Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Stars come out to support fight against diabetes

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Joe Grande, his wife, Alfina, and daughter, Giuliana Grande (from left), welcomed guests to the grand re-opening of Mona Lisa Sunday.

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Joe Grande, his wife, Alfina, and daughter, Giuliana Grande (from left), welcomed guests to the grand re-opening of Mona Lisa Sunday.

STARRY, STARRY NIGHT: Dorothy Ross, Prairies regional manager for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, says their 2013 event, A Starry Starry Night Gala, netted $300,000, including Fund-a-Cure money. More than 675 people came to dinner Saturday night at the convention centre to make a difference.

Sandi Evans and her daughter, Makyla, who has juvenile diabetes, took the stage to talk about the difficult life of a child with the disease. Makyla has an insulin pump hooked up to her 24 hours a day and has had an estimated 18,000 blood-sugar tests on her fingertips.

The fundraising style of Fund-A-Cure is direct and controversial. An auctioneer-type outright asks people to pledge certain amounts of money. "Who all wants to give $5,000? Let's see those paddle numbers up in the air!" Amounts decrease with each round until people are putting their hands up to pledge $100 each.

Fund-a-Cure raised a staggering $142,000 in less than an hour, with all the money going to research. That's in addition to the other auctions and the Rolex watch draw -- at $50 a ticket. Dinner tickets were $200, and they also had large, well-organized regular auctions. This group means business at their gala, but nobody seems to mind. Attendees come with their pockets stuffed and credit cards ready to go.

Spotted making the scene: philanthropists Tannis Richardson and John and Bonnie Buhler; Dr. Wayne Hildahl of Pan Am Clinic fame; Healthy Living Minister Jim Rondeau; Peak of the Market's Larry McIntosh; Manitoba Blue Cross president Andrew Yorke; New Flyer's Paul Soubry; CIBC Wood Gundy's Hart Pollack; and event chairwoman and chairman Bonny and Claude Chapman. Ron Paley and a raft of singers of every style, got everybody up to close out the night, dancing their fancy shoes off.

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MONA LISA RE-OPENING: The Mona Lisa Ristorante Italiano on south Corydon Avenue marked its grand re-opening this week, celebrating 30 years in business and a dramatic change to the bistro's interior. They ripped out the centre wall and created a fancy space large enough for bigger events.

"We just wanted to make some changes but people are asking about weddings," said owner Joe Grande, hoarse after four days of opening parties. At the Winnipeg who's-who tasting party on Sunday, guests were treated to assorted wines and round after round of sample bites from the menu, including a new gourmet pizza with maple syrup, pork belly, onions and mushrooms, called the Canadese.

Spotted at the Sunday soiree: Maria De Nardi of Piazza de Nardi, Simon and Deborah Waller of Simon's Imports, Free Press associate editor Julie Carl and sports columnist Gary Lawless, Jim and John Tennant of Piston Ring, River Heights Coun. John Orlikow, flooring king Bill Knight, Stan Carbone of the Italian Consulate and Lorraine Hay of Closet Chick. Grande and his wife, Alfina, and their three daughters, Elena, Angelina and Giuliana and Joe's sister, Marilena Moccia, who have all worked in the family business, circulated throughout the room where Giuliana's large abstract paintings adorn the walls.

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WOMEN OF DISTINCTION: "Look at all the men here!" was the surprised reaction around the room at the 2013 YM-YWCA Women of Distinction Awards held Wednesday night at the convention centre. Olympic speed-skating medalist Susan Auch MCed the night like the smooth and confident champ she is.

The dinner was packed out to the walls with circles of friends, family and supporters from work and volunteer organizations. Men and women cheered, hugged and kissed their pals in a nod to the Oscars. 102.3 Clear FM's Joe Aiello, in a casual plaid shirt, admitted to being nervous in front of the crowd of glitzy, accomplished, powerful well-dressed women. "They are so inspirational. Ya gotta love the women of Manitoba."

Mayor Sam Katz called them "a very classy group of women," and so they were.

The 2013 Eira "Babs" Friesen Lifetime Achievement Award went to Beatrice Watson, a longtime advocate, known for her work with the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, Immigrant Women's Association of Manitoba, Global Eyes magazine, plus her volunteer involvement with the Congress of Black Women, Legal Education Action Fund for women, plus the Fort Garry Women's Resource Centre and Mediation Services.

One great example of a WOD winner? Randi Gage, who took the prestigious Voluntarism, Advocacy and Community Enhancement Award was totally at home as she took the stage -- in a fancy suit and her bedroom slippers. Her feet were tired, and her confidence was enough to light up the room. She said her dad gave her encouragement at a young age to be gutsy and experimental. "My dad said to me as a kid, 'You can do anything you want to do. Just don't bring the cops to the door!' SDRq

Gage is a Vietnam War veteran and one of the founders of the Day of Recognition and Remembrance for Aboriginal Veterans. She has helped bring tsunami relief to victims in Sri Lanka, and has "slogged through mud" to bring diabetic education to northern Manitoba outposts. She volunteers with the Agape Table Nutrition Centre, as well as African and Aboriginal communities, and has served as the volunteer co-ordinator for the African Pavilion at Folklorama. This was typical of the long lists of accomplishments of the 86 women who were nominated for awards.


Got tips, events, sightings, unusual things going on? Call Maureen's tip line at 204-474-1116, email, or send letters to Maureen Scurfield c/o The Insider, 1355 Mountain Ave., R2X 3B6, Winnipeg


Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 3, 2013 B2

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