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UNICEF Canada Gala Raises $120K for Child Refugees

To coincide with Universal Children’s Day, UNICEF Canada held a gala last November 20 to raise funds for a cause dear to organizer Bita Cattelan’s heart: child refugees.


Held at Montreal’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel, it was a successful soirée, raising $60,000 — an amount matched by the federal government under its program to provide aid to Syrians. The $120,000 total raised is enough to supply hundreds of children living in refugee camps with clothing, medical care, access to education and life-sustaining supplies.


Cattelan, a UNICEF Canada board member, and her husband Paolo hosted the event with the help of sponsors DAC Aviation International and the Torriani family, who own the Ritz. Among those present at the event — the first of what Cattelan hopes will be an annual fundraising event — were the head of UNICEF Canada, David Morley, chef Antonio Park, Sandra and Carlos Ferreira of Groupe Ferreira, entertainers Karine Vanasse, Anne-Marie Withenshaw and Ariane Moffatt, as well as UNICEF Canada ambassador, Miss Canada 2006 and former child recipient of UNICEF aid Solange Tuyishime.


The concert portion of the event was marked by world-class musicians with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, who performed Carnival of Venice and Andante Con Moto Tranquillo. UNICEF ambassador and composer Steve Barakatt performed The Lullaby (UNICEF Anthem) with the MSO musicians.


The event also allowed guests to experience the charity’s recent foray into virtual reality, UNICEF 360. On hand were several sets of virtual-reality viewers which, when paired with a mobile app, show 360-degree virtual reality videos of areas where UNICEF operates.


Cattelan was motivated to host — and personally co-sponsor — the gala after her own experience visiting the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan prior to becoming a UNICEF Canada board member. There, she met a woman who had escaped Syria with her young children.


Cattelan said the woman showed her cellphone photos, wanting her to know her children weren’t always “dusty” — that they had once had school uniforms and nice outfits to wear to birthday parties.


Cattelan knew that once she returned home, she had to do whatever she could to help refugee families. “These were women like me, who had a home and a life in Syria before they had to pick up and leave with two backpacks,” she said. “I couldn’t imagine myself in that position.”

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