As areas of The Bahamas continue to recover from Hurricane Dorian, Ottawa has been blessed with its own force of nature: groups of concerned residents wanting to help.
Some 200 supporters gathered at the west-end Holiday Inn & Suites in Kanata on Thursday for a food and drink-tasting benefit called Hope for Bahamas. The evening exceeded its original fundraising goal by bringing in more than $60,000 in support of Hope Town — an area severely damaged by one of the strongest storms to ever hit the islands.
The evening was presented by Canoe Financial and hosted by media personality and public speaker Derick Fage.
Jean Spicer, an investment advisor with RBC Dominion Securities, and the Lord Elgin Hotel's executive chef, Neil Mather, both have a personal connection to The Bahamas. Spicer and her husband, Mike Beun, own a recreational property in Hope Town while Mather formerly worked at the British Colonial Hilton in Nassau.
The pair wanted to do something to help. They organized a small event committee, recruiting Neil’s wife, Lesley Mather from Jele Design, TrueCourse Communications chief navigator and marketing strategist Veronica Farmer, and public relations consultant Julie Beun, among others.
Attendees of Hope for Bahamas included Klashwerks CEO and co-founder Dan Carruthers, Farm Boy co-CEO Jeff York and Kanata North Business Association board chair Amy MacLeod, a 2019 finalist for WBN Businesswoman of the Year.
Asking the culinary community for help turned out to be a piece of cake. “We put out a call to the chefs and all these vendors and almost every single person I asked said ‘Yes’ right away,” Mather told the room.
Twenty-seven vendors donated their time, talent and delicious food and drinks. They included Mather, Chef Rene Rodriguez from Lord Elgin’s Grill 41, Chef Joe Thottungal from Coconut Lagoon and Thali restaurants, Chef Michael Blackie from NeXT, The Grilling Gourmet Chef Steph Legari, Chef Kenton Leier from the National Arts Centre’s 1 Elgin, Graffiti's Chef Tony Nuth, Chef Nick Dompierre from Boulton House in Carleton Place, CCFCC Ottawa Chef Ric Watson, Chef Clifford Lyness from The Brookstreet Hotel’s Perspectives and Chef Joe Calabro from Pasticceria Gelateria Italiana.
“The food was exceptional,” Elizabeth Kilvert, owner of The Unrefined Olive, told OBJ.social, later in the night. “They were some of the best bites I’ve ever had."
Drinks were supplied by: Ashton Brewery, Brew Revolution, Cartwright Springs Brewery, Equator Coffee, Gary Starmer Wines/Liam Wines, Inniskillin, Jackson Triggs, Kin Vineyards, Top Shelf and Vintage Ink.
Mather reminded attendees to keep the vendors in mind the next time they’re looking to dine out or buy drinks. “These are the people who stepped forward to help.”
Spicer, who will be spending her Christmas holidays helping hurricane victims, expressed her sincere gratitude to everyone for buying tickets, donating to the auctions, and providing food and drinks. “Everybody has done this out of the goodness of their hearts,” she told the room. “It’s truly amazing.”
Bahamian resident Hermanette Joseph helped to raise awareness for the cause by speaking about her family’s own personal experience with Hurricane Dorian. They were able to evacuate just before disaster hit but lost their home, as well as the dream home that they’d been building. “What we took away from Dorian is not to attach ourselves so much to materials and to appreciate family,” she added.
Attendees included Lou Seymour and his wife, Angie Sakla-Seymour, from Ottawa model and talent agency Angie’s AMTI. They’ve already raised many thousands of dollars through fundraising events, including a runway show, and will be heading to Seymour’s Bahamian hometown of Freeport next month to also help out. Seymour told OBJ.social that he'll bringing along his Santa Claus costume in order to hand out gifts to children.
Fage sold off a chef’s dinner for two and overnight weekend stay at the Holiday Inn Kanata; a hockey getaway for a Leafs vs. Sens game in Toronto at the Holiday Inn Downtown Toronto, with passes to the CN Tower; and a ladies winter coat from Pat Flesher Luxury Outerwear.
Mike Beun, who owns Woodlawn Home Comfort heating and cooling company, was the highest bidder on a high-end Crown Verity BBQ. Also up for grabs were two trips to The Bahamas: a seven-day stay at Turtle Hill Resort and a one-week stay in an Abaco Inn ocean villa.
As the bids on the trips reached the $4,000 mark, each holiday was sold off twice, to the two highest bidders — raising a total of $16,000 for the cause.
Attendees were told that the best support they can give The Bahamas is their tourism dollars. The public is being encouraged to visit, since about 60 percent of The Bahamas' revenue comes from tourism.