Bliss Ball and Dilawri Foundation Net Millions for SickKids

Steven Page, Maria Aragon, Martin Sheen.

The numbers are in, and the first ever Bliss Ball charity gala – hosted by the Dilawri Foundation and held under the aptly named Innovation Dome at Toronto’s historic Fort York – raised over $1 million for the Hospital for Sick Children’s SickKids Patient Amenities Fund. The fund provides financial support to families of in- and out-patients struggling with expenses.

“On behalf of everyone at SickKids, we are sincerely grateful for the generosity of the Dilawri Foundation and attendees of the inaugural Bliss Ball,” Ted Garrard, president and CEO of the SickKids Foundation, said in a statement.

The Dilawri Foundation, which marks its 10th anniversary as the Dilawri family’s charitable arm this year, donated an added $5 million to the SickKids Centre for Research and Learning’s “Patients, Populations and Policy” neighbourhood.

The gala, which took place on Saturday, Sept. 29, boasted a guest list studded with local philanthropists and Hollywood stars, such as Grammy and Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson and actor Martin Sheen.  It all happened inside the Innovation Dome – a colossal tent offering a three-dimensional 360-degree projection of the sky and atmosphere across its interior.

One-time Barenaked Ladies front man Steven Page worked double duty as a performer and MC, including interviewing former U.S. President George W. Bush’s daughters, Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush. Meanwhile, Winnipeg’s 12-year old Internet sensation Maria Aragon danced and sang through the crowd, the set highlighted by her trademark piano rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way.” Canadian 2012 Olympic gold medal trampolinist Rosie

MacLennan was also in attendance.

The evening’s double-main event featured a fundraising auction and Hudson’s show-stealing performance, in which she channelled both Leonard Cohen and Whitney Houston to the sheer delight of the audience that swarmed the dance floor.

As for the fundraising auction, special guest auctioneer Martin Sheen joked that it would be easier for the guests to simply pile all their money on a table in the middle of the floor so the dancing could begin. Sheen, however, went to work and, accompanied by Victoria’s Secret model Selita Ebanks, auctioned off a number of prizes, from cars to sports packages to international wine and fashion excursions.

When it came time to eat, Canadian Mark McEwan showed off his celebrity chef stripes with a mouth-watering menu that included ahi tuna tartare, filet of beef, fall succotash and apple crostata with cinnamon ice cream – a delectable offering to top off an event for an extremely worthy cause.

“We believe children’s health plays an essential role in the community,” Kap Dilawri, co-founder of Dilawri Group of Companies, said, “and that an investment in health care is an investment in the future.”

-Mike Crisolago