Sowing the seeds at Saunders Farm for better mental health unit at Queensway Carleton Hospital

Sold-out event raises $520K, attracts business leaders, city councillors, hospital staff

Clearly, generosity is in season. The Queensway Carleton Hospital reaped a bumper crop of support at its fabulous spring soirée, held Thursday out at the award-winning Saunders Farm.

Organizers blasted past their fundraising target to raise $520,000 toward the west-end hospital’s plans to breathe new life into its mental health unit. It hasn’t been renovated since the hospital first opened nearly 42 years ago.

Hope Blooms at the Farm truly was a tranquil evening, with sunny skies, warm temperatures and a pastoral beauty that makes the one-hour drive from downtown Ottawa worth it. The farm is run as an agricultural attraction by Mark Saunders and his wife, Angela Grant Saunders, in southwest Ottawa. 

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The evening, which included a surprise $100,000-donation made by J.D. Brulé, was co-chaired by two big boosters of mental health awareness: Sara Cinq-Mars and Kanata South Coun. Allan Hubley

“My family knows what can happen when you have someone in crisis and the right help is not available in a timely manner,” said Hubley, who tragically lost his son, Jamie, to suicide in 2011.

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Cinq-Mars touched on a time in her family’s life when “things went sideways” and they needed professional help for one of their three sons.

“I really want people to understand we’re all doing our best to change the stigma around (mental illness), but people – while they can put on a brave face and go to work and go to school and go to parties – may be really struggling. So, we just have to be supportive,” she told the crowd.

She and her husband, Kevin Cinq-Mars, president of construction giant Tomlinson Group of Companies, along with their son Matthew, previously shared their story through a powerful (and even tear-inducing) video done in support of the Hopes Rising campaign.

“My hope for QCH is that people struggling with mental illness will walk through those doors and feel like they have arrived at the right place, that this is a safe place, a positive place, a happy place and a place full of hope,” she says.

Attendees included Ferguslea Properties president Dan Greenberg and his wife, mental health advocate Barbara Crook, who together donated $1 million to the Hopes Rising campaign when it was first launched. The $5-million Hopes Rising campaign was beyond the $3-million mark prior to the sold-out benefit.

Also seen were QCH president and CEO Tom Schonberg; the hospital’s chief of psychiatry, Dr. Kathi Kovacs, and the chair of the QCH Foundation board, Deborah Bourchier. From presenting sponsor Mattamy Homes was its division president, Kevin O’Shea, who has a familial tie to hospitals – his father-in-law is Dr. Jack Kitts.

Retired Ottawa Senators player Chris Phillips continues to serve as honourary co-chair with his wife, Erin Phillips, who’s now selling million-dollar homes as a real estate agent with Royal LePage.

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The event corralled a crowd of 450 corporate sponsors and supporters for a night of prizes and auction bidding, live music by Séan McCann from Canadian band Great Big Sea, as well dining alongside one another, family-style, under a delightfully decorated party tent of massive proportions.

Hubley is one of 10 city councillors who has committed to raising $500,000 for the campaign. He listed the names of the other members (in alphabetical order, he joked, so as not to offend anyone’s ego): Councillors Eli El-Chantiry, Rick Chiarelli, Keith Egli, Jan Harder, Scott Moffatt, Shad Qadri, Michael Qaqish, Mark Taylor and Marianne Wilkinson. Not all of them were able to attend the soirée, which saw Moffatt serve as its emcee. Also at the farm party that night was Mayor Jim Watson.

“It’s not easy to get a group of politicians to focus on one goal and work together to act collectively,” Hubley said on stage light-heartedly, while adding that their group, known as Ambassadors Raising Hope “is the biggest group of councillors that I’m aware of ever to come together to work on one cause.”

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