As they made their grand entrance, Special Olympic Athletes – the indisputable stars of the show – were met with cheers and high-fives. Their presence undoubtedly contributed to the infectious energy that characterized this year’s motionball Toronto Gala presented by the AIRMILES Reward Program. So did a touching performance from Karl Wolf and empowering comments from everyone from motionaball founder Paul Etherington, to Olympic champion figure skater Tessa Virtue.
On Friday, February 7, the 19th annual motionball Toronto Gala welcomed 2,500 celebrities, young professionals, and Special Olympics athletes to the Liberty Grand to bring back the roaring ‘20s in their best Gatsby-glam, while raising over $300,000 for the Special Olympics Canada Foundation. As always, the event was a hot ticket for Toronto’s move-making young professional set.
After cocktails, the evening began at 7 pm, with a VIP reception hosted by CityTV’s Devo Brown, which we attended for the first (and hopefully not the last) time ever. To kicks things off, Virtue announced a pledge drive where she would match any donation, raising a cool $30,000 in a matter of minutes. Virtue was then reunited with Special Olympics figure skater Nicole Vespa, who joined Virtue last year on her Rock the Rink Tour.
Tablemate and Family Feud Canada host Gerry Dee hopped on stage, opening up a family spot on his show this season for a donation to the cause, raising $10,000 in the process. We can expect to see the Etherington family on the popular game show in the near future(!).
Canadian superstar Karl Wolf and Brenda Mullen gave the crowd goosebumps with a stunning cover of Peter Cetera’s “After All” – a tribute to Kobe and Gianna Bryant. “It’s such a traumatic situation and so sad what happened,” said Wolf of Bryant. “He’s such a great person and has been a person in my life in so long – I don’t know him, I never met him – but you feel like you know him. The fact that that happened to his daughter…I had to do something. As a musician, sometimes you think, ‘am I just going to Tweet out like everybody else,’ or am I going to do something that can potentially heal someone else.”
While one wouldn’t necessarily naturally pair Cetera and Wolf, Wolf says he is a huge fan of the musician and his former band Chicago. Especially with the “two angels” reference, “After All” made an appropriate choice for a tribute song. “It was meant to be. Fate. It was the weirdest thing; I thought about that song a week before,” said Wolf.
Wolf also brought the crowd to their feet with his hit “Africa” before opening the doors to the main event, where hundreds of other well-heeled guests had started to file in. The massive gala saw guests enjoy seven live entertainment acts across two grand ballrooms courtesy of entertainment sponsor Stella Artois, specialty cocktails from Bee’s Knees, a luxury silent auction, and an exclusive bar and photo op courtesy of Bumble. Much appreciated late-night bites were provided by national sponsor Pita Pit.
If you missed this year’s event, there’s always next year, when the motionball Toronto Gala marks its 20th anniversary. In the meantime, if you’re looking for a day of team-building. sports and fun in support of the Special Olympics Canada Foundation, form a team and register for this year’s motionball Marathon of Sport, which takes place on May 23, 2020 at Downsview Hanger in Toronto.
Photos by Nick Lee and Jason Kwan