CANFAR’s Bloor Street Entertains-Tues.,Nov.25th,2014@Bloor St.+The R.O.M.

By Gillian Moody, Photography by John Ortner

Every year, on the eve of World AIDS Day, Toronto experiences the coming together of exquisite culinary masters, lavish retailers, and elegant florists who join together for a vital cause: CANFAR’s Bloor Street Entertains.
Thanks to Laura Patton of Weber Shandwick, on November 25th, photographer John C. and I got to mix and mingle with Canada’s trendsetters and powerhouses, including CANFAR and Bloor Street Entertains co-chairs, Brian Porter of Scotiabank and Megan Porter. We were able to peruse your favourite boutiques and galleries in the Bloor-Yorkville corridors. Delightfully, the venues were transformed into elegant dining spaces, complete with stunning, one-of-a-kind floral arrangements and signature culinary art dishes.
Holt Renfrew
Thanks to public relations manager Blair Borins, we began at Holt Renfrew, a store recognized worldwide for an inspired shopping experience and for having a strong commitment to charitable initiatives.
After decades of foreign ownership, Holt Renfrew was bought in 1986 by Canadians Weston Galen and the Honourable Hilary M. Weston. Under the Weston ownership, Holt Renfrew has become Canada’s destination for luxury retail. Celebrating 177 years of Canadian retail expertise, the store recently launched Holt Renfrew Men: A New Tradition for the Modern Man that includes an array of services such as Bespoke Tailoring.
2014 has seen the store’s charitable efforts primarily focus on arts and culture. For Bloor Street Entertains, in the private Holt’s Café, aptly decorated in a designer-donated teal and silver winter wonderland, I spoke with well-known socialite and fundraising guru Catherine Nugent.
On Fundraising In Canada
Ms Nugent once told Canadian Business magazine that after she moved to Canada from Brazil, “fundraising was a wonderful way to get into a network of people. It is the whole theatre of fundraising that is fun, not just another chore to go to another dinner.
The people who work the hardest are the people you don’t hear about. People weren’t going to come to me, I had to go to them. If you’ve been privileged, it is your responsibility, your duty, to give back.
I think [fundraising] is very hard for the business community because they’re hit on a lot for money. And when people know a company is generous, they tend to go after it all the time. Business could be more generous if some of the laws were changed from the point of view of tax benefits, like the U.S., so that people would be encouraged to give more.
Canadians are very generous. The Americans are generous, too, but the Canadians are really generous. The Europeans, not so much. We need to access some of the newer groups that are coming into Canada and get them involved in community action. You have to keep your finger on as many pulses as you can.”
On Healthcare Recipients
“I’ve been humbled and impressed by how patients handle their lives. With such difficulty in their health, they are amazingly caring human beings. They are fighters–they want to make themselves better, they want to help themselves, to look after themselves.”
Andrew and Valerie Pringle
Next, I spoke with former CANFAR Chairs Andrew and Valerie Pringle. A decades-long broadcaster and Order Of Canada recipient, Ms Pringle, who is also on the boards of Trans Canada Trail organizations, is married to Andrew Pringle, previous chairman of Upper Canada College’s Board of Governors, and former chief of staff to then Ontario Conservative Party leader and new mayor of Toronto John Tory. Mr. Pringle remains an official spokesperson for the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research.
AIDS Versus Ebola
Consistently, both the Pringles and Ms Nugent spoke about the similarities between AIDS and the more recent wide-spreading infectious disease Ebola, as well as the public reactions to both.
According to an Associated Press/Canadian Press report, both infectious diseases emerged from Africa and erupted into an international health crisis, but Ebola is not expected to ever be in the same league as AIDS in terms of infections and deaths. This year’s Ebola outbreak has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa. AIDS kills more than a million per year on the continent.
Both diseases are caused by viruses and spread through contact with bodily fluids, not the air, but health experts say the epidemics are more different than they are similar.
