Biblio Bash, April 20, Toronto
A record $1-million was raised last week in Toronto at the annual Biblio Bash, a gala dinner this year presented by Tricon Residential, which supports the Toronto Public Library Foundation. The Toronto Reference Library, the circa 1977 Raymond Moriyama-designed jewel in the city, was renamed the Biblio Hotel, awash in rosy pink light and a smattering of flora for the evening, all a nod to the lush and legendary Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. Cocktail hour took place on the second floor between the stacks (the reference library alone holds more that 10 million books). Later, the hotel’s famed chopped salad, usually served poolside, was the first course offered to the 450 guests who filled tables of 10 populating the reference library’s ground floor. Guests of honour this year were the 41 authors (among them Heidi Sopinka, Rollie Pemberton and Ann-Marie MacDonald) who dotted said tables thanks to Author Host Sponsor, the Gerald Sheff and Shanitha Kachan Charitable Foundation.
Funds from past Biblio Bashes have supported among other things neighbourhood renewal, such as the construction of new libraries and spaces for learning and the TPL’s Bookmobiles, which serve areas of the city not close to library branches. This year, the monies raised will support the Leading to Reading Program, a free literacy program which aids children and young people who struggle with reading by pairing them with volunteer tutors who work to improve their skills while making reading more exciting. A video which profiles some of the families involved in the program was shown, and shortly after Global News National anchor Farah Nasser and gala co-chair Victoria Webster were on stage to highlight that a $25,000 contribution would fund the program in one branch, for one year. Hands flew up and the room raised $275,000 in immediate donations, which will continue the operation and slowly expand the program across the TPL’s 100 branches.
Among the bookish types out supporting the young readers: Co-chair Claire MacNamara and her husband Tyler; financier Moez Kassam and his wife Marissa who served on the event committee; psychological-thriller author Jennifer Hillier, who was seated across from yours truly at dinner; author and former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Laurie White with her sister-in-law Tamara Bahry; architects Bruce Kuwabara and Alex Josephson; interior designers Jay Gibson and Tommy Smythe; arts supporting sisters Consuelo and Trinity Jackman; and Toronto Public Library’s City Librarian Vickery Bowles and TPL Foundation CEO, Will Scott.