There had to be something in the air at this year’s Evening in the Maritimes. You could feel it, like salty sea spray on one's face.
It was a spirit of generosity, flowing faster than the Miramichi River and raising a record amount for Citizen Advocacy Ottawa and its efforts to lift individuals living with disabilities out of isolation and loneliness through long-lasting friendships with community volunteers.
It's safe to say the evening netted $150,000 or more, marking a 30-per-cent increase over last year's dinner.
Senator Vern White – who was born and raised in Cape Breton, and whose wife is a social worker with Citizen Advocacy – was back to serve as honourary co-chair alongside David Cork, a director with Scotia Wealth Management. The event was presented by Lundbeck.
The Ottawa Police Service Pipe Band, along with young highland dancers, got everyone's attention when it came time for them to mosey from the cocktail reception to the East Coast-themed ballroom at the Hilton Lac Leamy.
Seafarers donned bibs and dug into a three-course, $175-a-ticket lobster dinner. For landlubbers, there was also a filet mignon option.
A fog horn sounded before the occasional public announcement. There was also a very faint fog in the room for an added coastal feel. The podium, where emcee Graham Richardson and others stood, was decorated like the ocean.
Later, the room rose to its feet to applaud Brian Tardif, who’s been the executive director of Citizen Advocacy for 33 years. He plans to retire from his position this fall, it was announced.
“Brian is like the velvet hammer of the organization,” said Cork on stage. “He reaches out to you and asks you to do certain things, and you do it.”
There were likely pangs of deep-pocket envy during the live auction, when well-known Ottawa lawyer Lawrence Greenspon sold off an unparalleled array of items.
One Ocean Expeditions, represented by managing director and Cape Bretoner Andrew Prossin, not only agreed to again donate its popular 10-night adventure to the Antarctic, worth $31,360, but it was once more willing to let the trip sell to the top two highest bidders, at $19,000 each — reeling in a total of $38,000.
On top of that, the small ship expedition cruise company offered up a unique East Coast voyage. It went for $9,000.
Many live auction items sold for above their value, including the trip to the Yukon, the 10-person, seven-course dinner at Le Cordon Bleu’s Signatures Restaurant and a culinary experience for eight at Casino Lac-Leamy.
An exclusive dinner for 16 with German Ambassador Sabine Sparwasser and her Canadian husband, Gary Soroka, fetched the handsome price of $3,600, as did a trip to Puerto Vallarta, donated by former deputy prime minister Sheila Copps and her husband, Austin Thorne.
Also successful was the sold-out, $100-a-ticket balloon raffle. As well, there were more than 100 silent auction items to bid on for lovers of music, arts, sports, fine dining and stay-cations.
Feeling proud that night were Barry McKenna and his wife, Jackie. It had been their idea to create Evening in the Maritimes for Citizen Advocacy, following their own experience 25 years ago at the St. Ann’s Lobster Supper in Prince Edward Island. Jackie, now retired, was a social worker with Citizen Advocacy at the time.
The dinner, which has gone on to raise millions for the non-profit organization, has been co-chaired for years by McKenna and Jeff Snyder, vice-president of sales and solutions at Capital Office Interiors.
Snyder’s own volunteer work with the grassroots organization stretches back 24 years, from when he first moved here from Halifax and was looking for a way to get involved and meet new people.
“I love what it stands for and I love the way it helps people who are really isolated in our community and are easy to overlook,” said Snyder, who’s also on the board of directors.
Seen in the crowd were Citizen Advocacy board chair Kirk Boyd, a law partner at BLG, as well as one of the dinner's former chairs, University of Ottawa adjunct law professor Penny Collenette, who attended with her husband, former Liberal cabinet minister David Collenette.
Attendees from the political set included Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, a former East Coaster.
Best-dressed bragging rights went to lawyer Warren Creates, head of the immigration law group at Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall, for his lobster shirt.