With new galas and benefits being hosted in the city each year, securing sponsors and selling raffle tickets is a challenge in Toronto, even for established events like the Dragon Ball. “Fund-raising is very competitive. It’s a tough business, and getting sponsors is always a key challenge,” reports Henry Chiu, director of development and communications at the Yee Hong Community Wellness Foundation.
However, despite that challenge, Chiu and his team surpassed their goal and secured 25 sponsors for the 19th annual charity gala, held Saturday at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. “A lot of our sponsors have been with us for a long time, so they see the value in being associated with an organization like ours,” Chiu said. Ellen's Food Group Inc., Rogers, Lexus, BMO Financial Group, and HSBC were just some of the sponsors involved with the event this year. “We have a series of PR events and advertising throughout the Dragon Ball time period,” Chiu said, explaining that sponsors receive a lot of media exposure from the time the event is announced in November until the ball is held in February.
The foundation's organizing committee created this year's event, a celebration of the Chinese New Year, around a “Discover China” theme, with one of the highlights being the array of food served to the 1,200 guests throughout the evening. Six Asian restaurants from across the city catered the event along with the MTCC. “Quite a few of them have been with us for many, many years,” Chiu said of the catering team.
The opening reception included six food stations with more than 15,000 pieces of hors d’oeuvres, including sushi, Peking duck, suckling pig, and fresh oysters and clams. Dinner began with an appetizer of winter greens with gravlax honey balsamic vinaigrette, followed by pumpkin soup with chicken and abalone. The main course featured grilled filet mignon in Madeira sauce with a side dish of winter vegetables. Dufflet Pastries provided a dessert of chocolate hazelnut cake with berries and coulis. A midnight buffet featured sweet dumplings, an assortment of fresh fruits, and pastries.
Entertainment included performances by the Lester McLean Trio with featured guest and Juno award winner Michael Occhipinti, dance band Grooveyard, and actor and singer Cynthia Dale. The Chinese Dance Workshop folk dance group performed traditional dances, and the Sunny Tang Martial Arts Centre performed a colourful dragon dance.
ADMG Productions provided coverage of the entertainment on large screens placed adjacent to the main stage area and additional screens at the end of the large dining space. Dignitaries in attendance included Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care George Smitherman, Ontario Minister of Energy Gerry Phillips, and federal NDP leader Jack Layton. Radio personality Erin Davis hosted the event.