It’s an incredible story of hope and inspiration filled with a mixed bag of emotions for popular Ottawa personality Stu Schwartz, whose life was saved two years ago by a bone marrow transplant.
While still in hospital, Schwartz, publicly known as “Stuntman Stu,” had told his best friend Josh Zaret — a real "mensch" of a man — how he wanted to pay it forward at some point, somehow, somewhere. Schwartz is both a radio host on Majic 100 and public address announcer for the Ottawa Senators' home games.
“Josh said, ‘Leave it to me, I’ll take care of everything’, and sure enough he did,” Schwartz told the large crowd of friends and supporters who attended a benefit held Thursday at the headquarters of Zaret’s family-owned real estate development company, Gemstone.
Stu's 'Pool' Party had nothing to do with swimming pools and cannonball contests and everything to do with building a donor pool in Schwartz's name in order to continue saving lives.
The evening far exceeded its original goal by raising $65,000-plus for the Ezer Mizion bone marrow donor registry. It's the non-profit organization that found the transplant match for Schwartz. He had required the medical procedure, which replaced damaged bone marrow with healthy bone marrow, after being diagnosed and treated for leukemia. The funds raised from the benefit will cover the costs for 1,000 DNA tests.
Schwartz joked that his only contribution to the 'pool' party was the cardboard cutout of himself looking buff and bare-chested. Sure, it was his face on the life-sized figure but everything below the neck belonged to Hollywood star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Established 20 years ago, Ezer Mizion is the world’s largest Jewish bone marrow donor registry. Most of the Israeli soldiers voluntarily join, by means of a simple cheek swab sample. That’s how Schwartz, a father of two, was able to find his donor, David Levi, whom he met in person back in March.
“It’s been a roller-coaster ride of emotions. Everybody says, ‘How did you get through it?’ I got through it with her,” Schwartz said of his wife, Connie Bernardi, who was shyly standing close by as he and Zaret announced the fundraising total.
Barely a year has passed since Gemstone threw a big bash to celebrate its beautiful new space, which involved its extensive renovations of a run-down old heritage building on Argyle Avenue in Centretown.
It took the soirée a step further this time by setting up a giant party tent in the backyard and securing sponsorship, as well as selling close to 200 tickets, priced at $250 each. Restaurateur Domenic Santaguida from Vittoria Trattoria supplied most of the food, including the 180 pizzas that were baked that night in the wood-burning ovens.
In the crowd of lawyers, accountants, property managers and insurance brokers were Schwartz's Majic 100 "work wife", morning show co-host Angie Poirier, as well as Jill Scheer, wife of federal Conservative leader Andrew Scheer. She was invited by Ezer Mizion through her own advocacy work, inspired by a bone marrow transplant that was successfully performed on her young nephew.
The mayor, Jim Watson, also dropped in on what was a busy night of events in Ottawa.