Many think of Shaw Centre as a place where local, national and international business and political events are held, but so much more happens here. From industry events to trade shows to social gatherings, our facility is perennially popular thanks to its flexibility and convenient location. Many times each year, we are extremely proud to welcome groups who choose Shaw Centre for their fundraising events, such as the recent Chocolate Affair Gala, held in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region.Chocolate Martini

Established in 1969, the Distress Centre offers a local, personal and non-judgemental connection to mental health support and resources, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Volunteers are trained in active listening, suicide intervention, and understanding that every call is different. Calls received surround topics in relationships, substance abuse, mental health disorders, stress, anxiety, depression, interpersonal problems, sexuality, employment, financial and suicide ideations.

The impact and importance of the Distress Centre’s work was reinforced through speeches at the gala by the organization’s co-founder, who touched on her childhood experiences as her father suffered from mental illness. She was followed by John “The Milkman” Mielke, a well-known Ottawa radio personality. John shared how the Distress Centre has helped him during two very difficult points in his life, making him just one of the more than one million people the organization has assisted over the past half-century. You can watch John’s inspiring speech here.

The Chocolate Affair gala really gave Shaw Centre’s food and beverage team a chance to flex its culinary muscles. The four course, chocolate-themed dinner included such inventive dishes such as white chocolate French onion soup, a Niagara Spark Riesling Royal Sorbet, Alberta boneless beef short ribs and classic chocolate/beet barley, plus glazed carrots with cocoa dust arugula chimichurrito. The grand finale was a chocolate cacao nib salty caramel and Crown Royal spray. The Centre’s Executive Chef, Patrick Turcot, noted that, “It was an enjoyable and a unique event; I wanted to produce a menu that created a chocolate experience with a Canadian twist.”

In addition to their plated meal, guests enjoyed signature cocktails, a chocolate fountain as well as a ‘Chocolate Passport’ experience, with sampling stations from multiple local vendors including Alicja Confections, Fruit Couture, Hummingbird Chocolate, Jojo Chocolate and Bisou Dates & Chocolates.

The gala’s hosts were Jeff Hopper and Sophie Moroz of Ottawa’s New Country 94 Radio who were pleased to introduce a very special appearance by Canadian Country Music Association award winner Madeline Merlo. This rising star sang her heartfelt song “War Paint” which she wrote for a friend who suffered from mental illness and sadly later committed suicide at a young age.

The fundraising components included a lavish silent auction offering concert tickets, pieces of art, hotel stays, restaurant giveaways, wines, jewelry, fitness classes, museum passes and many other items. Highly coveted were the two tickets to anywhere WestJet flies as well as other raffle items. The gala ended with everyone dancing the night away thanks to the energetic DJ who kept the crowd on its feet for hours.

“A function such as this really reminds the whole Shaw Centre team of the important role our facility plays in helping shape Ottawa as a caring city,” said event manager, Allysha Righi. “It was wonderful to note that some of their auction items were from local artisans and many of my colleagues commented that it was very inspiring to see the photos and hear the heartwarming stories about the Distress Centre’s 50 years of service to the community.”

For more information on the Distress Centre of Ottawa & Region, please visit www.dcottawa.on.ca