What makes the Waterkeeper Gala the highlight of our year? The event raises funds for swimmable, drinkable, fishable water. But the true impact is much greater than the dollars-raised tally. Unexpected relationships. Behind-the-scenes moments. They have a big impact.
That's why we say that “one night can change the future.”
From programs to partnerships, here are four surprising ways the Waterkeeper Gala has changed the future of Canadian waterways for the better.
1. Propelling Swim Guide
In 2012, we were looking for a host for our inaugural gala. Corus Entertainment stepped forward in a big way, offering an event space overlooking Toronto’s Harbour. It was perfect for our fledgling event.
Corus also donated free radio advertising time in Toronto, Hamilton, and Kingston. Summer was just beginning, so the airtime was used to promote the then-new Swim Guide beach information app. Terry O’Reilly created (and donated) all 3 ads for us.
The publicity helped make Swim Guide one of Canada’s most successful apps and protected thousands of people from waterborne illnesses.
2. Inspiring the National Water Centre
Last year in Saint John, New Brunswick, we officially opened the National Water Centre. It’s Canada’s first centre dedicated to celebrating the role of water and waterways in Canadian culture.
The Centre could not have been made possible had it not been for the relationships made at the gala.
- Kenneth and Tasha Irving, gala guests in 2012, chose to donate the property after learning more about our cause.
- Photographer Edward Burtynsky and filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal (our art auction curators) used their knowledge of the Canadian arts to help us hone the Centre’s mission.
- The RBC Blue Water Project (gala presenting sponsor) funded the Centre’s launch and the first season of programming.
- Our platinum gala sponsor Lafarge also played a crucial role in preparing the Centre for its opening.
Today, the National Water Centre is helping to develop water leaders from all walks of life.
3. Developing “Watermarks”
In 2014, Canadian icons took to the stage one after the other to share their water stories. This incredibly powerful show was curated by Gord Downie and a highlight for many attendees.
What you may not know is that the “Watermark” concept is now being incorporated into Waterkeeper’s core programming. McKeil Marine, our first-ever gold sponsor, even invited Waterkeeper to its recent all-crew meeting to collect Watermarks from their team.
Watermarking is a powerful process. You’ll see how the idea has evolved at this year’s gala on April 23.
4. Reaching communities across Canada
Last year’s gala brought together 350 guests, artists, and sponsors - more than any previous year.
Fraser Riverkeeper's Lauren Brown Hornor was in the room that night, too. Inspired by the evening, she is bringing the Waterkeeper Gala tradition to the West Coast this month.
The Waterkeeper Gala Vancouver takes place April 18, 2015 at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia. It’s a collaboration between our two organizations, with 75% of the funds raised dedicated to supporting Swim Guide and Watermark initiatives on the west coast.
That's not all: Shortly after our gala in Toronto, the annual Ottawa Riverkeeper Gala follows in May. Don’t be surprised if some Watermarks pop up in the nation’s capital, too! Our friends in Edmonton are also celebrating 5 years this year. Stay tuned ...
One night can change the future
All told, the Waterkeeper Gala has nurtured relationships and raised funds to improve the lives of 300,000 Canadians. Our guests have supported swimmable, drinkable, fishable water in a big, big way over the last three years. And the movement is growing.
That's why we say one night can change the future. Because the Waterkeeper Gala raises money for effective programs. It inspires leaders to step forward with new initiatives. It brings together old friends. In the process, it brings Canadians closer to a swimmable, drinkable, fishable future.