Before we usher in a new decade, a look back at the year’s top parties, memorable moments, and the people behind the biggest and most lavish fundraisers in the Lower Mainland. Every year, British Columbians demonstrate their capacity to care and to provide for those less fortunate. 2019 was an exceptional year with many of the cities venerable events posting record numbers. Here’s to everyone who gave of their time, talent and treasure to make communities stronger. Cheers to you and to a kinder, gentler 2020. Happy New Year!
Vancouver Chinatown Foundation Gala
Carol Lee’s fourth staging of her Chinatown Gala drew big names and even bigger spenders, pulling in $5.5 million for her ongoing efforts to revitalize the once bustling neighbourhood. Produced by Soha Lavin, the stunning room was transformed into pure gold, encouraging attendees to give generously. And they did, with four lead gifts of $1 million. The starry night — B.C.’s biggest fundraiser of the year — also paid tribute to Lee’s ailing father — renowned community builder and philanthropist Bob Lee.
Surrey Hospital Celebration of Care Gala
Led by Surrey’s very own Dr. James Bond, chief of thoracic surgery at Surrey Hospital, the foundation’s Bond-themed benefit To Surrey With Love truly lived up to its name as residents showed appreciation for their community hospital. Leading the way was change agent Jeff Wubs, founder of Westland Insurance. The Four Seasons Hotel catered-dinner and auction at Surrey’s Aria Convention Centre would pull in a leading $5 million to kit out ten operating rooms with state-of-the-art, cutting edge equipment.
VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation Time to Shine Gala
Always a staple on the best dressed party list, VGH & UBC’s annual Time to Shine Chinese New Year Gala was another sparkler. Judy Leung once again steered the dazzling event staged at the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel. From the fine dining, glamourous decor and exclusive auction items for foundation benefactors, this year’s celebrations went above and beyond expectations. Three million dollar gifts from Lily Lee, Westbank’s Ian Gillespie and Donald’s Fine Foods Donald Leung showed the way. The Year of the Pig celebration would bring in $5.36 million for the firm’s Future of Surgery campaign.
B.C. Children’s Hospital For Children We Care Gala
The Chinese Canadian community came together for the 24th consecutive year to support child health in B.C. And what a lavish party it was. No small feat to turn the Vancouver Convention Centre into an intimate party palace, but gala chairs Carmen Chan, Pao Yao Koo and Isabel Hsieh were definitely up for the challenge. The Evening in Versailles-themed affair had all the elements of a successful night; exquisite decor, delicious food, a scene-y crowd, a live orchestra, giant crystal chandeliers that hung from the rafters, impressive multimedia screens, towering fresh flowers and a very generous crowd. The result: a record $4.12 million night.
B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation Crystal Ball
Created by Isabelle Diamond in 1986, this venerable event has raised more than $38 million for B.C. Children’s Hospital. It would add another $3.8 million to its already impressive tally. Led once again by Jennifer Johnston, this year’s 33rd staging was bittersweet as it would be the last Crystal Ball to be held at the Four Seasons Hotel as the property shutters its doors at the end of the year. The impressive room and equally impressive stories from patient families ignited a torrent of donations. Mike and Lisa Hudson, Rick and Lauren Ilich and Lisa Greczmiel had everyone on their feet early with gifts of $500,000 each to get the fundraising party started.
Arts Umbrella Splash Gala
Third-time was the charm for chairs Bruce Munro Wright and Christie Garofalo as their Splash Art Auction and Gala surpassed the million dollar mark for the first time in the event’s 37 year history. One hundred artists put forward their best work for sale. More than 80 per cent of the 33 pieces that went on the live auction block sold at-or-above value signalling a record-night ahead. A $2 million donation from Robert Lemon in memory of his partner interior designer Bob Ledingham to go toward the construction of a new Arts Umbrella building and School of theatre and music further fuelled party spirits.
Peace Arch Hospital Foundation Space Odyssey Gala
An interstellar-themed affair greeted Peace Arch Hospital patrons. The most creative party of 2019 saw party guests transported to another galaxy for an out-of-this-world experience. Attendees in return delivered $900,000 to equip hospital operating rooms with leading technology and equipment. Chair Joelle Paleologou understood first-hand the importance of having a room when needed. Crediting Peace Arch with saving her life, she would lead the over-the-top Spacey soiree complete with a Darth Vader, Storm Troopers, and other celestial creatures roaming a dressed up Centennial Arena.
B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation A Night of Miracles Gala
More than 440 guests packed the Marriot Pinnacle Hotel ballroom for the South Asian Community’s biggest night. One of the most colourful and vibrant parties in town, the 11th annual affair once again saw party chair Majot Hallen welcome attendees — philanthropist, community leaders and captains of industry — who came together to help transform care for children living with incurable Type 1 diabetes. The Garden-themed party at the Taj Mahal would add another $742,500 to the $5.4 million previously raised from B.C.’s South Asian community.
B.C. Cancer Hope Couture Luncheon
B.C.’s most successful luncheon fundraiser, this year’s Hope Couture event would add another $700,000 to B.C. Cancer coffers, earmarked for a pancreatic cancer rapid access clinic. Steered once again by Lisa Dalton and Susan Chow, the always stylish-event saw a predominantly female crowd pack the Fairmont Pacific Rim Sapphire Ballroom for the noon-hour power lunch and Boboli and Bacci fashion show. The stylish set was moved to tears when learning of a $150,000 lead gift from cancer champion Carol Lai. Intending to attend this year’s event, Lai sadly passed away weeks before from pancreatic cancer.
Children’s Wish Foundation Night of Wonders Gala
It was a record turnout for the Children’s Wish Foundation’s Night of Wonders Gala. More than 400 guests — influencers, business and community leaders — taxied into Richmond’s London Aviation Hanger at Vancouver International Airport for the B.C. Yukon chapter’s flagship soiree. Piloted once again by young professionals Tiffany Soper and Kevin Mazzone, the dynamic duo along with party planner Soha Lavin transformed the 84,000 square foot hanger into a magical party palace where attendees dined, danced and tipped out $550,000 to grant wishes to kids living with a life-threatening illness.
B.C. Women’s Hospital Foundation Dazzling Love Gala
Zahra Salisbury, Anna Bosa, and Monica Soprovich hosted the biggest house party of the year in support of B.C. Women’s Hospital. They convinced Shirin and Oliver Bock to open their just-completed waterfront mansion for the hospital hootenanny. The event would take place on the same night of the NBA finals. The benefit quickly became a viewing party. The formal program took a pause for party guests to watch the Toronto Raptors win the basketball championships. The historic victory bolstered party spirits with the champagne flowing as freely as the cash. The 100 well-heeled guests would deliver $425,000 for a newborn screening program.
An emotional evening of storytelling would see the Kidney Gala raise more than $300,000 for the Kidney Foundation of Canada, a new fundraising standard for the fledgling event. Local hockey coach Stephen Gillis and Toby and Bernadine Boulet, parents of Humboldt Broncos player Logan Boulet were the guest speakers. Gillis’ pee wee team rallied to support their coach’s search for a kidney donor producing a team video that went viral. The Boulet’s shared of their son’s desire to be an organ donor just weeks before his death. Logan’s decision ultimately saved the lives of six others waiting for a life-saving organ transplant and ignited a country to sign up to become organ donors.