Style Observer

An Evening of Excellence

Sunday, April 14, 2019

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The UWI Benefit Gala held Saturday, April 6 at the Ritz Carlton, Toronto honoured outstanding Caribbean and Canadian personalities. SO shares exclusive coverage...

 

The ballroom of The Ritz Carlton, Toronto was at capacity. Truth be told, many were left disappointed as tables for the 10-year celebration, The University of the West Indies Toronto Benefit Gala 2019, were snapped up within weeks of the date being announced. The adage “once you go, you know” is applicable to the UWI Toronto Chapter spearheaded by the late Raymond Chang and taken to a whole different level by his wife Donette Chin Loy-Chang, daughter Brigette Chang-Addoriso and son Andrew Chang.

Once you go, you simply must return! The coveted event that has allowed some 500 regional students access to tertiary education has raised close to C$2 million thanks to the decade-old lead sponsor Scotiabank, plus many corporate companies and philanthropists.

Chin Loy-Chang has an uncanny knack for bringing like minds to the table. Hers is a table where all cultures meet and all are in support of one Caribbean famalay. The gala has, without the gauche fanfare so often associated with fund-raisers, attracted 76 outstanding leaders and seated 4,500 patrons. This year was no different. From Rock stars Gordon 'Butch' Stewart and Damian Marley to medical and legal luminaries Dr Juliet Daniel and Justice Gregory Regis to Dr Joy Spence, the first woman to hold the position of Master Blender, and community leader Dr Mohamad Fakih, whose focus is on advancing the global Middle Eastern food trend, plus, Deborah Cox whose career commenced as a background singer for Celine Dion and has since reached epic status.

Caribbean pride swelled like a pot of kidney beans left overnight to soak and ripe for the seasoned seduction of coconut milk, thyme and Scotch bonnet pepper. Members of the SwizzleStick Theatre stepped boldly through the reception area. Joy Lapps-Lewis squeezed every note out of the steel pan as the Saldenah Mas Band brought back memories of Savannah Grass.

UWI Toronto Benefit Gala Scholarship recipients Jermaine Nairne and Howard Brown made the ROI on education look as favourable as shares in Apple. “I am so overwhelmed to be given this prestigious award,” said Brown. “Starting university always seemed to be a far-fetched dream, but I had to step out in faith. It was always a challenge to cover my tuition and was no easy task to meet my general expenses. Thanks to the donors of my UWI Toronto Gala Scholarship I can complete my degree knowing that I will not have to worry about funding my final year... this scholarship is a life-changing opportunity.”

Education remains the key to success and there's nothing more inspirational than a room of successful, empowered people. Indeed, one could have heard a pin drop when, buoyed by an emphatic plea by Violet Lewis, wife of former heavyweight boxer champ Lennox Lewis, the bid for an autographed pair of gloves moved with alacrity to 10K. Financier Wes Hall's St Lucia property raised the temperature of the room with a closing bid of C$25K. In much demand, too, were Sandals properties in Jamaica, Grenada and Turks and Caicos with bids ranging from 8-to-10K.

The UWI gala affords the best networking opportunities and those in the know hardly missed a beat. It's also about the music. It's Las Vegas on steroids starring Kim Richardson, Sean Jones and Miles Raine. It's also about good food like the mains of sea bass and braised short rib and decent wine pours. The more, however, remains the ample servings of noblesse oblige sprinkled with Caribbean greats whose journey gives hope to the next generation. Just ask Caleb McLeod, son of Justice Donald McLeod, who listened keenly, smiled, applauded and shared with SO how proud and privileged he felt to be in the room.

Cheers to the next decade and beyond!


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