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The 82nd St. Mary’s Ball, Montreal

While I relish a gathering for which its organizers have made efforts to break the fundraising mould, there’s something to be said for sticking with tradition. St. Mary’s Hospital does just that. Its St. Mary’s Ball recently celebrated its 82nd edition, a remarkable feat of fundraising and gala throwing for this country. It’s a ball with history and its place is firmly planted not just on the Montreal social calendar, but in the social fabric of the great city that plays host to it.

Funds from the event have always supported St. Mary’s Hospital, an independent teaching hospital now affiliated with McGill University. It was founded in 1924, with just 45 beds at Shaughnessy House (currently home to the Canadian Centre for Architecture). Less than a decade later, Sir William (Donald) Hingston, a distinguished surgeon, banker and one-time mayor of Montreal, set out to raise a million dollars. In spite of the Great Depression, he did it. The funds built the current 271-bed hospital in Côte-des-Neiges neighbourhood to serve Montreal’s Irish-Catholic community. In 1958, a very young, very Catholic and very Irish senator from Massachusetts named John F. Kennedy even attended the already well established ball with his sparkling wife, Jacqueline.

This latest ball, held on Nov. 1, was co-chaired by a philanthropically minded pair, made up of past St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation board chair and current executive member, attorney Anne-Marie Boucher and her husband, Mitch Garber, founder of BCF Business Law and chairman of Cirque du Soleil Entertainment Group. The duo steered a committee that helped gather some 700 guests, who flooded Windsor Station in black tie for a champagne reception, swish dinner and in true Montreal style, a dance party (to the tune of not just a big band and a DJ, but also Montreal soul singer Dominique Fils-Aimé). There was fashion element too, courtesy of French-born, now Montreal-based designer Sophie Theallet, who oversaw an installation of her gala-ready wares. By night’s end, $1,012,340 net, was raised, money that will support what the hospital refers to as “whole-patient-centred care,” research and of course, education.

Lawyer and St. Mary’s Foundation Board member and chairman of the ball fundraising committee Stephen Kelly spoke during dinner of his own patient experience at St. Mary’s and extended special thanks to oncologist Dr. Joan Zidulka, also present. Others out included: Philippe de Gaspé Beaubien III and his wife, Nanette; the Hon. Martin Cauchon and his wife Jean; Guy Laframboise, president Subway Québec and chairman of the hospital’s foundation board; and Cynda Heward, who serves as president and CEO of the foundation.

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Nanette and Philippe de Gaspé Beaubien III.Julian Haber/The Globe and Mail

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Claire Kruyt and Deborah Trudeau.Julian Haber/The Globe and Mail

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Guy Laframboise and Terry G. Didus.Julian Haber/The Globe and Mail

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Mitch Garber and Anne-Marie Boucher with sons Dylan (white bow tie) and Ryan.Julian Haber/The Globe and Mail

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Lindsay Matthews, Dr. Joan Zidulka and Stephen Kelly.Julian Haber/The Globe and Mail

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Bridget Fetterly and Paolo Bassi.Julian Haber/The Globe and Mail

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