Caroline Phillips’ Around Town: United Way hosts awards gala

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From left, Anny Lemire, Janny Asselin and Adrienne Dimech were finalists in the shoe competition at the Stepping out! fundraiser for Dress for Success Ottawa, held Thursday, May 17, 2012, at Lago Bar/Grill/View at Dows Lake Pavilion. (Photo by Caroline Phillips)

A compassionate doctor who assists the homeless and a father devastated by teenage suicide yet working to spare others his pain were among this year’s 12 award recipients at the United Way awards gala, held Thursday at the Ottawa Convention Centre.

Dr. Jeff Turnbull, co-founder of Ottawa Inner City Health and chief of staff at The Ottawa Hospital, delivered a stirring speech that proffered insight into the homeless.

“I’m always grateful to them because they have taught me I have not earned the right to judge, that I have an obligation to speak out on their behalf, for those who have no voice,” said Turnbull, winner of the coveted Community Builder of the Year Award. “Most importantly, they’ve taught me that the poor pay for their poverty with their health.”

Kanata South Councillor Allan Hubley was honoured with the Speak Up Award for his efforts in teen suicide prevention. His son, Jamie, 15, who had been bullied for being openly gay, took his life last October. Hubley donned a symbolic unicorn pin, given to him after his son’s death. “I’m wearing it tonight so that I feel like he’s with me,” Hubley told Around Town.

The multi-sponsored gala enjoyed many lighthearted moments, such as when Ottawa airport CEO Paul Benoit, still in shock over his surprise award, was convinced to get down on one knee before the 900-person crowd for a mock knighting by CTV’s Michael O’Byrne.

Then there was Helping with Furniture, a grassroots group that delivers gently used furniture and household goods to refugees. Founder Nathalie Maione and her crew accepted their award by first setting up a cosy living room on stage, complete with carpet, chairs, table, lamp and potted plants.

Another group recipient, Ottawa Senior Pride Network, took to the stage with its placards and announced: “We’re old, we’re queer and we’re still here.”

Honoured with Volunteer of the Year was Privy Council Clerk Wayne Wouters, who plans to display his award in his office in the Langevin Block. As the country’s top public servant, he accepted his award on behalf of all the public servants who give back to their community.

STEPPING OUT FOR CHARITY

Shoes were turning heads, but thankfully not ankles, at Dress for Success (DFS) Ottawa’s Stepping Out! fundraiser held Thursday at Lago Bar/Grill/View.

Around Town arrived in time to see the 300-person crowd go wild as finalists of the shoe competition strutted their stilettos on the catwalk. Helping with the judging was Stacey McKenzie from Canada’s Next Top Model. The contest was just the excuse Gowlings partner Anny Lemire needed to show off her stylish Stuart Weitzman summer espadrille wedges. The same went for Steve Clay and his flashy John Fluevog footwear.

Since opening its doors in 2011, DFS Ottawa has helped 400 low-income and immigrant women enter the workforce by providing them with a network of support, career development tools and professional attire. The Ottawa board is led by Earnscliffe Strategy Group principal Marlene Floyd, who donned lofty heels for most of the night despite being nine months pregnant (she eventually slipped into some comfy flip-flops).

Supporters included U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson and his wife, Julie; volunteer event planner Emily Porter; CTV Ottawa’s Kimothy Walker as MC; and Charles King, VP of government relations for Shaw Communications.

“My mother was a single mother with four boys who went out to work when I was eight,” King told Around Town. “That’s not easy. So, I think this is a great cause. I’m all for it.”

SENATOR IN THE HOUSE

Members of the Canadian Women in Communications (CWC) were all ears as Senator Pamela Wallin dished on her fascinating life and career in the comforts of a Rockcliffe Park home Tuesday.

Wallin, who is a former chairwoman of the CWC, was the speaker at an exclusive event hosted by CWC national board member Janice McDonald, co-owner of CD Warehouse, mymusic.ca and iStyle Originals.

Wallin talked about the turning points in her dynamic career as a journalist, entrepreneur, consul general to New York and current stint as senator and chair of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. And to think, her early ambition was to be a French teacher.

“I’ve never actually had a plan, and I think that that’s a good thing,” Wallin told the 35 women seated in the adjoining living and dining rooms. “I think when you set out that you’re going to do this and then you stay on course, regardless of what comes at you, you’re missing these huge opportunities.”

Present were CWC president Stephanie MacKendrick and its Ottawa-Gatineau chair, Warner Music Canada regional manager Mary Jelley, wearing a relic of the music biz: a 45 rpm vinyl record adapter pendant. Serving drinks and snapping photos was the lone guy in the room, McDonald’s husband and business partner, Stephen Bleeker.

DOWN WITH BULLIES

Beware bullies: there’s a new flick in town, and it’s giving the evil eye to bullying.

American filmmaker Lee Hirsch’s documentary, Bully, was screened before a large crowd last Monday at the Empire 7 theatre at the World Exchange. Moviegoers included Laureen Harper, Liberal MP Justin Trudeau, Mayor Jim Watson and Councillor Allan Hubley.

As if the free candy bags weren’t enough of a treat, singer Diane White crooned Eva Cassidy’s wistful version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow just before the film started.

Also there was Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, medical officer of health and CEO of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit. He participated in a post-screening panel discussion hosted by CFRA’s Steve Madely.

CHEO’s CEO, Alex Munter, attended, as did Youth Services Bureau executive director Joanne Lowe, and the head of its fundraising arm, Janice Barresi, and the Royal Ottawa Foundations CEO, Andrée Steel, and the volunteer chair of its D.I.F.D. (Do It For Daron) Fund, Kris McGinn.

The screening was organized by event planners Sharon Bosley House and Tony House to officially launch their second annual Kaleidoscope of Hope gala slated for Oct. 27. The evening will benefit CHEO, YSB and D.I.F.D. and their youth mental health-related programs. The gala’s title sponsor is Bell, represented at the screening by the chair of its mental health initiative, Mary Deacon.

Connect with Caroline Phillips |carolyn001@sympatico.ca