charity

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I was a street canvasser for the Red Cross, and here’s why I quit

A street canvasser (not the author of this post) plies the trade on Queen Street. (Image: NationalRecruiterPO/YouTube)

A street canvasser (not the author of this post) plies the trade on Queen Street. (Image: NationalRecruiterPO/YouTube)

“Sir, you brought me a drink! That’s so kind. What do you know about the Red Cross?” It was my second day pounding pavement for a fundraising company contracted by the Red Cross, and I’d waylaid a businessman who was carrying two fountain sodas. “Oh, you’re thirsty? Here you go!” He pushed one of the drinks into my hands before chortling and walking away. I gaped after him, speechless—the one thing that donor recruiters like me are never supposed to be. If no pedestrian was holding a drink, I’d look for someone wearing red, and declare that their scarlet-striped tie meant they were fated to chat with me about the Red Cross. Or I’d tell a texter not to worry, that I’d gotten his message and was ready to talk about donations. Stopping people (the recruiter slang for it was “street,” as in “Add more energy to your street”) is the first step and conversation the second in a face-to-face fundraiser’s snag-a-donor plan, and I learned quickly that “A moment for the Red Cross, ma’am?” is a terrible pick-up line. If nobody will talk to you, nobody will donate. I signed my first donor, a middle-aged woman at Bloor and Spadina on her way to an appointment, after fawning over her red umbrella and before I’d finished even half my speech.

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The Informer

People

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Charity runs amok in new “random act of kindness” video

Ripped from the Possibly Well Intentioned But Oh My Gaaaaaaaaawwwwwwd files, three Toronto men have created a fun twist on the popular “Neknominate” viral meme game by performing a random act of kindness (it’s called RAKnominate…like, where RAK equals “Random Act of Kindness”). Hoping that the transparency of their good intentions and the purity of their souls might inspire others, three dudes—Andrew Gronross, John Pitman and Andrew Mason—took it upon themselves to treat a Toronto homeless man named Jeff to a proper day on the town.

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The Informer

Events

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Party Pics: Nicole Scherzinger shakes her booty and David Blaine mystifies at Bliss Ball 2013

Bliss Ball 2013

Simon Cowell protégés were everywhere at the Dilawri Foundation’s second annual Bliss Ball in support of SickKids Hospital. Katharine McPheeCarly Rose Sonenclar and X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger performed; X Factor host Mario Lopez emceed; and the event had the slick production values of one of Cowell’s high stakes talent shows. Guests pulling up to the Sunnybrook Estates were greeted by a gospel choir and, as they sat down to eat Mark McEwan’s food, David Blaine circulated to perform table-side tricks. After dinner, Lopez (who seemingly hasn’t aged since his days as A.C. Slater) transitioned to the live auction, which started off slow but became more big-hearted—and open walleted—after a few more glasses of wine. The biggest surprise: guest speaker Chris Noth spontaneously offered up a weekend stay at his own pad in New York. Noth threw in a night on the town with him, Blaine, Lopez and and his Good Wife cast members, intoning in a baritone worthy of Mr. Big, “You don’t have to bring your husbands, ladies.”

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The Informer

Events

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Five things to do in Toronto on the weekend of May 24-26

Rolling Stone Logo

In this edition of The Weekender, Doors Open Toronto, the Rolling Stones play the ACC and three more things to do in Toronto.

ARCHITECTURE
Doors Open Toronto (FREE!)

Architectural voyeurs get a once-a-year chance to peek inside more than 150 of the city’s most storied, striking and sacred buildings. This year’s lineup includes perennial favourites like Commerce Court North and the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant, plus a special focus on renos, revivals and retrofits, like the former Maple Leaf Gardens conversion and the Don Jail-Bridgepoint Health mash-up. May 25-26. Various locations, toronto.ca/doorsopen/2013

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The Informer

Columns

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Dear Urban Diplomat: I found $100 in the back of a cab. What should I do with it?

Dear Urban Diplomat: Taxi Cab Confessor

(Photo Courtesy of Terrance Lam)

Dear Urban Diplomat,
I got into a cab a few days ago outside First Canadian Place and found a $100 bill on the floor. I quickly stuffed it into my pocket, but I’ve been feeling guilty ever since. I’m a manager at PwC, and I definitely don’t need the money as much as my cabbie probably does. I ended up spending it on overpriced martinis that night, making me an even bigger heel. What would you have done?
—Taxi Cab Confessor, Harbourfront

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The Goods

Shopping

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The Find: a classy moustache grooming kit to ensure a dapper Movember

