Bonfire Bash Raises $1.75 Million for Kids with Cancer or Serious Illness and their Families

event attendees standing and socializing with other in a beautifully lit event space

On Thursday, November 2, Campfire Circle hosted Bonfire Bash, held at the Fort York Armoury in Toronto. The event brought together more than 700 guests to raise $1.75 million in support of our critical year-round programs for kids with cancer or serious illness and their families.

Presented by GFL Environmental Inc., the evening celebrated 40 years of Campfire Circle, uniting present and past campers, their families, and our community of generous supporters. As guests arrived, they were led into a starry-themed pre-dinner cocktail reception sponsored by Emmanuelle Gattuso (La Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso). Greeted by campers and volunteers, guests were ushered into a large room circled by LED structures of the words: Play, Inclusive, Community, Trust, and Joy, representing Campfire Circle’s values.

Campfire Sponsors Mantella Corporation provided portrait studios to capture the night’s memories while ICON generously donated their time and energy in printing all the signs, cards, and programs for the evening.

event space setup with tables, chairs, blue light and canoe paddles on display

Gather Round the Paddle Project

At the heart of the reception area were a selection of unique canoe paddles up for auction. Created by artists, designers, athletes, and celebrities, the bidding on these paddles began online a few weeks earlier and came to a close during the event. Bonfire Bash guests were able to catch a glimpse of these stunning paddles in person before bidding to take them home at the end of the night.

Launched in 2010, this year’s Paddle Project was the biggest one yet with more than 100 paddles up for bids. Paddle artists included Carly Rae Jepsen, Jann Arden, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, The Trailer Park Boys, Nick Sider, Patrick Hunter, and many more.

The Paddle Project would not have been possible without the dedication of Pam Mecklinger and our Paddle Project Sponsor, BMO, as well as all of the talented artists who created these one-of-a-kind pieces. The 2023 Paddle Project raised more $86,000 for Campfire Circle.

event attendee standing and looking at the beautiful canoe paddles that were designed for the paddle project

Live Auction Surprises

A steel drum band danced guests into the camp-inspired dining hall, sponsored by Empire. Our emcees, Pattie Lovett-Reid and camper Evan Tailor, welcomed guests as they sat down for a three-course meal and live auction.

camper speaking at the podium with emcee standing behind and to the side

Honourary Co-Chairs Sylvia Mantella, Suzanne Rogers, and Andrew and Marianne Guizzetti, addressed the crowd and spoke about the profound impact of camp, having seen the benefits first-hand after visiting our Muskoka site.


Andrew-Marianne-Guizzetti Andrew, EVP and CFO, Empire Communities (left) and Marianne Guizzetti (right).

The lively live auction, hosted by Brett Sherlock of Christie’s, included Valentine’s Day Toronto Raptors courtside seats, a NYC weekend getaway, a haute couture trip to Paris, and exclusive Taylor Swift box seat tickets.

In addition to these exclusive prizes, the Volkswagen Raffle added an extra layer of excitement to the evening. The lucky winner walked away with a brand-new 2024 Volkswagen Taos generously donated by Volkswagen Canada and valued at $46,000.

During the gala, Emmanuelle Gattuso, a longstanding supporter of Campfire Circle, offered to match donations that night up to $100,000, which led to a sea of guests raising their hands to support the organization.

Alex Robertson, Campfire Circle’s CEO, addressed the crowd with the help of camper Leigha Hawksworth. He announced how additional funds are needed to reach kids with serious illness, enabling Campfire Circle to expand our in-hospital, community, and overnight camp programs. He spoke to how our programs create opportunities for more children to build friendships and social skills, develop self-confidence and resiliency, and improve their overall well-being.

Thanks to the support of Slaight Music, the evening closed with a special performance from our Campfire Circle band, which included staff and campers singing the Goodnight Song, a special camp tradition.

“On behalf of Campfire Circle, I’d like to extend my enormous gratitude to all of the guests, sponsors, donors, artists, and volunteers who made this evening such a success,” says Alex Robertson, CEO, Campfire Circle. “Bonfire Bash not only supported our critical programs and the kids who need us most, it offered an opportunity for our friends and supporters to come together to celebrate 40 years of healing through happiness.”

campfire circle band performing

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