Suite on the Sixth, a gifting lounge formerly known as Tastemakers held each year during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) — attracting such actors as Brad Pitt, Salma Hayek, Liam Hemsworth, Sigourney Weaver, Woody Harrelson, Samuel L. Jackson, Tom Hardy and Kate Winslet — has donated more than $75,000 to SickKids Foundation over the past 14 years, but for this year’s rendition co-creator Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski has selected another charity to reap the benefits, Leave Out Violence (LOVE).
The national organization was founded in 1993 in Montreal by Twinkle Rudberg whose husband Daniel was killed by a 14-year-old gang member. During his trial, she started viewing the teen as a victim of violence too and created LOVE to help reduce violence in the lives of youth.
“I decided to work with LOVE this year because I received a call a couple months ago from a board member telling me about the organization and a crowdfunding campaign to raise $90,000,” Goldblatt-Sadowski tells Samaritanmag. “I thought if I can help bring awareness to their organization and also make a dent in their campaign goal, it would be really meaningful. The work they are doing is really fantastic and incredibly important right now.
“I continue to support Sick Kids privately and have made a donation equaling last year's amount to them this week,” she adds. “Giving back is incredibly important to me.”
The founder and president of PR firm rock-it promotions — which occupies an office on the sixth floor of a downtown building, hence the new name Suite on the Sixth — will donate $50 (up to $10,000) for each signature it collects from visiting actors and other notable people on the large display board set up in the lounge. LOVE will auction off the board at a later date to raise additional funds.
In a press statement issued by rock-it, LOVE chair of the board Harriet Velazquez said the organization is thrilled to be a part of the lounge. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to share the work we do within the community. With the difficult times we are experiencing with violence in our city, it is heartening to see the support and dedication to helping break the cycle of violence for youth. We are so grateful to receive this funding to provide more youth programs.”
This year’s Suite on the Sixth, held Sept. 5 to 8, features the brands BOGS, Casper, L’Oréal Paris, Tonic Blooms, FIJI Water, Hudson’s Bay, SimplyProtein, and addidas — all PR accounts of rock-it promotions — along with Alchemy Candle Co., Crump’s Naturals, Lindt, Penguin Random House Canada, The Perth Soap Co., Rosen’s Cinnamon Buns, and more. Many have their own charity initiatives and CSR mandates.
In an interview at the rock-it offices, Goldblatt-Sadowski tells Samaritanmag that they don’t go overboard pushing the charity angle to those who drop by for the swag.
“We do it a little bit, so that people know — we do put it in the press release that we do give back.
“I do a lot of charitable giving back throughout the year,” she says. “I think that it’s irresponsible as a business owner and now as a mother for me not to do that. How can I possibly teach my children to be good human beings and not give back, especially from growing a successful company? I just don’t necessarily talk about it.”
It’s something she learned from her parents, although she struggles to pinpoint her first memory of giving back. “My parents just did. It was just something you did. If somebody was less fortunate and you had a loaf of bread, you gave them half; it’s just the way I was raised. And, to this day, that’s how I feel.
“There are people in need, here and now. We know that there’s organizations that are going to get those funds to people that day and I try and do stuff like that. I think that it comes from part of your upbringing, and if it’s not coming from your upbringing, then I hope that with a lot of young women that work for us, that I can inspire them as a mentor.
“If they haven’t been given those lessons for whatever reason — maybe their families weren’t able to, or maybe they were on the other side of it — I want to show them that you don’t need to be rich to give back.”
With an office full of women, for many years Rethink Breast Cancer — whose mission is “to empower young people worldwide who are concerned about and affected by breast cancer" — was one of rock-it's clients, handling press campaigns for its annual Booby Ball, breast cancer awareness month, and its cheeky Give A Care product line.
Three years ago, rock-it started a culture committee at the office with a strong focus on what makes employees really happy. Goldblatt-Sadowski is not in charge of that — “because I don’t know if the boss ever gets the real answer,” she admits — instead, different account managers gather the feedback from the staff about what’s important to them. There are four pillars, one is rock-it gives back. “One of the things was to do something together that gave back to the community,” she says.
“The very first thing we did with RockitRX was that I gave everybody a $5 gift card for McDonald’s and Tim Hortons, and places around the area, and I challenged each of them to walk up to a person that they didn’t know in the street, and say, ‘I’m from a care agency in rock-it. My boss has challenged me to make your day a little brighter. This is for you,’ for no other reason, and ‘Can I take a selfie with you?’
“They had such nice stories of people that were like, ‘Oh my God. I was having the worst day and this means so much.’ We saw how such a small little gesture, even a $5 card, made.” The hashtag is RockitRx.
Her staff also decided to ride the “big bike” — a specially designed 30-seat bike — for the Heart and Stroke, an organization that has invested $1.52 billion towards medical research and breakthroughs since 1952. “We chose the big bike because it was 1) interactive and 2) my assistant suffered from a heart attack a few years back, so we wanted to raise money for Heart and Stroke,” she explains.
“We ended up hitting just over $10,000. When we met with them, they were so grateful and showed us some of the other companies that were ahead of us and we were going to end up in top five across the GTA [Greater Toronto Area] for fundraising, ahead of some really big companies. So we were really proud of ourselves.”
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