• By: Alexandra Mazur

Turkish Canadian Community Raises Money for CHEO

On Saturday April 23, distinguished guests gathered to celebrate Turkish National Sovereignty and International Children’s Day at a fundraising gala organized by the Turkish Cultural Canadian Association (TCCA), the proceeds of which will be donated to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO). This yearly event, organized by the Turkish community in Ottawa, has raised thousands of dollars for the celebrated children’s hospital.

Members from the Council of Turkish Canadians, prominent academics in the community, and business people from Ottawa, Turkey and elsewhere all participated in the gala to raise funds for CHEO.

For those in Turkey and Turkish communities around the world, April 23 is a national and international holiday. It is a day to commemorate the first gathering of the Grand National Assembly, the first independent Turkish Parliament, established on April 23, 1920. The founder of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kamal Atatürk, linked Turkish independence with honouring the children of Turkey to promote a message of peace and hope for the future in the wake of political turmoil.

In 1920, the establishment of the Grand National Assembly in Ankara, the current capital of Turkey, as opposed to Istanbul, the previous capital of the Ottoman Empire, was more than a change in geography. This day symbolizes the freedom to choose values such as democracy, equality and secularism, according to Murat Saatcioglu, a distinguished professor in Civil Engineering at the University of Ottawa, and a guest at the Children’s Day gala.

In Turkey, on April 23, children from around the world are invited as guests into Turkish homes to celebrate international peace and friendship. The children are then invited participate in opening the Turkish parliament along with Turkish children, working as an international assembly of children. The goal of this practice is to promote friendship between youth, no matter what nation of origin.

Ann Kouimtzis holding a painting she bought at the auction.
Ann Kouimtzis holding a painting she bought at the auction.

In Ottawa, the Turkish Ambassador Selçuk Ünal was present at the gala with his wife and young daughter. It was the third event celebrating April 23 the Ambassador had attended that day. He reiterated the message of peace and hope expressed at the gala, a message he said that resounds throughout all the Turkish diaspora in the world on International Children’s Day. The Ambassador also mentioned that there were celebrations happening all over Canada, in cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton.

The gala in Ottawa started off with a silent auction of gifts donated by guests and well-wishers. There was also a separate auction after dinner of paintings donated by well-known Turkish painters such as Hikmet Çetinkaya and Mine Burak. Çetinkaya has been dubbed “the poppy man,” due to his many paintings of the famous red flowers, paintings that have been featured all around Canada, including the Canadian War Museum. Burak is a painter and ceramic artist that lives in Turkey, but who lived in Ottawa during the 1980s. Both their paintings garnered substantial bids by guests at the gala.

Due to the generosity of all those involved along with the TCCA committee members who devoted countless hours toward the Children’s Day gala, $12,800 was raised for CHEO this year. The cheque will be presented to CHEO at the 2016 CHEO Telethon on June 5.

The Turkish Canadian Cultural Association is a non-profit organization that works to organize cultural events to celebrate Turkish holidays in Canada and fraternity between the two cultures. They have also organized film festivals, exhibitions, concerts and much more. It is their aim to solidify the bond between Turkey and Canada, and events such as the Children’s Day gala are a shining example of their efforts.

Correction: This article was originally published stating that the Council of Turkish Turkish (CTC) Canadians organized the event. Although members of the CTC were active at the event, it was the Turkish Canadian Cultural Association that organized the Children’s Day gala on April 23. Our sincerest apologies to anyone who was omitted or not given credit for putting on this great event.