All that lip fuzz sprouting in honour of Movember is now six days old, which means it’s likely long enough to look a little scraggly. While growing a ’stache for charity is a cool thing to do, sporting unkempt and unbecoming facial hair is decidedly not. Luckily, we have a solution: this complete grooming kit from Stern Bremen. It contains sharp scissors for trimming (be sure to keep your moustache level with your top lip line or just above it); a brush and comb for untangling and taming; and moustache wax to cultivate that sleek, shapely look. The only thing left to do is to decide whether to go for a chevron, a toothbrush or a fu manchu. $75 (US). Click to buy »

The Dish

Drinks

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The only bottle of Glenfiddich Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve scotch in Canada is sold for $52,000

A couple from Etobicoke dropped 52 grand on a single bottle of very rare scotch at the Vintages auction at Trump International Hotel and Tower Toronto on Friday night. The couple—Dave and Laurie (they declined to give their last name)—purchased the bottle of Glenfiddich Janet Sheed Roberts Reserve, a 55-year-old single malt with a run of only 11 worldwide, in support of Wounded Warriors, a not-for-profit organization that assists wounded Canadian soldiers and their families. The entire Janet Sheed Roberts line is being auctioned for charity, and to date it has raised $393,839.25, including a $94,000 sale last March in New York and a £46,850 return in Edinburgh last year. Of course, in the world of charity booze auctions those figures are relative peanuts: the Cire Perdue, a 64-year-old Macallan single malt in an ornate Lalique crystal decanter, set the world record in 2010 for a Scotch sold at auction by netting a gaudy $460,000.

The Informer

Features

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Camera: Rob Ford cavorts with the city’s moneyed arts patrons at the Mayor’s Ball for the Arts

Camera: Rob Ford, Culture Vulture

Metro Toronto Convention Centre, October 15. The Mayor’s Ball for the Arts, an annual black-tie fundraiser founded by Mel Lastman in 1998, had been on hiatus since 2002, until His Worship Rob Ford, of all mayors, revived it this year. Playing nice with the city’s moneyed arts patrons was a savvy pre-election move. But Ford’s handlers couldn’t keep a plebeian note out of the proceedings. Among the silent auction items was one dubbed the McMayor, which promised one Big Mac combo per month for a year. Apparently, Ford’s charm offensive worked: the burger deal was snapped up for $80, a chance to host the mayor for dinner sold for $6,000, and a 20-person cruise featuring the big fella went for $9,000. By night’s end, the event had hauled in $1 million—a cause for celebration among the arts community, not to mention an early and subtle shot across the bow to anyone considering a run for the top job in 2014.

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The Informer

Features

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Camera: rock stars vs. movie stars at Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice fundraiser

Camera: rock stars vs. movie stars at Paul Haggis’ Artists for Peace and Justice fundraiser

U of T President’s Lodge, September 8. Attendees shelled out $1,250 a head to hobnob with celebrities at the Artists for Peace and Justice fundraiser, the annual bash hosted by Oscar-winning screenwriter, lapsed Scientologist and Hollywood power player Paul Haggis. But the celebs themselves seemed most interested in headliners Arcade Fire, particularly when frontman Win Butler led his bandmates on an acoustic parade through the audience, pausing to climb up on a table covered in “Reserved for VIP” placards (take that, Establishment!). True Blood’s Alexander Skarsgård stopped talking Swedish to his comparably hunky brother and nodded to the beat, six-foot-five tennis stud Milos Raonic galomped to the front to get a better view, and Jude Law stripped down to a T-shirt and dance-clapped like a dad at a wedding. The moral of the story: in celebrity hierarchy, rock stars take top rung.

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People

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The List: 10 things Olympic kayaker Adam van Koeverden can’t live without

Adam van Koeverden Adam van Koeverden

1 | My Oakley shades
I have dozens of pairs. I know it’s excessive, but I need a different pair for everything I do—mountain biking, hiking, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, kayaking. In London, I’ll probably wear my Radarlocks. The lenses clip in and out, so I can quickly change my tint for sun or cloud.

Adam van Koeverden2 | My Turbo paddle
My oars are custom designed and handcrafted in Smiths Falls, Ontario, by Peter Patasi, a kayaker who represented Canada at the Montreal Olympics in 1976. He makes them with carbon graphite—the same material that’s used in Space Shuttles and Formula One race cars.

3 | My guitarlele
I like playing guitar, but I can’t justify lugging one around when I’m travelling. I got this six-string ukulele hybrid last year in Germany. It relaxes me, even though I’m not very good at it.

Adam van Koeverden4 | My trophy
The Bert Oldershaw trophy, named for one of my mentors, is presented to the winner of the K-1 1,000-metre Canadian kayak championship every year. After my 10th win, they made a replica of the real trophy and gave it to me for keeps.

