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Sports celebrities gala highlights power of sport and the human spirit

Fred Lee also puts the spotlight on Whistler's Cornucopia, the Chinatown Foundation gala, TWG and the Giving Hearts Awards

SPECIAL NIGHT: The Sports Celebrities Festival Gala presented by Wheaton Precious Metals was another inspired night celebrating the power of sport and the human spirit. More than 650 guests made the scene for the event’s 19th year. Gala creators Doug Holtby and Blair Shier once again chaired the interactive gala dinner and auction to help empower athletes with intellectual disabilities gain pride and acceptance. As usual, the night began with professional athletes from the Vancouver Canucks, Whitecaps and B.C. Lions donate their time to play table hockey and other interactive sports with Special Olympics athletes. Before the fundraising, guests heard from Special Olympics B.C. athlete Alexander Pang, the event’s keynote speaker and Sports Celebrities Festival spokesperson. Diagnosed with autism, Pang didn’t start speaking until the age of six and found it difficult to interact with others. Now 19, the young man credits Special Olympics for his breakthrough and the courage and confidence to overcome challenges in competition and in life. His words unleashed a torrent of funds. Before the conclusion of the evening, $400,000 was raised for the Canucks for Kids Fund and Special Olympics B.C.

GIRLS NIGHT: True to its name, Whistler’s Cornucopia is an epicurean delight for the indulgent foodie and drink connoisseur.  Held just before the start of the ski and snowboarding season on Mount Olympics, the 21st staging included more than 100 events over 11 days — from seminars and gala tastings to dinners and educational workshops. The Fairmont Chateau Whistler played host to ELLEvate TogetHER, one of the most-anticipated events during the epicurean extravaganza. It was led by Isabel Chung, Fairmont Hotel’s only female executive chef of some 75 properties worldwide. The culinary talent invited Top Chef Canada All-Stars winner, Nicole Gomes, and Melissa Craig of Bearfoot Bistro for a deeply personal collaborative dinner paying homage to the people they love while raising funds for life saving cancer research. Chung lost her mom to cancer, Gomes lost her uncle and Craig’s stepdaughter Louise, who was on hand for the six-course feast, is currently battling the disease. Fifty guests were fortunate enough to get a seat at the exquisite table that helped cook up more than $10,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society.

REVITALIZING CHINATOWN: In 2009, Carol Lee established the Vancouver Chinatown Foundation to honour a culture and community established more than 100 years ago and to build a stronger, more resilient, and inclusive community by promoting the wellbeing of those in need, while also preserving the iconic neighbourhood’s cultural heritage. Lee once again enlisted Carole Taylor and Leslie Diamond to chair the foundation’s second-annual Chinatown Foundation Gala. It's quickly becoming a leading date on the charitable circuit. More than 600 business and community leaders filed into the Hotel Vancouver ballroom to lend their support to the foundation’s revitalization effort, which includes the purchase of the storied May Wah Hotel, a 120-room SRO building. Following a royal repast, yours truly called the auction of one-of-a-kind items and experiences. A dinner for 20 at Lee’s soon-to-open Ho Ho Restaurant — her second restaurant venture — fetched $27,000 and sold twice. The pricey dinner and outright call for cash contributed to a $1-million night. Among the heavyweights lending their support: Robert H.N. Ho, Jacqui Cohen, Wallace Chung, Phil Lind, Ben Yeung, and Paul Lee.

HIGH TEA: TWG, purveyors of the world’s most exquisite teas and a leader in tea gastronomy, hosted a holiday heart warmer at its West Georgia boutique. Tea enthusiasts, influencers and media convened on a stormy night to discover the boutique’s new Christmas tea-infused menu. Guests gathered at the luxury tearoom to enjoy holiday delights paired with the world’s most exquisite teas. A lucky few ponied up to the tea bar — an impressive library that houses 500 types of tea — to sample its Gold Yin Zhen Tea, precious Yin Zhen white tea leaves plated with 24ct gold. It's one of the salon’s champagne of teas — a glimpse of the divine in a teacup. One hundred grams sells for $2,104. Located within Vancouver’s Rodeo Drive district, the store features an intimate tea salon, retail boutique and take-away patisserie counter featuring tea-infused sweets.

BIG HEARTS: On Nov. 15th, communities across the globe celebrated the spirit of giving by hosting events to recognize the efforts of donors, volunteers, foundations, leaders, corporations, and others engaged in philanthropy. The 20th anniversary of National Philanthropy Day in Vancouver culminated with the 11th annual Giving Hearts Awards, sponsored by Scotiabank.  Presented by the Vancouver chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, the noon-hour event attracted 900 philanthropic fans who gathered at the Vancouver Convention Centre to raise a glass to the more than 40 individuals and organizations making a positive impact in our communities. This year’s recipients feted at the sold-out luncheon luau included visionaries Joe and Rosalie Segal, and the Segal Family, environmental champion Ross Beaty, and arts philanthropist Martha Lou Henley.

Hear Fred Mondays 8:20am on CBC Radio’s The Early Edition AM690 and 88.1FM; Email:; Twitter: @FredAboutTown

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