St. Boniface Hospital gala goes virtual

Fundraising dinner, concert will be enjoyed at home and online


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You can’t go to its gala this year, so St. Boniface Hospital will deliver its gala to you.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/04/2020 (1065 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

You can’t go to its gala this year, so St. Boniface Hospital will deliver its gala to you.

When plans for its annual fundraising dinner were torpedoed by coronavirus concerns, the Winnipeg hospital’s foundation decided to try something new: Manitoba’s first virtual charity gala.

It means delivering three-course, gourmet meals with wine pairings to the doorsteps of ticket-buying participants, who will also be sent an exclusive YouTube link so they can watch a star-studded concert featuring local performers while dining in the safety of their own homes.

It’s a high-tech version of a high-brow event, except you can chill out on the couch in your pyjamas if you want.

“It will be the first virtual event for St. Boniface Hospital, but also the first virtual event of this kind in Manitoba,” said Jessica Miller, director of communications for the St. Boniface Hospital Foundation.

“It’s the first virtual gala dinner in the province. We’ve seen this in other provinces, we’ve seen virtual musical events, but to send a full gala dinner and concert to someone’s house will be a first.”

The food and wine for the May 28 virtual gala will be supplied by 529 Wellington restaurant (owned by Wow Hospitality Concepts) and Piazza De Nardi owner Tom De Nardi. Wow president Doug Stephen and De Nardi are both foundation board members.

“Doug and Tom aren’t getting anything out of it,” Miller noted.

Tickets for the virtual gala dinner and concert are $200 each, and are available on the foundation’s website ( or by calling 204-237-2067. The foundation is offering only 300 of those tickets.

“We want to maintain the quality of the food, so we can only deliver to 150 houses, which would be about 300 plates,” Miller said.

“Once those tickets are sold out, we will offer $50 concert-only tickets for people who just want to enjoy the entertainment and support St. Boniface Hospital from their homes,” she said. “We can sell an unlimited number of those, and we really hope to.”

Last year, the hospital foundation staged Rose Soiree, a fundraising outdoor cocktail party in the ruins of the St. Boniface Cathedral. This month’s virtual edition is being called the Rose Soir-In “because you have to stay at home to attend it.”

Local philanthropist and gala co-chairman Louis Trepel has recruited a wide variety of performers for the virtual gala concert, everyone from Winnipeg-born singing sensations Don Amero and Olivia Lunny to Lisa Windsor and Erika Fowler.

“We’re thrilled with the lineup coming together. Call it a curated mix of up-and-comers, local favourites, and well-established acts. These will be one-time only, exclusive performances for this event,” Trepel said.

“In terms of entertainment, we’ve focused on asking artists to deliver upbeat, positive songs in hopes of lightening the mood, and brightening the days of viewers who are ready to kick up their feet and enjoy.”

Miller said the lineup for the concert is growing daily. “They are all sending us a clip,” she explained. “They’ll do an introduction and a song and a thank-you to all the front-line workers at the hospital. We’ll create a video of all their songs. It’s going to be an inspiring show.”

The evening will be hosted by Nicole Dubé, co-host of CTV Morning Live, and Free Press columnist Doug Speirs.

Unlike most gala dinners, the dress code for the virtual event is up to the attendees.

“Manitobans are generous in any setting, with any dress code,” said Vince Barletta, president and chief executive officer of the foundation. “Attendees can kick back and enjoy the night on their terms, knowing their ticket purchase has provided much-needed support to St. Boniface Hospital.”

Like most charitable organizations, the foundation is struggling to cope with the economic and health nightmare spawned by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s a problem all charities are having — a lot of income comes from (in-person) events and no one can have them,” Miller said.

The foundation’s goal is to raise at least $30,000.

“It’s not a lot of money, but we think it’s important to provide something uplifting for the community that will also benefit the hospital,” Miller said.

“We’re going to use it for the area of greatest need. The hospital will determine that. We have so many programs that need to continue running despite the virus.”

Doug Speirs

Doug Speirs

Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.

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