Michael Pihach is an award-winning journalist with a keen interest in digital storytelling. In addition to PAX, Michael has also written for CBC Life, Ryerson University Magazine, IN Magazine, and DailyXtra.ca. Michael joins PAX after years of working at popular Canadian television shows, such as Steven and Chris, The Goods and The Marilyn Denis Show.
“We’re all human. We have to help each other,” Mary Jean Tully, founder and CEO of Tully Luxury Travel, told PAX.
Tully and others from Canada’s travel industry joined activists, fashionistas and philanthropists in the fight against HIV/AIDS Wednesday night (Nov. 28) at Toronto’s Bloor Street Entertains, an annual dinner and gala in support of the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research (CANFAR).
The hot ticket event, now in its 22nd year, is one of Canada’s largest fundraisers in support of HIV/AIDS research, a cause Tully and her company actively supports.
"So many people, whether they be in travel, fashion or the arts, are effected by HIV/AIDS. It touches all of our lives on a daily basis,” Tully told PAX at the night’s afterparty at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. “We have to be forward-thinking with what’s going on and create awareness.”
Giving back to the community
The big night began in Toronto’s upscale Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood with artfully-crafted dinners at 18 different retail and event spaces, from the fashionable confines of Louis Vuitton, Coach and Holt Renfrew to the Gardiner Museum, to name a few.
The evening concluded with a glitzy afterparty at the Four Seasons, where guests placed bids on silent auction items in support of CANFAR, and, for $100 a ticket (three for $250!), tried their luck at winning the night’s grand raffle prize courtesy of Tully Luxury Travel – a once-in-a-lifetime voyage for two on any worldwide itinerary aboard Crystal Ocean Cruises.
“It’s important that we give back to the community, to all aspects of it,” said Tully, who curated a cruise package at last year’s Bloor Street Entertains and will continue to do so for the next three years.
Tully’s contribution this year was a 14-day Crystal cruise that comes with a penthouse suite with verandah, personal butler service and $1,000 shipboard credit.
The prize also included first class tickets provided by Delta Air Lines to a North American port city, a VIP meet and greet arranged by Crystal Cruises and complimentary hotel accommodations for one night prior to the cruise departure.
Valued at a whopping $49,500.00 Canadian dollars, the trip of a lifetime was awarded to a lucky attendee named Jan Courtin.
“Organizations like CANFAR bring the community together, they bring entertainment and tourism together,” said Armando Mendonca, president of AMPM, which represents the Vienna Tourist Board in Canada.
Mendonca helped coordinate gift bags and two luxury getaways for the night’s silent auction on behalf of the Vienna Tourist Board, Delta Air Lines, Delta’s codeshare partners, the Ritz-Carlton Vienna and the Harmonie Vienna boutique hotel.
“HIV/AIDS is a cause that is very dear to Vienna – it being home to Life Ball, [Europe’s largest HIV/AIDS fundraiser],” Mendonca told PAX. “This is our way of contributing to the fight.”
According to CANFAR, there are more than 63,000 people in Canada living with HIV and it is estimated that six people in Canada become newly infected with HIV each day, or nearly one person infected every four hours.
“Our mission is renewed more than ever this year to end HIV in Canada in the next five to seven years,” CANFAR chief executive officer, Alex Filiatrault, told PAX. “We want to bring the community together to make sure we get behind that."
This year’s Bloor Street Entertains is expected raise more than $800,000 in support of CANFAR-funded research and awareness programs.