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Hockey Legend, Dragon Walk Runway for Holt Renfrew's Wellspring Fundraiser

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There was a hockey legend, a doctor, a radio host, an insurance exec and five other models that walked the runway at high-end clothing retailer Holt Renfrew in Toronto for a fashion show in support of Wellspring Cancer Support Foundation.

Arlene Dickinson, CEO of Venture Communications and a venture capitalist on the TV series Dragon’s Den and The Big Decision, hosted.

The second annual Well Dressed For Spring —  created in collaboration with Holt Renfrew and Women in Capital Markets and drawing over 300 attendees — raised $200,000, according to Wellspring director Julie Cookson. 2012’s inaugural fashion show event netted more than $140,000 from ticket sales and sponsor donations.

“Wellspring provides non-medical support for people living with cancer — men, women, children — all ages —  and their caregivers and loved ones,” Wellspring CEO Christina Smith tells Samaritanmag. “We provide emotional and practical support like exercise, nutrition, expressive therapies, meditation, peer support, bereavement support — all the things that the traditional medicine does not provide.”

Well Dressed For Spring 2013 included a fashion show, a raffle prize giveaway and a private shopping experience, courtesy of Holt Renfrew, all included in the $200 ticket.

There are a full range of fundraising opportunities throughout the year for Wellspring, says Smith, which fit many budgets and interests. “A fashion show is a great way to bring awareness to the issue of people living with cancer. Some people like to participate in special events — some people like to just give directly. So we’d leave all doors open to accept the money in any way we can.

“It’s a perfect event because it marries the mission with fundraising because our celebrity models have all been personally touched by cancer,” Smith adds.

Dickinson is one of those people. “I’ve had many family members who had cancer and been involved in dealing with cancer and passed away from cancer,” Dickinson tells Samaritanmag. “My father died from cancer. There’s a personal story for me here. When they asked me, I couldn’t say no.”

Dickinson is not the only one who had been touched by the disease. All nine models ‘— prominent figures in the finance, sports, media and non-profit industries have in some way been affected by cancer —  either personally battling the disease or watching a family member go through it. For example, Toronto Maple Leaf Paul Henderson, part of the historical 1972 Summit Series,  was diagnosed with lymphocytic lymphoma chronic leukemia in 2009 and CBC Radio’s Fresh Air host Mary Ito lost her sister Kyoko Laberge to cancer.

Other runway participants were Laura Gainey, senior vice president, RBC Insurance; Martha Fell, CEO, Women in Capital Markets; Lynda Morrison, past CEO, Wellspring; Diane Osak, associate director, Quality & Risk Management, Ernst & Young; Sandie Rinaldo, anchor, CTV National News; Dr. Marla Shapiro, medical contributor to CTV’s Canada AM, consultant for CTV News and CTV News Channel and host of Dr. Marla and Friends; and Mark Standish, president and co-CEO, RBC Capital Markets and co-head, Investor and Treasury Services.

All aspects of Well Dressed For Spring, including food, music and staff were taken care of by sponsors BMO Financial Group, Royal Bank of Canada, Scotiabank, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, PwC, McMillan LLP, Aird & Berlis LLP and ELLE Canada Magazine, in addition to Holt’s and Women In Capital Markets.

“We’ve got sound systems donated, the technical expertise, the staff at Holt’s are volunteering their time to support the fashion show and then the sponsorships cover the catering,” says Smith. “All the clothing is Holt’s.”

“It’s important for us to be present in the community and actively engage with community groups,” Kimberly Grabel, Holt Renfrew’s senior vice-president of marketing and customer experience, explains to Samaritanmag. “So, whenever charities come to us, we’re always looking for ways to partner and help them. This is an opportunity where Wellspring came to us and had a concept to do a fashion show with some of their supporters.”

Women in Capital Markets — a non-profit organization, comprised of 700-plus members, that promotes the entry, advancement, and development of women in the capital markets industry — provided the much-needed volunteers. “We had many women from the financial industry that sit on our board and volunteer on our committees,” says Smith. “Many of them are here this evening and their organization approached us.”

For Dickinson, an event like Well Dressed For Spring is an example of putting her mouth where her money is — showing up and participating as the host/emcee.

“Giving back to the community was something that really was taught to me at a very young age,” she says.  “But really figuring out how to do it in a way that’s meaningful, and not just about money but about giving time, and energy, and commitment, is something that I probably developed later in life as I started to understand that when I have the profile I have, you need to put it to good work. I mean, what’s the point of it if it’s not about doing good? So, I had this great opportunity because of the show to do things that I think are meaningful.”

Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.