that night.
Cinq-Mars, who is married to Tomlinson Group president Kevin Cinq-Mars, has been voluntarily fundraising for the hospital’s foundation since it launched its campaign in 2016. The mother of three has also been raising awareness and reducing stigma around mental illness by talking openly about her family’s struggles involving one of their sons.
Cinq-Mars has the kind of smile that lights up any room but, as she spoke at the podium that night, the mental health champion took on a more serious tone while updating the room on her family’s gloomy situation.
“I would love to be up here telling you it’s a success story but, as is the reality with mental health, we are in a really rough patch,” she told the room.
She spoke with tremendous courage about the impact that their son’s mental health crisis has had on her own well-being, leading her to seek outpatient help at the Queensway Carleton Hospital (QCH).
“It took me a long time, with my husband’s support, to go there,” she told the room while admitting that she'd been embarrassed, despite all her efforts to boost mental health awareness.
She encouraged the crowd to continue supporting the QCH, once the Hopes Rising campaign is complete. “The hospital still needs you, and you need to let people know that, if they are struggling and they’re not themselves, that there is help at the Queensway Carleton Hospital.”
Cinq-Mars expressed her gratitude to: the campaign’s honorary co-chairs, retired Ottawa Senators player Chris Phillips and his wife, Erin; Ottawa philanthropists Barbara Crook and Dan Greenberg from Accora Village; Kathy Turner and Denis Daoust; and to the city councillors who served as fundraising ambassadors for the campaign. She gave a special shout out to her friends Mark Saunders and Angela Grant Saunders, who run Saunders Farm and hosted the event only two days before their popular and busy Haunting Season begins.
Cinq-Mars, in return, received an enthusiastic standing ovation from the room and a beautiful bouquet of flowers from Queensway Carleton Hospital Foundation interim president and CEO Judith Scott.
Cinq-Mars donated to the live auction an apple pie that she lovingly made herself, with hand-picked apples. It was sold off by auctioneer Ryan Watson from Raising the Bid. The fruity dessert sparked a bidding war that was won by Cinq-Mars’s dear friend Shelley Harrison. She paid $9,500. "That's one expensive pie," quipped emcee Jason MacDonald, sales representative with RE/MAX.
Organizers also held a Fund a Need auction to bring in extra pledges. Both Crook and Kyle MacHutchon, owner of Inverness Homes, were the first to donate, at $25,000 each, before additional contributions began coming in, raising $188,250.
Attendees included: Queensway Carleton Hospital’s new president and CEO, Dr. Andrew Falconer, along with chief of staff Dr. Sanjay Acharya, Dr. Kathie Kovacs, chief of psychiatry at the QCH, along with many other hospital staff, some of whom volunteered at the gala that night.
Ron Tomlinson, president of Tomlinson Group was there, as was his sister, executive vice-president Cindy Tomlinson Keon.
Equitas Consultants president and founder Ron Prehogan, also a partner at Brazeau Seller Law, was out supporting the cause. He's chair of the hospital’s $30-million Advancing Care for All Ages fundraising campaign. Hospital donors included well-known entrepreneur Bruce Linton and his wife, Heather Linton. Heather’s father, Dr. Robert Smolkin, was one of the QCH’s founding physicians when the hospital first opened in 1976.
There was a Wall of Hope board at the gala for attendees to write inspirational messages on. The board will be put on display in the hospital's new mental health unit.