Wabano Centre launches early-years campaign at Igniting the Spirit Gala

Evening of cultural dance and auction bidding nets $160K for Aboriginal health centre in Vanier

Even on the longest day of the year, the moons were out and shining brightly at the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health's Igniting the Spirit Gala: The 13 Nokomis Moons, held Thursday at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre.

The sold-out dinner showcased a four-act cultural performance, Coyote and the Moon. It featured hoop dancers, Inuk drummers, male traditional dancers and ballerinas, with contemporary music. Suspended from the ceiling of the large ballroom were colourful spheres of various sizes. 

The sensational show was choreographed by dancer Christine Friday, recent recipient of the KM Hunter Artist Award for dance, through the Ontario Arts Council.

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The Igniting the Spirit Gala for the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health featured a cultural performance of traditional dancers, Inuk drummers, ballerinas and hoop dancers. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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The Igniting the Spirit Gala for the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health featured a cultural performance of traditional dancers, Inuk drummers, ballerinas and hoop dancers. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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The Igniting the Spirit Gala for the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health featured a cultural performance of traditional dancers, Inuk drummers, ballerinas and hoop dancers. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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The Igniting the Spirit Gala for the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health featured a cultural performance of traditional dancers, Inuk drummers, ballerinas and hoop dancers. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Dancer and choreographer Christine Friday of Temagami First Nation performs at the Igniting the Spirit Gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips

Attendees included prominent philanthropist Shirley Greenberg, city manager Steve KanellakosAlex Munter, CEO of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, and Canadian playwright Tomson Highway. Barbara Farber, president of Leikin Group, and Ottawa Police Chief Chuck Bordeleau were back to co-chair the 20-person gala committee.

The Igniting the Spirit Gala was held on National Indigenous Peoples Day, as well as on summer solstice.

The annual fundraiser has built a strong following; it was maxed out at 650 people this year. Shelagh Rogers from CBC Radio returned to emcee while her brother, John Rogers, a senior account executive at CTV, once again led the live auction. Another regular, Canadian actress and comedian Mary Walsh, lent her celebrity status to the gala by selling raffle tickets for a VIA Rail first-class trip for four to Halifax, worth $6,500. Coordinating the evening for the past 11 years has been event planner Shelagh Mills.

There was a separate large room devoted to displaying Indigenous artwork and other silent auction items. A pair of First Air roundtrip tickets to the Arctic was among the live auction items up for grabs.

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Shelagh Rogers
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Mary Walsh with John Rogers
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This fancy shawl was among the auction items sold at the Wabano Centre's Igniting the Spirit Gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The gala raised a net total of $160,000 for the urban health centre and also saw the launch of the Early Years Capital Campaign to buy a home for sale, located next door to the Wabano Centre. The Vanier property, which comes with a backyard for outdoor play, will be used for programming for young children.

Well-respected executive director Allison Fisher invited the guests to “walk the path” with Wabano by supporting the $400,000-campaign aimed at creating a new place of belonging and at shaping the next generation.

Tartan Homes president Bruce Nicol (seen two days earlier by OBJ.social at the groundbreaking ceremony for Carleton University’s new Nicol building) donated $25,000 to the campaign, on behalf of the Wesley M. Nicol Foundation. It was established by his late father to support Canadian-based charities working to improve the lives of others through community outreach.

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Bruce Nicol with Allison Fisher at the Igniting the Spirit Gala 2018 held at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre on Thursday, June 21, 2018, for the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health. Photo by Caroline Phillips

“I went to Wabano. I met Allison. I thought, ‘This is exactly what Wes would want to support,'” Nicol told OBJ.social of the donation.

The foundation's contribution was followed by an anonymous donation of another $25,000. The evening ended up raising $60,000 for the Early Years campaign.

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Police Chief Chuck Bordeleau, co-chair of the Igniting the Spirit Gala, with Allison Fisher, and his co-chair, Barbara Farber, at this year's signature fundraising dinner for the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health, held at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre on Thursday, June 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips

The audience watched a heartwarming video that captured through photographic images some joyful moments involving babies, young children and youth at the Wabano Centre. It was set to the powerful hit tune We Don’t Know by The Strumbellas.

While the video pointed out that 40 per cent of Indigenous children live in poverty (more than double the national average) and that the Indigenous child mortality rate is three times higher than the rest of Canada, it also shared some of the positive changes coming out of Wabano, from the number of kids being born to healthy parents, graduating from high school, going to culture camp and staying out of  detention centres.

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From left, Sandy Smallwood, vice chair of the Ottawa Police Services Board, with Alex Munter at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre on Thursday, June 21, 2018, for Wabano's Igniting the Spirit Gala. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Bruyère Foundation president Peggy Taillon, with her son Devlin and a seated Shirley Greenberg at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre on Thursday, June 21, 2018, for the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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From left, Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury with Steve Kanellakos at the Wabano Centre's Igniting the Spirit Gala, held Thursday, June 21, 2018. Photo by Caroline Phillips
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Catherine Mensour, owner of the Mensour Agency, with Suzanne Valiquet, president of Momentum Planning and Communications, with gala committee member Carlie Chase, president of Nawaska Consulting,  and Canadian playwright Tomson Highway at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre on Thursday, June 21, 2018, for the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health. Photo by Caroline Phillips 
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Tina Sarellas, regional president of RBC, with the bank's senior manager of aboriginal market development, Harry Willmot, at the Ottawa Conference and Event Centre on Thursday, June 21, 2018, for the Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health. Photo by Caroline Phillips 

— caroline@obj.ca