Ebola can be more infectious than HIV. A patient in the throes of Ebola can have 10 billion viral particles in a fifth of a teaspoon of blood, far more than the 50,000 to 100,000 particles seen in an untreated patient with the AIDS virus. Still, Ebola was actually discovered before HIV so, scientists had a running start against the disease while the beginning of the AIDS epidemic was more challenging as health officials were facing a mysterious illness with no known cause. There are reasons to be more optimistic about Ebola than about HIV, the virus that causes AIDS as a test for the virus wasn’t available until 1985. There’s still no vaccine, but medications have allowed those infected to live longer and healthier lives.
Public Reactions
In those first few years, there was a widespread notion that the AIDS epidemic was only happening in certain places and only to certain people. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s when public anxiety and fear about the disease in North America really began to reach the levels seen today with Ebola. Public anxiety about Ebola occurred with the first few cases that were diagnosed in the U.S. Shortly afterwards, screening of travellers from West Africa began at five U.S. airports despite the World Health Organization’s condemnation of such an unnecessary practice.
The international response also has been accelerated with Ebola compared to that of AIDS. The United Nation’s UNAIDS program didn’t begin until 1995 and some experts didn’t feel real momentum till an international campaign that occurred in 2000. The Ebola response also has been faulted as dangerously slow, but it’s been much faster than what happened with AIDS.
The scariest thing about the Ebola virus is how quickly and dramatically it kills. Initial infection to ghastly death is only a matter of weeks. An HIV-infected person may not have symptoms for years. Also, a decade may pass before an untreated AIDS victim dies.
Ebola’s speed is more terrifying. But it also allows cases to be identified and isolated and contacts to be tracked down and monitored before they can continue to spread the disease.
Pink Tartan
Next for Bloor Street Entertains, we went to Pink Tartan.
Thanks very much to Buyer and Executive Assistant Sarah Marantz, we enjoyed visiting sportswear designer Kimberley Newport-Mimran’s Pink Tartan flagship store for the womenswear brand that Ms Newport-Mimran founded in 2002. Pink Tartan has since developed into a global label known for understated luxury and sophisticated sportswear.
The flagship store in Toronto’s Yorkville, a lifestyle concept shop, is housed in 77 Yorkville Avenue, the historic Georgian, red brick cornerstone, built in 1837, that reflects the homes Ms Newport-Mimran shares in Toronto, New York and Palm Beach with her husband, fashion designer Joe Mimran, and daughter Jacqueline.
For Bloor Street Entertains
Needless to say, Pink Tartan was finished in a designer-donated, intimate-yet-festive Christmas-y setting. The rather soft lighting still enabled us to view a huge rectangular table, big enough for about thirty people, the top festooned with large and shiny tree ornaments mixed in amongst accompanying large, dark green and brown plant leaves. Notable guests included top-hatted Chris Tyrell and Jim Searle of Hoax Couture bridal design. According to Ms Newport-Mimran, the fashion community has been so affected by the AIDS epidemic that CANFAR became her favourite annual fundraising activity.
The After-Party
Back at the ROM, we partook in the Bloor Street Entertains After-Party. Established in 1912, the Royal Ontario Museum strategically focuses on:
Ancient Cultures
Contemporary Culture
Earth and Space
Fossils and Evolution
Textiles and Fashions
World Art and Culture
As part of their one-hundredth birthday celebrations, the museum celebrated a recent, new logo as a “portal” symbolizing access, connection and dynamism, one that reflects the organization’s ongoing efforts to both keep the doors open and to open the doors.
During the after-party, I tried on real diamonds being auctioned off in the silent auction, indulged in hors d’oeuvres, danced to the DJ music, and spoke to key CANFAR players such as The Right Honourable Dr. Kellie Leitch. Additional notable guests were fashion designer David Dixon, business women and fundraisers Brittney and her beautiful mom Donna Kuczynski and Olympic athlete Mark Tewkesbury.
To date, Bloor Street Entertains has raised more than eighteen million dollars for lifesaving HIV and AIDS research.
See you next year!