Expos Fest gala brings out local sports legends for a good cause
Event in support of Montreal Children’s Hospital Kat D Cancer Fund (DIPG) breaks through the million-dollar mark on Saturday night
Baseball has a big heart, especially when it comes to children. Go back almost a century to remember Babe Ruth’s famous hospital visit, promising a sick child that he would hit a home run for him that day. Then back to the present for more heart-warming examples, like George Springer reaching out in different cities to meet with and inspire kids afflicted with a stuttering problem. How about the Reds’ star first-baseman Joey Votto and his well-documented and always spontaneous interactions with delighted young fans. Through the years, scores of individual players have made an effort to be a healing force in a world not always fair.
On Saturday night, at a glitzy banquet hall in Laval, Quebec, 900 donors, five Hall-of-Famers and close to a dozen former Expos opened their hearts and their wallets in order to support the organizer, Perry Gee and family, to raise funds for the Montreal Children’s Hospital, in memory of his niece, Kat Demes, who died from DPIG, a rare form of cancer, at the age of five.
Among baseball celebrities in attendance, welcomed to the room via a pre-banquet parade of stars, then going on to host assigned tables of enthusiastic supporters, were former Expos Andre Dawson, Vlad Guerrero Sr., Ellis Valentine, Moises Alou, Bill Lee, Darrin Fletcher, Mike Lansing, Rodney Scott, Bill Stoneman, Ron Brand, Dave Van Horne, Jacques Doucet, Claude Raymond, Denis Boucher, Marc Griffin, Rodger Brulotte and the most popular local legend of them all, the beloved 87-year-old manager Felipe Alou.
Consider the amazing reaction, that after 19 years of having no major-league baseball in town, the gala crowd erupted into spontaneous chants of “Ah-looooo-oo”, as Felipe was introduced and escorted to his table. A genuinely moving moment.
The reaction of those in attendance was stunning and knowledgeable, offering standing ovation after standing ovation to players from a franchise that has been gone for two decades. The Expos played their final game at Olympic Stadium in Sept. 2004. There were hundreds of Expos jerseys throughout the hall, but nary a sign that the Washington Nationals ever existed.
One of the highlight moments of the evening came during the course of a high-energy auction, for which Montreal radio personality Jay Farrar held the hammer, while none too subtly coercing donors and bumping bids from high rollers around the festive room.
It should be recognized that there were two hockey Hall-of-Famers also contributing their time and energy. Appropriately, they were former Canadiens, Chris Chelios and Bob Gainey. When Chelios’ Habs jersey was held up for the bidding, Farrar smoothly worked the room and squeezed an offer of almost $2,000. It was then that a familiar face raised his hand to secure the Chelios jersey with an offer they couldn’t refuse. It was Moises Alou, who went to the stage to retrieve his prize, hugged Chelios and explained how they became friends while playing in Chicago for the Cubs and Black Hawks. Shortly after that, Alou stood up, stripped off his jersey and offered it up for auction. It was then Chelios’s time to return the favour with a similar return bid for his friend’s jersey. They hugged again and that became the true spirit of the night.
All proceeds from the night were to benefit the Montreal Children’s Hospital and the Kat D cancer fund. Perry Giannias’s goal, when first he began his efforts, was to raise $1-million, a number which he blew by on this Saturday night. However, that will not end his collaboration with the hospital. The fund-raising continues. The new end-game for all of Perry’s future fund-raising efforts will be to finance a new pavilion that will shelter families and allow them to remain close to their children during those difficult treatments at the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Here is the new link for donating to the Kat D DIPG fund: https://fondationduchildren.com/fr/collectes-de-fonds/kat-d-dipg?mibextid=Zxz2cZ.