In the beginning, the combination of street food and some of the finest wines from around the world may have seemed like an unusual match for a new fundraiser for Christie Lake Kids, but time has proven just how right they really are for each other.
This year's eighth annual An Unlikely Pairing: Adventures in Food Trucks + Fine Wines was its most successful yet, attracting a sold-out crowd of close to 350 people and netting a record-breaking $155,000. That’s money that will help local children living in poverty participate in year-round recreational programs so that they can stay active, build leadership skills and generally feel good about themselves.
Christie Lake Kids board member Scott Parkes, vice-president of Tamarack Homes, is honorary chair of the gala evening. His family’s non-profit, family-run Taggart Parkes Foundation is the title sponsor. The Taggart Parkes clan is among the most prominent and philanthropic business families in Ottawa, involved in heavy construction, general contracting, infrastructure, home building, commercial development and property management.
The benefit dinner was back Thursday night at Parkes’ alma mater, Ashbury College, a prestigious private school located in Rockcliffe Park. The fundraiser always draws strong support from the business community, from Kathryn Tremblay, CEO and co-founder of Excel HR, to Huntington Properties partner Derek Noble, to Jeff Smith from Smith & Reid Insurance Brokers, to Minto Group CEO Michael Waters, to CLK board member Mike McGann, senior vice-president with investment firm Raymond James.
For the third time in roughly a week, OBJ.social ran into Redblacks offensive lineman Alex Mateas at a charity gala. He’s a community ambassador for Christie Lake Kids.
Business leader Paul McCarney, president of Clean Water Works, couldn’t be there but scholarship money was presented, on behalf of his family foundation, to 18-year-old Sana Musa, a Christie Lake Kids success story. The graduate of St. Patrick's High School is currently studying biomedical science at the University of Ottawa, works as a lifeguard and swimming instructor, and volunteers for CLK and numerous other causes. She's been involved with the organization since 2012 and aspires to be a pediatrician.
"I'm grateful for all the programs I was able to join, the positive relationships, and the endless opportunities that I was given," she told the room. “Christie Lake Kids has helped shape me into the person I am today.
"Because Christie Lake Kids has done so much for me, it has inspired me to give back to the community."
The gala featured a five-course dinner involving Dash Cookery, Ad Mare Seafood, Angry Dragonz, Pelican Street Gourmet and Bijoux Bakery, each paired with a different wine. Big Rig Brewery and Wonton Crunch were also serving during the cocktail hour. The menu included seafood poutine, Thai yellow curry with chicken and veggies on Jasmine rice, honey-glazed roast pork loin and strawberry champagne mousse.
The dinner tables featured white orchids in flower pots that had been hand painted by children from Christie Lake Kids.
Emcee and auctioneer Ryan Watson from Raising the Bid sold off such items as a $10,000 gift certificate from Muskoka Cabinet Company, an Air Canada package for two, a VIA Rail trip to Montreal, and a three-course dinner for 10 to be prepared by Christie Lake Kids youth.
The evening has become the signature event for Christie Lake Kids, executive director Jeff Burry told OBJ.social.
“The need in the community is growing every year; that’s the sad part about it,” he said. “It’s not like it’s going away, so these events are so important to us.”
The non-profit organization is currently working with five neighbourhoods in the city: Caldwell, Russell Heights, Strathcona Heights, Somerset Street West and, most recently, Van Lang, near Scott Street and Bayswater Avenue. They’re looking to possibly add a sixth community, Confederation Heatherington.
“We’re not a huge organization but we are mighty,” said Burry of their 100 active volunteers and 14 staff members.
At least three hundred children participate in CLK after-school programming while roughly 400 children go to the summer camp at Christie Lake, near Perth. “We do not charge a cent,” said Burry. “Every conceivable cost is covered, even the transportation.
“If kids arrive at our camp – and some do — without anything but the shirts on their backs, for 12 nights, we completely equip them with sleeping bags, clothing, swimwear, everything."