Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Bill Brooks Gala Shares the Love

The Bill Brooks Gala has been called the hottest ticket in town for years. This year, though, it surpassed all expectations.

A fundraiser for prostate cancer, the party overtook the chic Hotel Arts. A live band got people on their feet early, and kept them swinging late into the night. Hor’s d’oeuvres were plentiful and included mini duck confit sandwiches, sushi, and lamb chops. The theme – “love the glove” – inspired some colourful fashion accessories. Otherwise decked out in black tie, guests were seen in boxing gloves, Olympic mittens, and even an “Edward Scissor hands” type costume.

What really had people talking, though, was the amount of money Bill Brooks raised for his cause. Despite the recession, the gala received its highest levels of corporate sponsorship and its largest number of ticket sales this year. In sum, the evening raised $570 000, all of it to be donated to the Southern Alberta Institute of Urology.

The institute is expected to open next month in Calgary. It will have been built entirely on community fundraising projects, like this gala, which together have totalled close to $30 million. Other donors include the University of Calgary, the Calgary Health Region, Betty and Sam Switzer Foundation, the Flames Foundation for Life, and the Rotary Clubs of Calgary.

The Southern Alberta Institute of Urology will research, treat and diagnose illness related to the urinary tract. That includes kidney stones, sexual health, and all kinds of cancer, particularly prostate and kidney cancers.

Bill Brooks, a notorious socialite and popular media personality in Calgary, began this event after losing an uncle to prostate cancer twenty years ago. According to many guests at his party, he has a knack for drawing people into his crusade.

Irene Price, president of West Canadian Direct Marketing Services, says her company receives thousands of requests for sponsorship. The cause is a personal one for executives at her firm, who were happy to support it. But she says it was Brooks himself who earned the sponsorship.

“He called me up and was so nice, and so sincere, I just wanted to help him!” she explained.

Other sponsors of the event included Safeway, who provided a re-useable grocery bag full of prostate-friendly food to each of the six hundred and seventy-five guests.

Spotted at the soiree were Rob Mabee, owner of Axis Art Gallery, and pal Eileen Stan, radio talk show host Dave Rutherford, designer and host of City TV’s My Rona Home Aly Velji with partner Jason Krell, a public relations guru, the vice-president of Hotel Arts Mark Wilson, and gala co-chair Larry Clausen, who is also the vice-president of Cohn & Wolfe for Western Canada.

Published in National Post, February 6 2010

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