On Saturday, April 18, 2015, the Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada hosted their annual fundraiser at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel. From this year’s fundraiser alone, over $500,000 was raised through the immense generosity of donors, supporters, and guests. All of the proceeds from this event will be directed to the organization’s programs and services that help terminally ill kids and their families re-establish normality and fun in their lives.

Starlight provides incredibly exciting in-hospital and out-hospital special outings, hospital bags filled with goodies from Toys ‘R’ Us, and other programming that restore fun and optimism in the lives of young terminally ill children and their families whose lives have been turned upside-down by these tragic circumstances.

The theme of this year’s gala was ‘Roaring Twenties.’ Guests were greeted by volunteers dressed in adorably chic flapper dresses and a six-piece brass band that played ragtime tunes throughout the cocktail reception. The décor was extravagant and luxurious with no detail left unattended. Feathers, stringed pearls, and crystal chandeliers complimented theme walking tables selling feather boas, fedoras, and necklaces. A gigantic ice sculpture of an art deco-style skyscraper was placed right in the center of the venue and drew plenty of admiring stares from the guests. Celebrity guests in attendance included Fashion Designer David Dixon, Oscar-winning filmmaker Roger Christian, fashion philanthropist Suzanne Rogers, and Toronto Argonauts’ Defensive Back Jonathan Hood.

One of the best parts of the event was the many donation opportunities available for guests. New to this year’s gala was the Wishing Tree. For $20, guests could write a wish on a star-shaped card, and would receive a delicate charm bracelet and a tax receipt in return for their donation. The prizes in this year’s raffle included a trip for two to any destination in North America with Air Canada; a $500 gift card to Toys ‘R’ Us, and an Apple iPad. Over two hundred silent auction prizes were scattered all over the venue, and ranged in price and theme. Prizes in the silent auction included beautiful jewelry, a maple violin with rosewood fingerboard and date wood chin rest, overnight trip packages, and a set of vintage Herend Porcelain dishes.

During dinner, Juno-winning recording artist Divine Brown was the feature performer. She sang throughout the dinner portion of the evening and was such a delight to watch on stage! An incredible and high energy dance performance by the award-winning burlesque troupe, Belluscious, was a huge hit with the guests. Television personality Rick Campanelli (ET Canada) gave a background on the historical and cultural achievements of the 1920s, and thanked the culinary team who prepared the dinner. Following the live auction and a musical performance by Emily, a Starlight teen. Hilary Farr (Love It or List It) then took to the stage to introduce the Watkins family. Leah and Mark Watkins shared how the Starlight Children’s Foundation Canada helped them when their late daughter, Sarah, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of leukaemia. The organization hosted a lovely picnic, Halloween parties, and an in-hospital spa day for Sarah, her family, and her friends. Once Leah Watkins concluded their speech, the entire room erupted in applause and tears for the brave, resilient, and loving Watkins family.

Kayla Johnston, a Starlight teen diagnosed with Gastrolysis and SMA (a rare and potentially life-threatening gastro-vascular condition), was the living definition of optimism and courage when she shared her fundraising efforts on behalf of Starlight. Along with her sister Courtney, she organized many successful events, including a raffle with Foxes Bakery in Barrie, ON, a pepperoni stick drive, and a bracelet sale. All of her efforts, in combination with the fundraising efforts of other Starlight teens, raised a total of $22,000 for the organization. Her drive and determination to not let her illnesses define her was simply awe-inspiring.

The evening concluded with the Wish Auction and a speakeasy style after party. Magen Boys Entertainment provided the musical entertainment. A table full of pitas, flatbread crisps, and an assortment of dips was served to hungry guests. There were three Black Jack tables at the party, which were filled pretty quickly, and a popcorn machine that served free popcorn all night. The lovely Juno nominated recording artist Alysha Brilla got the party started when she, along with her group of friends and sisters, showed off their killer moves on the dance floor. At the end of the night, guests were drinking, dancing, and gambling into the early morning hours!

The 20th Annual Starlight Children’s Foundation Gala was an extravagant and highly successful event! Terminally ill children are forced to grow up so quickly. It’s hard to imagine children, who have their entire lives ahead of them, having to go through all of the hospital stays, tests, surgeries, and the emotional turmoil that comes with living with terminal illnesses. All children deserve to have moments of happiness and fun in their lives, no matter what. The Starlight Children’s Foundation gives these children the space to have fun and be away from the cold hospital rooms. The Starlight Children’s Foundation brings smiles, laughter, hope, and joy back into the lives of these heroic little children.


(photos by Harrison Astroff)

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