Caroline Phillips’ Around Town: A salute to those speaking out

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City Councillor Shad Qadri and Graham Bird at the Inspiration Awards Gala. (Photograph by: Caroline Phillips)

OTTAWA —More than 500 business leaders, politicians and mental-health supporters came together at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum on Friday to honour individuals in our community who’ve shown the courage to speak out, the commitment to help others and the determination to triumph through hardship.

It was the Inspiration Awards Gala, an evening that netted more than $250,000 for the Royal Ottawa Foundation and saw the announcement of a $1-million donation from John Ruddy of Trinity Development for depression research.

The night of dinner and dancing included a live auction, where guests could bid on such priceless items as an hour on the ice with Daniel Alfredsson, captain of the Ottawa Senators. Alfredsson, who is a spokesman for the Royal Ottawa campaign to destigmatize mental illness, was playing against Chicago that night but his wife, Bibbi, came with Stephanie Richardson, wife of assistant Sens coach Luke Richardson.

It was the 2010 suicide of the Richardsons’ daughter, Daron, 14, and the ensuing Do It For Daron awareness campaign that motivated Youth Inspiration Award recipient Hannah Brunsdon, a student at Canterbury High, to seek treatment for anxiety and depression. She’s broken the silence by, among other things, writing and directing a play about teen mental-health issues. Brunsdon, 16, was seen receiving a warm hug from Richardson at the cocktail reception.

The other five award recipients were Senator Roméo Dallaire (who was unable to attend), addictions counsellor Chris Curry, novelist Nathalie Holmes, public speaker Kristin Shannon and the Orléans Bengals Football Club for its anti-bullying program.

Sighted were the Royal Ottawa’s chief psychiatrist, Dr. Raj Bhatla, bucking the bow tie trend in his Sylvester and Tweety necktie, and forensic psychiatrist John Bradford wearing his new Order of Canada lapel pin. Sir Terry Matthews was seen yakking with fellow tech entrepreneur Adam Chowaniec while prominent project management consultant Graham Bird chatted with Stittsville’s councillor, Shad Qadri. Also glimpsed were V-P Carolyn Booth from title sponsor BMO Financial Group, Royal Ottawa Health Care Group CEO George Weber, and the foundation’s CEO, Andre Steel, and board chair, Leigh Harris Fowell.

The NAC’s Friends

The Friends of the National Arts Centre Orchestra are now also the friends of Turkish Ambassador Rafet Akgnay after he and his wife, Zeynep, hosted the group for cocktails, music and a buffet reception Thursday.

The evening featured an intimate concert with Amanda Forsyth, principal cellist with the NAC Orchestra, accompanied by pianist Jean Desmarais.

Wearing a crimson dress with her platinum-blond hair swept to the side, Forsyth was mesmerizing to watch and listen to. The Juno Award-winning cellist performed a piece, Pop’s Cycle, written for Forsyth by her Canadian composer father, the late Malcolm Forsyth, just before she went off to Juilliard School. He’d been trying to teach his daughter to play in different styles. The three movements vary from a jazzy influence to a Spanish bullfighting theme to a musical interpretation of Forsyth as a young girl.

Seated at the back was Forsyth’s maestro husband, Pinchas Zukerman. Also present were organizers Melina Vacca-Pugsley and Joan Forbes and Dr. Fatos Baudouin, the group’s chair of diplomatic liaison, with her husband, Marc Baudouin, a former ambassador to Turkey. Other attendees included board president Jean-Guy Dumoulin, honorary patron Jeanne d’Arc Sharp and first V-P Harvey Slack with his partner, retired senator Laurier LaPierre (they just returned from a trip spanning 18 countries and three continents).

Taggart and the Y

Taggart Group chairman Jim Taggart’s introduction to the YM-YWCA came in the form of ballet lessons. He’d only been a tyke and too young to know it was not going to result in a good story when he was enrolled by his mother, Muriel.

Taggart’s ballet didn’t last, but his family’s support of the Y did. Dozens of guests were invited to Taggart’s Rockcliffe home Wednesday to learn more about the Y.

Sylvia Kayumba shared her new immigrant experience of turning to the Y’s Enterprise Centre to get the tools and support she needed to start up her own business, Ottawa Housekeepers. Overall, the future looks promising, Kayumba said, standing on the make-do stage of a raised hearth, in front of the cosy family fireplace.

Kayumba’s son, Moussa, 3, was the life of the party. “He’s stealing all my thunder,” the YM-YWCA NCR’s new CEO, Deirdre Speers, joked as she talked about the Y’s goals of healthy development of children and inclusive access to programs and services.

The crowd also heard from the Y’s new V-P of financial development, Jack Silverstein, who said the Y’s $15-million capital campaign is at the $11-million mark. Jim Taggart, present with his new wife, Jane Panet, is co-chairing the campaign with his brother Keith.

Successful restaurateur Ion Aimers was there. So were Uniform Developments president Peter Stenger, Welch managing partner Micheal Burch and members of the Y board and capital campaign cabinet.

The ballet, by the way, was intended to expose Jim — the first born in his prominent construction family of seven kids — to some culture. His mom also got him to play violin, but he only made it to Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. “I think she gave up on me at that point,” Taggart said.

 Wallin’s Lessons

Canadian success story Pamela Wallin has done good for a small-town girl from Wadena, Sask. The former award-winning journalist has gone on to become an entrepreneur, a diplomat, author and, currently, a senator, all while battling cancer, divorce and a high-profile firing.

On Tuesday, Wallin shared the ups and downs of her career to an urban grassroot networking initiative, called jnet, that connects young Jewish professional and grad students in their 20s and 30s.

Wallin made for a fascinating speaker, coming off as smart, funny and honest. She also answered questions posed by CBC Radio’s Laurence Wall. Her advice to the younguns included “slow it down, learn to say ‘No,’ ” and spend more time with the people who truly matter (it’s advice she hasn’t always followed, she acknowledged).

The event, held at the Beth Shalom Synagogue, was organized by jnet’s Mitch Gauzas, Tamara Fathi and Howie Fremeth. The evening saw 175 people attend, including Justice Stanley Kershman and his son, Zev; Ron Prehogan from sponsor BrazeauSeller; and Jewish Federation of Ottawa chair Debbie Halton-Weiss.


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