TORONTO, Nov. 1, 2017 /CNW/ - A sold out Hatsquerade Gala helped to raise much-needed funds and awareness to break the silence and stigma surrounding those living with and affected by mental illness and addictions.
Over 950 people attended the 9th annual Gala hosted by Hats On For Awareness (HOA), a registered charity based in Vaughan, Ontario.
This year's Gala raised $145,000 and was held on Friday October 27 at Universal Event Space in Vaughan, with the mandate of wearing a hat to show support and raise awareness. To date, $750,000 has been raised by HOA donors and supporters.
At the event, HOA co-founders Benny Caringi and Enza Tiberi-Checchia welcomed City of Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua to the stage so he could present his Spirit of Generosity donation of $5,000 and congratulate the pair for their continued work within the city.
"It is an honour to be recognized for our dedication to this cause and it was also a wonderful opportunity to turn and thank everyone in the room for their unyielding support over the years," said HOA co-founder Benny Caringi. "We cannot do any of this without them."
HOA began as a promise made 28 years ago when the Tiberi family patriarch, Giovanni, lost his battle with depression and took his own life. After his death, Enza, realized she did not understand or know enough about depression and she then made a promise to help prevent this from happening to other families.
"When we started this charity in 2009, I knew I wanted to help others recognize and understand the signs of mental illness but I had no idea we would be working with such astounding donors and benefactors who share our mission of breaking down barriers – and our vision of mental wellness for all," added HOA co-founder Enza Tiberi-Checchia.
Recipients of donations to HOA include the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) of which HOA fulfilled a $270,000 pledge toward a dedicated volunteer lounge and a patient room, Jack.org's National Student Summit and most recently a pledge of $150,000 to Humber River Hospital's Mental Health and Addictions Program.
The money raised through this year's Hatsquerade Gala will support CAMH's Suits Me Fine Program, HOA's pledge to Humber River Hospital, Jack.org National and Regional Summits and a new partner, 'What's Up' walk-in clinics, a free city-wide service for youth and their families.
"We are so excited to see where this new partnership with HOA takes us," said David O'Brien, 'what's up' walk-in Yorktown, Director of Service. "Through your support we will be able to create an awareness campaign to promote our services over social media, in print material and videos so that those who need to find a clinic in their neighbourhood will be able to."
This year's event was emceed by Z103.5 radio announcer Tony Monaco and the crowd was entertained by Canadian icon Jully Black and famous rock band Honeymoon Suite.
Black implored the crowd to continue to think differently about mental wellness.
"What we think is what we project," she said, "Change starts with us."
She then told the crowd to "turn to the person beside you and tell them they matter." She also asked that they spread the word by taking a selfie and sharing it on their social networks.
For more information about Hats On For Awareness, visit www.hatsonforawareness.com. #TALKHATSON
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