Danny Hooper Productions

Edmonton Charity Auction Needs Just Seconds To Raise $350,000

The fastest $350,000 ever raised at an Edmonton charity auction happened Saturday night at Sorrentino’s Garlic Stomp at the Shaw Conference Centre.

Time needed: 60 seconds. Donors: 35 gala guests who each raised their hands when asked to donate $10,000.

“I’m still numb from the experience,” said event organizer Stella Rago. The restaurateur, who owns the Sorrentino’s chain with husband Carmelo, added: “We live in a very generous community. When people heard what was needed, getting the job done just made sense.”

It was Janet Riopel, Compassion House Foundation president, who told the sellout crowd of 600 people, each of whom had paid $300 to attend, that $500,000 was needed to complete the extension of the home-away-from-home for out-of-town women being treated for breast cancer. “We are expanding rooms from six to fourteen,” she said. “Many of the women we help are in the fight of their lives. They bond with one another. There are tears. But there is also laughter.”

What happened next was a golden moment in the career of radio host, MC and auctioneer Danny Hooper. “Let’s raise $250,000 in one minute,” he said. “We need 25 people to put up their hands and donate $10,000 each.” When 35 people raised their hands, it might have taken 90 seconds for him to have run around the room counting.

Adding to the funds with auction bids were heart surgeon Dr. Dennis Modry and Bruno Mastroprimiano, who each paid $22,000 to drive a 650-horsepower Ferrari for five days while leading the good life in Italy. Bill and Grace Knight of B&B Demolition paid $22,000 to name an entrance to Compassion House. Auto dealer Jim Jiwani spent $10,000 on a dinner for 50 and Jim Brown, president of Sherrick Management Ltd., paid $9,000 for a cooking class for 20 led by iconic Italian chef Carlo Zarri. “We were comfortably over the $500,000 needed,” said Rago.

Total Oiler Confidence

Craig MacTavish, the Edmonton Oilers’ new general manager, showed complete confidence in his team on the weekend when $1,500 was bid at a charity auction for VIP seats for Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks. “If we lose, I’ll refund the money,” said MacTavish, to much applause. MacTavish, honorary chair of the Pilgrims Hospice Society’s Walk in My Shoes dinner and auction, said it was Father Mike McCaffrey who suggested he become involved. “Death is not an easy topic to talk about and most of us avoid it when we can,” he said. “Yet it is truly part of life and something that must be faced, whether it is our own or the deaths of our loved ones.” Richard Wong, Pilgrims Hospice Society board chair, said the hospice is the only free-standing facility of its kind in the city and helps free up acute-care wards. “Patients enjoy the homelike atmosphere before leaving this world,” he said. “Our vision is to move from a day respite facility to a residential hospice over the next three years.”

Auction highlights: A cooking demonstration, tablescaping lessons and a meal for eight with fine wine donated by Marianne Brown of The Butler Did It, sold for $5,250. A pig-and-bison Polynesian barbecue with live entertainment for 50 people, donated by Nova Builders, was sold twice for $7,500.

The event raised more than $100,000, excluding a $75,000 cheque presented by Culture Minister Heather Klimchuck on behalf of the Alberta government.

By Nick Lees, Edmonton Journal April 21, 2013