When Toronto’s young professional set thinks of motionball, the annual glitzy fundraiser likely comes to mind.
Held each February, the motionball Gala takes over the sprawling Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex, filling it with some of the city’s finest for a night of celebration and fundraising that includes flowing drinks, quality live music you can sing along to, ample photo ops, a fully-loaded silent auction (with highlights this year that included flights to the Azores and trips to Napa), and no shortage of Instagram handle exchanging. It’s all to raise funds and awareness for the Special Olympics Canada Foundation (SOCF).
This year’s 17th annual event attracted 2,500 local celebrities, young professionals and Special Olympics athletes, who came together to party like they might not get tomorrow. The evening kicked off with dinner and a moving stadium-style welcome of all of the Special Olympics athletes by the co-founder of motionball Paul Etherington, followed by an electric performance by Dr. Draw, before the rest of the guests started to file in shortly after 9 pm. And it was an amazing night.
But motionball is so much more than the hot ticket Toronto gala.
What Toronto gala goers may not know is that motionball is in eight provinces and hosts a total of 32 events annually, all in support of SOCF. For those in the dark, the SOCF helps those with intellectual disabilities recognize their skills, hopes, and goals through sport via their support of Special Olympics Canada. In fact, today (March 7), is the countrywide #NOGOODWAY campaign, which challenges people to pledge to end the use of the R-word (that word being the finally socially unaccepted “retard”).
It’s these year-round events that have contributed to the success of motionball as one of the country’s longest running young professional-led charity events. It all began over beers back in 2002, when Toronto brothers Mark, Sean, and Paul Etherington notices a lack of integration between the Special Olympic supporters and the benefitting athletes and started the motionball not-for-profit.
“Our loyal event attendees, passionate and hard-working volunteers, and generous sponsors combined with the ongoing inspiration of our 46,000+ Special Olympic athletes, we currently have a winning formula within motionball that has us consistently growing and now running 32 annual events in 18 cities across this great country of ours,” says Paul Etherington. The success and impact of motionball has not gone unnoticed; last month, the Etherington brothers received the prestigious Meritorious Service Medal presented by the Governor General’s office to extraordinary Canadians who make Canada proud through their remarkable contributions.
The next Toronto event, the Marathon of Sport, takes place at The Hangar at Downsview Park on May 26, and involves a day of friendly competition for the love of sport (and to raise money for the cause). Registered teams are paired with a Special Olympic athlete for a day of sports like basketball, ultimate Frisbee, flag football, and more.
All of the events have amounted to a total of over $9.5 million (!) raised for the cause since 2002.
Photos by Jason Kwan