Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada High Tea & Tiaras 2015 – Fairmont Royal York Hotel

The Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada is a ray of hope that breaks through the darkness for thousands of children and families with life-altering illnesses, diseases and injuries by offering hope, dreams, and comfort to those affected. This message was deeply expressed by many families, friends and supporters, who attended the High Tea and Tiaras fundraiser held at the historical Fairmont Royal York Hotel recently in Toronto.

The stylish event surpassed goals generating $82,000. Many sponsors, contributors and program recipients were involved, making it a fun-filled, entertaining afternoon with jewellery, footwear, beauty displays, silent auctions, raffles and a photo booth.

We are a charity that does very well for our participants. We don’t just serve the illness,” said Jeannie O’Regan, Vice President of Special Events and Operations for Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada. “Like High Tea and Tiaras, we’re just happy to put a smile on their faces,” she said.

Clarissa, who is just one of the 500,000 youths helped by the Starlight Children’s Foundation annually, participated in this special event. She suffers from a rare blood disease that results in her white blood cells attacking her own body. The disease is not hereditary, and chances of being afflicted are rare, yet Clarissa was diagnosed with it at ten months old. “You would never know the journey she has gone through,” said her father standing proudly by her daughter at the podium. “The bad, white blood infected her brain, lungs and spleen, and she can only control this disease with chemotherapy drugs,” he said. At times, the disease leaves her weak and depressed. At eight years old, she had another bout of the disease, which attacked her pituitary gland. Fortunately, Clarissa is now in remission, and resembles a healthy, happy teenager.

Despite all of the days of feeling ill, Clarissa has always been in-tune with the pop music scene and singing. She found her vocation in life after The Starlight Foundation purchased a recording keyboard for her. Now, Clarissa constantly sings, plays piano and guitar, records her songs and keeps working toward her dream goal of becoming the second Selena Gomez. She sang a heartfelt: “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables for the packed ballroom audience.

Another Starlight child, Sahar, who has a passion for painting, had her artwork auctioned off as a prize, and as a token of giving back to the foundation that gave so much to her in supporting her interest in art.

LUMINARIES ON PINK

Trevor Dicaire, Vice President of Development said the event was about, “making choices,” and just being there meant a great deal to all the children and their families. Undoubtedly, there were ample supporters, including celebrity host from CBC News Now, Suhana Meharchand. The delightful anchor acting as master of ceremonies reminded everyone about the challenges of parenting, and the meaning of giving. Other luminaries who walked the pink carpet included actresses Kim Shaw from Saving Hope, and Tara Spencer-Nairn from the silly, rural sitcom, Corner Gas. Spencer-Nairn is also on Saving Hope.

Juno Award Winner, Simone Denny, who topped the rave dance charts with groups, BKS and later, Love Inc. in the late eighties and early nineties is releasing another project titled The Stereo Dynamite Sessions, Volume I.
Denny’s velvety voice is more sultry and soulful, particularly in Black Roses, a single from the new CD.

Alessia Cohle, another notable musician of Butterfly Child, proudly walked the pink carpet along with model, Stacey McKenzie and unique artist, Jessica Gorlicky.

Barb Lanys from Blooms and Lanys Corporation, the event’s leading sponsor, expressed several thoughtful and dedicated sentiments to the foundation, while helping to award prizes for the silent auction and raffles.

Before the main event, adjacent rooms were filled with several fashion displays, particularly Ma Lu shoes and boots and Tocara Jewellry designs. Rooms glittered and competed with the grand chandeliers and decadent setting. While the fashion show was brief, it was beautiful. Starlight’s mothers and daughters walked the runway, dressed for success in Riani Designs. Samples of Davids Tea’s were tucked inside the neon green, take-home gift bags, and were also served and sipped throughout the afternoon.

(photos by Gloria J. Katch)

FUN ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS

The Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada provides learning toys such as games and puzzles designed for children of all age groups, while in hospital. They have portable Wii games that stay at the hospital for their recipients to use. A program called “Day Brighteners” also provides tickets to baseball games, shows, family outings, picnics and other forms of respite and escape from the stress and pain that debilitating illnesses rob from families. Because the Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada works with hospitals and doctors, it helps differentiate them from other “make a wish” charities, explained Ms. O’Regan. “Any referrals submitted by hospitals or doctors are automatically accepted,” she said. Starlight also arranges get-togethers for many families. They all share commonalities, and they feel comfortable in not having to “explain” the disease, noted Ms. O’Regan.

Similar to other “make a wish” foundations, many children occasionally get to meet their heroes, if possible, and bond during trips to Disneyworld, or other special destinations.

BEARS, BEARS AND MORE BEARS

Ms. O’Regan said all of the vendors on the floor reported doing well at the show. The Teddy Bear Project earned $2,400 for the brown bear named: “Hiya.” A new bear is featured every year, and another family in conjunction with Toys R’ Us has already been chosen to design a bear for next year. They named it, Quinn, and he is a superhero, resplendent with T-shirt and cape.

starlight canada tea and tiaras
Starlight family with Starlight teddy bears

The number of families accepted into the Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada increase each year, as it works closely with hospitals and doctors. Ms. O’Regan said the foundation’s staff even surveys hospitals once a year to update its database. “We also work closely with other foundations to ensure children aren’t going from one agency to another getting wishes,” she said. Although, Starlight does not fund medical treatments due to insurance costs and other legalities, it will pay for a trip for the applicant to receive medical attention.

BRIGHT WISHES

Undoubtedly, Starlight is creative and inventive in their wish-giving. Their staff recently learned one of their children in British Columbia has been given a limited time to live. He wanted to go to Legoland Discovery Centre, but is too ill to travel there now. The staff then decided to bring Lego world to him by redecorating his room, filling it with Lego blocks and life-size statues of Lego creatures.

For Halloween, Starlight’s staff designed a “Trick or Suite” event, which is set up in a hotel. This enables children in wheelchairs to go door-to-door easily, collect candy, enjoy a little party, and then stay overnight at the hotel. It’s the perfect and safe escape for the little ghouls and goblins.

According to Ms. O’Regan, the number of applicants with cancer and brain tumors have increased significantly, especially in Ontario and in the Montreal area. While Starlight is present in every hospital that has more than two pediatric beds, and therefore, prominent in many parts of Canada, Ms. O’Regan noted the foundation’s goal is to establish satellite offices in every province. With Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada’s enviable service record and dedicated supporters, odds are its wish will come true.

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