One of the best things about attending Ottawa Riverkeeper functions is that they're always within sight of the Ottawa River, the beautiful and powerful body of water that the grassroots charity is dedicated to protecting and promoting.
Sure enough, a quiet stretch of the snow and ice-covered waterway could be spotted in the distance from The Westin Ottawa’s stunning rooftop venue, TwentyTwo, where invited guests gathered Tuesday for the official launch of this year’s popular Ottawa Riverkeeper Gala. Come to think of it, you could identify most Ottawa landmarks from that height and with those expansive views.
The Riverkeeper Gala is returning to 50 Sussex this Wednesday, May 27. You can start buying your tickets as of today. There's a limited early-bird ticket deal before prices rise to $290 each. The gala typically sells out.
The formal part of the reception was emceed Tuesday by Elizabeth Logue, who took over late last summer as new Riverkeeper of the Ottawa River. She replaced Meredith Brown after she decided to step away.
Logue, who’s a natural at the mic, acknowledged her late father, the affable Charlie Logue, in sharing her secret to the welcoming of a roomful of guests.
“The rule of public speaking is to stand tall to be seen, speak loud to be heard and sit down quickly to be appreciated,” she joked.
Adding to the excitement of the evening was news that RBC has made a $350,000 gift to the organization to support its work in monitoring and assessing the health of the Ottawa River watershed. Regional president Marjolaine Hudon attended with several of her colleagues and spoke briefly about RBC’s ongoing commitment to being a leader in environmental sustainability.
“We will continue to do so, more than ever before,” she told the room.
Also there from RBC was Peter van Roon, its regional sales manager of small business. He's on the Ottawa Riverkeeper board. Other supporters included Thyme & Again Creative Catering owner Sheila Whyte, CN senior manager Louis-Alexandre Lanthier, ExecHealth president Sanjay Shah, Emond Harnden LLP co-founding law partner Jacques Emond, Star Motors owner Jeff Mierins, Ashbury College director Padme Raina and Bob and Micheline McElligott of Brickland Timberlay and their sustainable development, Lac Saint-Sixte. The hotel's manager, Ross Meredith, was present. So was Ottawa Centre MP and federal cabinet minister Catherine McKenna, who's a long-time friend of Ottawa Riverkeeper. She keeps a 100-year-old birch bark canoe in her office.
For many environmentalists and social butterflies in town, the Riverkeeper Gala is at the top of their list of must-attend fundraisers. It’s held outdoors and offers fabulous food and drinks, live music and dancing, one-of-a-kind online auction items and breathtaking décor (credit goes to volunteer and interior designer Tania Kratt for her brilliant vision).
The evening unfolds beside the scenic Ottawa River, where boats cruise by at sunset and the neighbouring Rideau River waterfall can be heard cascading. An evening doesn't get much more magical, especially when Mother Nature is also in the mood to party.
At the reception, it was shared that Tracey Clark has donated a stay for up to eight people on the wild and rugged Fogo Island in Newfoundland. Clark is on the board of Ottawa Riverkeeper. She's also former president and CEO of Bridgehead Coffee, which was recently bought by Second Cup. Clark remains with the company as chief culture officer.
Another online auction item is the chance to be the first member of the public to cross the Ottawa River on the new interprovincial zipline, slated to open up this summer.
There will also be original art by local artists such as Nicole Allen, Peter Colbert, Christopher Griffin and Brandon McVittie.
The evening is a favourite for Ottawa Riverkeeper supporter Catherine McKenna, MP for Ottawa Centre and federal minister of infrastructure and communities.
“I don’t go out to many events but the Riverkeeper Gala is really amazing,” the busy mother of three enthusiastically told the room.
To be fair, we should mention her other favourite gala: the Politics & The Pen literary gala, which is also in May.
Returning as the presenting sponsor is the Insurance Bureau of Canada, a national industry association for private home, auto and business insurers. It was represented at the reception by Craig Stewart, vice-president of government affairs.
Stewart described the gala as a refreshing change from the many sit-down dinners that he attends throughout the year. He talked about his respect for Ottawa Riverkeeper as a hands-on organization with a strong leadership team.
“They’re just good folk and wonderful people to work with,” said Stewart. “Frankly, as a sponsor, it’s a great organization, an easy organization, that we’re proud to put our name beside.”