Reviews and recommendations are unbiased and products are independently selected. Postmedia may earn an affiliate commission from purchases made through links on this page.
POWER GIVING: A staple on Vancouver Magazine’s Power 50 list, Carol Lee made the prestigious list once again joining an impressive group of changemakers, business leaders, activists and politicians shaping the city and province. A power broker — described by the magazine as those who can still get people to take a phone call or meeting — Lee recently had 800 people answer the call and attend her fourth Chinatown Foundation Gala.
Held at the Hotel Vancouver Ballroom, the province’s who’s who packed the main ballroom for the annual fundraising gala dinner dedicated to revitalizing the once thriving Chinatown neighbourhood and helping its residents. Produced by Soha Lavin’s Countdown Events, the room was beautifully transformed into a golden party palace for the night of storytelling and giving. The starry event also paid tribute to Lee’s mentor, her father — renowned Vancouver developer, community builder and philanthropist Robert Lee — who is in poor health and unable to attend.
Almost single-handedly, Lee has been bringing the historic cultural district back from near extinction. In 2018, the UBC and Harvard grad convinced the city to reverse its policy and banned tall and wide buildings in Chinatown. Lee also purchased several buildings, including the May Wah hotel, for low-income residential redevelopment; opened the volunteer-driven Chinatown Vintage store and Chinatown barbecue Restaurant on East Pender Street and founded the soon-to-be-opened Chinatown Story Centre.
This year’s fundraising focus though would be 58 West Hastings, an integrated health facility with 230 social-housing units. With funding from B.C. Housing, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and all levels of government, Lee set her sights on the final $30-million needed to get the Downtown Eastside project started. Lee signed up equally influential folks Phil Lind of Rogers Communications, Canadian businessman Jake Kerr and former UBC president Martha Piper to lead the charge.
More than ready to support the cause, attendees showed their love for Chinatown and the Lee Family. Four $1 million gifts led the way; from Ben Yeung and the Peterson Group; Michael Audain of Polygon; Amin Lalji’s Larco Investments, and Lee family matriarch Lily Lee. Others would quickly follow suit and before the memorable evening concluded, gala MC Gloria Macarenko and party chairs Sam Feldman and Darlene Poole announced more than $5.5 million was raised — making the event the biggest B.C. fundraiser to date.
Event emcee Gloria Macarenko and gala co-chair Sam Feldman saw an impressive $5.5 million raised at the fourth Chinatown Foundation Gala dinner. Photo: Fred Lee.
FAR SIGHTED: After learning her five-year-old son Gavin was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease and that there was little that could be done, Burlington, Ont., mom Ann Morrison made it her life’s work to raise awareness and fundraise for vision research. Enlisting her comic friend Meg Soper they hosted their first Comic Vision benefit in 1999 to raise money for Foundation Fighting Blindness in hopes of finding a cure for Retinitis Pigmentosa. The inaugural comedy night with family and friends raised $7,500.
Morrison took the idea on the road, and eventually Comic Vision became a national initiative. Travelling coast to coast with the country’s funniest people, Morrison has invited thousands to share the laughter and see the hope. Since its humble beginnings, more than $9 million has been raised to help the 1.5 million Canadians who are blind or partially sighted and the more than 6.5 million Canadians who have an eye disease that puts them at risk of vision loss.
Morrison has traversed the country and attended every single event, spreading the word and championing sight saving research. She recently landed in Vancouver for her 100th Comic Vision. Once again supporters packed the Imperial Lounge for the night of comedy and philanthropy.
Before funnymen Charlie Demers and Graham Clark took to the stage, yours truly served as master of ceremonies and called the auction of one-of-a-kind items and experiences. A Lazy Gourmet catered dinner fetched the night’s top bid, sold twice. The prized cocktail party would contribute to a $100,000 haul for the recently renamed charity Fighting Blindness Canada.
The Webster Awards
FIRSTS FOR WEBSTERS: Fronted by Bridgitte Anderson and Ernest Yee, more than 800 guests packed the Hotel Vancouver for the 33rd annual Jack Webster Awards, B.C. journalism’s biggest night. Celebrating the industry’s best and brightest across all platforms, awards were handed out in 12 categories. For the first time in the award’s history, all of B.C.’s major broadcasters shared the stage and hosted the event. Instead of battling for stories, scoops and audience share, they came together to celebrate their craft at a time when the free press and the pursuit of truth is under attack.
Like the hosting duties, trophies were shared equally among the province’s top broadcasters and newspapers. Global B.C. swept the two television categories for their reporting of the 2018 wildfires and casino money laundering. CBC Radio earned three Websters for their work in radio, podcasts and the web. The Globe and Mail tied CBC with the most hardware for the evening. Stories of exploited immigrant workers, municipal campaign finances and blockade of a natural gas pipeline earned the newspaper top marks from judges.
Two contributors for Postmedia — publishers of The Vancouver Sun and Province newspapers — were also celebrated. Vancouver Sun columnist Daphne Bramham was named Commentator of the Year. Bramham was cited for her professionalism, intelligent work and impactful commentary. Former Province deputy editor-in chief Fabian Dawson was presented the Bruce Hutchison Lifetime Achievement Award. A journalism career that spans over four decades, Dawson was lauded for his breadth of work, and his efforts to cut a path for those under-represented in the newsroom to pursue a career in journalism. Dawson was the first journalist of colour to receive ‘The Hutch’ in 28 years.