TORONTO — At the annual Friends of We Care Gala, held Saturday in Toronto, a cheque for $1.3 million was handed over to Easter Seals to help send children with disabilities to specialized summer camps across Canada.
The Enchanted Forest-themed event, held at Toronto’s International Centre, brought together approximately 900 members of the foodservice industry and featured chef stations from sponsors Gordon Food Service, High Liner Culinary, Piller’s Foodservice, SIR Corp., Sysco and Eli’s Cheesecake. The three-course dinner, prepared by chef Tawfik Shehata and the International Centre team, featured venison antipasto with crostini, grainy mustard, Cumberland sauce and greens; smoked Ontario beef tenderloin with mushroom duxelles mash, hunter-style sauce and roasted carrots; and vanilla cake with cranberry spheres, raspberry mushrooms, lemon grass and cookie crumbs.
Master of Ceremonies Kevin Frankish encouraged guests to make the event’s hashtag, #WeCareGala, a top-trending topic on Twitter. He also facilitated a number of live auctions — including dinner for eight prepared by chef Shehata and a luxury New York getaway complete with a Bentley courtesy car donated by Porter Airlines and Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee. The popular Pick-a-Prize fundraiser made a return this year, as did a raffle for two tickets to anywhere Air Canada flies in North America. Near the end of the evening, Frankish had two platters placed on the stage and called for the “community” to come up and give a little more. Within minutes, a line-up snaked through the room and piles of cash spilled over the trays.
Kevin Collins was honoured with the Gary Wright Humanitarian Award for his 18 years of work with Friends of We Care with video clips from a number of past campers whose lives were changed by his contributions. Mamma’s Pizza won the 2017 We Care Corporate Friend Award, while Paul and Michael Higgins of Mother Parkers Tea & Coffee took home the 2017 Friends of We Care Hall of Fame Award.
To date, Friends of We Care has raised more than $20 million and has sent thousands of children to camp. “Camp not only gives these kids a wonderful escape from their day-to-day routine, it also provides them the opportunity to develop life-changing skills,” says Jim Greenway, Chair of Friends of We Care.