THE GREAT GATSBY: The glitzy In the Mood gala fundraiser deserves a real red carpet next year. Women in breathtaking gowns and shimmering cocktail dresses, not to mention handsome men in black tie and tuxes, streamed into the Provencher Room at the Fort Garry Hotel on Saturday night with elegant chandeliers throwing soft, golden light. While some might say the Mood Disorder Association has the most difficult cause to promote in a party setting, they always carry off one of the most joyful and uplifting nights of the charity fundraising season. This group helps people find resources for depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and many other mental health issues. Offsetting the seriousness, band leader Ron Paley and his group of soloists and groups sang all styles, entertaining from the moment of arrival, and provided dance music between the many courses of the five-star-quality dinner and dance party that followed.
Guest speakers spoke out boldly. Lt.-Gen. Roméo Dallaire received the Helping Hands Heart award for his body of work, but particularly for his continuing campaign to fight for help for child soldiers and other victims of postwar stress. Dallaire is the author of They Fight Like Soldiers; They Die Like Children. He spoke from the heart from his experiences abroad and the room fell silent. Before his last words, people were on their feet for a true standing ovation.
Robb Nash, the rocker who "died" en route to the hospital after a semi-trailer truck hit his vehicle and fractured his skull, won the Helping Hands Hope award. His pulse came back miraculously before he got to the hospital. After healing, he formed rock group Live On Arrival, which had two Top 10 hits before he decided "to heck with the money," he had a bigger purpose. He left the regular touring scene, and he and his musical cohorts went to work in schools, bringing instruments and rock-band know-how to 800,000 kids so far, kids who are struggling with tough lives, isolation, addictions and depression. Sandra McLandress won this year's Helping Hands of Health award for her stellar care dedicated to innovative collaboration with all levels of mental health professionals in providing the highest level of patient care.
Spotted in the crowd: Granite's Doug Lochhead, Kish Modha of Mondetta, Bob Thiessen from Dycom and his wife, Catherine Thiessen, from the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, Ona Frankena of Facial Fitness and John Melnick, the distinguished toastmaster. Also on the scene: Dunmore Corporation's Ossama AbouZeid, Dr. Murray Enns, Re/Max realtor Glen J. Sytnyk, soloist Lauren Thomas, philanthropists John and Bonnie Buhler, emcee Andrew Paterson, MLA Cameron Friesen and Shelley Friesen of MTC Allstream, Digital Relay's Dominick Blais, Steinbach Credit Union's Pauline Gilbert, Free Press columnist Gordon Sinclair Jr., and teachers Nicole Alexander, Eileen Blais and Marna Ramsay. Appearing in a peacock-embossed Asian long coat was Tara Brousseau, executive director of the Mood Disorders Association. And the tall, unflappable event organizer, Charlotte Sytnyk, looked like a runway model in a stunning plum creation. As Paley's band struck up big-band number In the Mood, we half-expected Gatsby himself to look down from the ornate mezzanine doors above the ballroom.
SALUTING NELLIE: At the many-hatted high tea held last Sunday in early celebration of International Women's Day, suffragette Nellie McClung put in an appearance. Actually, it was actress Peggy Barker in full costume, speaking McClung's words as she fought with the high-handed politician just before women got the vote. The Provincial Council of Women encouraged everyone attending to wear hats, just as suffragettes of old would wear to special "pink" teas, decorated with froufrou to discourage men from showing up when the women were actually making plans to wrest their right vote out of the government. The party started at the English tea time of 3 p.m. in the ballroom of the Fort Harry Hotel, with background piano music by Julian Vanderput.
Her Honour Anita Lee, spouse of Manitoba Lt.-Gov. Philip Lee, arrived with her aide-de-camp Judith Waters. The crowd found out, to their surpise, Her Honour has managed five restaurants and a catering business and has done much practical work for the immigrant population. Spotted in the crowd: Couns. Ross Eadie and Jenny Gerbasi, family-violence activist Doris Mae Oulton, Free Press associate editor Julie Carl in the "fascinator" hat she wore to cover Prince William and Kate Middleton's royal wedding in London, current Provincial Women's Council president Sharon Taylor, currently the director of Wolseley Family Place, and the event organizers, including Bonnie Siemens and Arlene Draffin-Jones.
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