5 | My favourite author
When Kurt Vonnegut died in 2007, I felt like I’d lost an uncle. If I ever get a tattoo, it’ll be my favourite quote from his essay collection A Man Without a Country: “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

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The Informer

Features

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A look back at the Brazilian Ball, the annual black-tie extravaganza that taught Toronto to party

During its heyday, the Brazilian Ball was where you’d find drunken CEOs and socialites in a conga line with nearly naked carnival dancers

The Last Hurrah

(Image: Courtesy of Brazilian Carnival Ball)

Toronto, unlike Rio or Montreal, never had a reputation as a party town. The late society figure Anna Maria de Souza worked harder than anyone else to change that. Her annual bash, the Brazilian Ball, was, at its peak, the biggest of the big-ticket charity events. Everyone who was anyone in the world of politics, business or media attended. The Braz, as it was known to regulars, was that rare combination: an obligatory social event that was also a blast.

De Souza threw her first carnival-themed party in 1966. Born in Brazil to a wealthy family that owned and operated a coffee plantation, she’d married John Marston, a Canadian importer of orange juice, and moved to Toronto in 1965. Although the city’s social circuit embraced her as a vivacious, exotic beauty, she grew homesick. Her solution: throw a dance in the basement of St. Ines Church at Dundas and Grace Street. The party, like its hostess, was a novelty in staid Toronto.

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The Informer

Politics

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Rob Ford turns down $5,000 (and Doug Ford follows suit)

Rob Ford continued his sometimes serious, sometimes ridiculous crusade against city spending this week by turning down an automatic raise in his salary. City councillors are getting a three per cent raise to keep salaries in line with the cost-of-living index, but the mayor rejected the opportunity to earn $172,803 instead of the $167,770 he currently takes home. (Of course, Ford and his brother inherited a rather successful printing company, so they don’t exactly need their civic salaries to get by). Not to be outdone, councillor and mayoral brother Doug Ford says he plans to reject the raise, too—even though he already donates the $99,620 he makes annually to charity. [Globe and Mail]

(Images: Rob Ford, Christopher Drost; Bills, Brian nairB and Lauren Siegert)

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Features

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Camera: South African golf superstar Ernie Els holds court at the Right to Play gala

Camera: South African golf superstar Ernie Els holds court at the Right to Play gala

July 24, Westin Harbour Castle. Organizers of the Right to Play gala achieved the near impossible: wrangling a slew of A-listers away from Muskoka, the Hamptons and/or Lake Como in mid-summer to boogie down in Toronto and raise money for athletics programs in the developing world. South African golf superstar Ernie Els attended, despite having won the British Open two days earlier in a breathtaking come-from-behind victory, after which he announced, half-jokingly, “I’m supposed to go to Canada, but I think I’m going to blow that thing off.” Els did more than make an appearance: he vogued for the press, indulged a gaggle of camera phone–clutching men and talked golf with RBC CEO Gord Nixon (with whom he shot a round at the Rosedale Golf Club the following day). He also found time to tend to matters of international relations. “I think Canada is a great place,” Els said to chuckles during his keynote address. “I’m really glad I came.”

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The Dish

People

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Who’s the most smoking hot chef in Toronto? Swallow wants to know 

Most of the time, Toronto’s chefs are hidden from view as they sweat over stovetops, but Swallow, along with food blogger Stella Yu and Not Your Average Party, wants foodies to check out the other kind of heat coming from the kitchen. The food blog is asking people to vote for Toronto’s hottest chef. The list has already been narrowed down to 10 beautiful contenders, and the second round of voting is now on. If you have any qualms about objectifying the culinary stars, don’t feel too badly: every vote generates $1 for charity, donated by participating restaurants. The website features a headshot of each short-listed chef, and includes the likes of Dave Junek of Salt Wine Bar and Amanda Ray of Biff’s. Though the pictures are a little light on the scars and tattoos usually associated with chefs, there are plenty of heroic attempts at smizing. The fairest of them all will be revealed on July 23 at The Drake’s 86’d night, hosted by Ivy Knight and “the very hot” Cory Vitiello of the Harbord Room. Check out the contenders [Swallow] »

The Informer

Features

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Camera: Jerry Seinfeld regales the city’s well-heeled at a fundraiser for Toronto East General Hospital

Camera: Jerry Loves 'Em, Leaves 'Em

April 12. The begowned and tuxedoed set could barely keep their composure in the presence of Jerry Seinfeld during Laughter Is the Best Medicine, a fundraiser for Toronto East General Hospital. His musings on energy drinks, cellphone etiquette and the perils of attending, well, black-tie parties had guests wiping away tears. Post-event, VIPs retreated upstairs. “I wore my puffy shirt just for you!” cooed TEGH Foundation president Teresa Vasilopoulos, earning a laugh from the man himself. After an hour of glad-handing, Seinfeld made a break for his SUV—a minor faux pas, since he hadn’t said hi to Thomson sibs Taylor and Peter, the latter having recently donated $5 million to the hospital. Not the types to accept a snubbing, they hurried out to the curb and snapped a few keepsakes, and everyone left happy—not least the hospital, which raked in $3 million.

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