“Reaching” out with donations

| September 30, 2017 | 0 Comments
Joanne Silkauskas, executive director of Reach Canada, with Jamaican High Commissioner Janice Miller, at the Ottawa Diplomatic Association’s ball last year. (Photo: Sam Garcia)

Joanne Silkauskas, executive director of Reach Canada, with Jamaican High Commissioner Janice Miller, at the Ottawa Diplomatic Association’s ball last year. (Photo: Sam Garcia)

When they gathered for their annual Diplomatic Ball, diplomats and members of the community were also invited to help an Ottawa-based organization that provides legal assistance to people with disabilities.
The Ottawa Diplomatic Association, which organizes the ball, always picks a charity to support. This year, the board requested proposals from a few charities and in the end, it chose Reach Canada, which was recommended by Sami Haddad, chargé d’affaires at the Lebanese embassy, as this year’s charitable recipient for the auction portion of the ball.
“The board liked the work they do, which is to provide legal assistance to people with disabilities,” said Honduran Ambassador Sofia Cerrato, first vice-president of the Ottawa Diplomatic Association. “It’s a matter of human rights, so everyone agreed to support them.”
In addition to the $3,700 raised at the silent auction that night, Reach was given the remaining auction items — those that weren’t purchased that night — to include in an auction at its own big annual fundraiser on Nov. 1. The event takes place at the St. Elias Centre. Last year’s auction included art by Leonard Cohen and a Yukon getaway package.
In addition to providing free legal advice to people with disabilities and their families, Reach also provides educational sessions on disability issues, including access to justice, disability rights and accommodations. Reach regularly holds seminars for caregivers and employers of those with disabilities as well.
Asked what it did with the money from the ball, Reach executive director Joanne Silkauskas said: “Honestly, it kept our operations going. It means we could continue to be able to offer services in Ottawa to people with disabilities.”
In addition to the money, Silkauskas said her group also appreciates the awareness component to being the ball’s charitable recipient. She was invited to present their mission at the ball and she’s optimistic that diplomats, some of whom already have, will support Reach in the November fundraiser. So far, the ambassadors of Croatia and Hungary have offered dinners hosted by them, in their official residences, to be auctioned off to the highest bidder that night.
“We are all of two staff, so for the ODA to raise awareness of our organization among diplomats was a huge gift,” Silkauskas said. “We got a lot of positive feedback from diplomats about what we do and they even thought ours could be a good model in their own countries.”

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