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Sold-out Picton Rotary fundraiser supports war-torn Ukrainian children in need 

The colours of yellow and blue have fondly come to signify the country of Ukraine locally, not least because the two bands of colour, blue on the top half, yellow on the bottom, form the country’s flag.

Those colours, along with the warmth and connection to a country many thousands of miles away were on display last week at a sold-out fundraising Ukrainian evening hosted by the Rotary Club of Picton.

Encompassing Ukrainian food, Ukrainian entertainment and hospitality, the evening’s main focus was fundraising for Ukrainian causes, especially when it comes to children.

Picton Rotary’s goal of $100,000, which was made up from the evening fundraiser (more than $35,000) as well as flag sales ($67,000), and silent auction (more than $8,000) was easily met where the evening was already considered a success when all the tickets, and more, sold out quickly.

Varying sponsorship levels were available to businesses and individuals in the community wishing to contribute to the cause, with platinum ($1,500 contribution), gold ($1,000), silver ($500) and bronze ($250) options available to donate, along with individual donations.

The $100,000 raised will be split, with half going toward medical supplies and half toward children’s relief programs in Ukraine.

At $100 a pop (with a tax receipt for $75), 150 ticket sales were planned, but numbers quickly climbed to 180 as Rotary and community members stepped-up for the worthy cause.

Picton Rotary has supported and honoured those fighting for freedom in a war inflicted upon Ukraine which began more than eight months ago, on Feb. 24, where a bleak winter now looms for many who remain in their home country.

The event welcomed a small contingent of Ukrainians, including several professional Ukrainian singers who performed later in the evening as part of the after-dinner entertainment.

Both national anthems were received at the start of the evening, with the singing of the Ukrainian national anthem performed live in the Ukrainian language.

Special guest Yuliya Kovaliv, Ukrainian Ambassador to Canada, addressed the room virtually from the Embassy of Ukraine to Canada, located in Ottawa.

“Thank you for joining the honouring of those who fight for the freedoms and all those brave Ukrainians, and all the Ukrainians inside Ukraine,” said Kovaliv.

She noted that while the people in Canada are living in a peaceful country, many of the thousands of children in Ukraine are unable to go to school.

“As we are speaking today, unfortunately the Russian missiles and the Iranian drones are flying in the sky of Ukraine and they are destroying our critical infrastructure,” said Kovaliv.

She noted that more than 240 educational facilities have been damaged in Ukraine, and 333 schools destroyed.

She observed how Ukraine has been under attack for eight years from Russia, but especially since Feb. 24 this year when Russia invaded Ukraine in what she described as “over eight months of full-scale war”.

However, she said Ukraine has made a lot of progress.

“What Ukrainians have shown to the world is that actually if you love your country and if you believe in yourself, if you join together you can make a difference,” noted Kovaliv. “Many of the countries, many of the global leaders, they were feel that Ukraine would fall down in 24 hours or in 48 hours.”

When the war started, Kovaliv pointed out that Ukraine was not the biggest country, not the strongest military, not the strongest as an economy, and not the biggest in terms of population of the European continent.

“But we were all strong together and we all believed and believing in what we are fighting for. We united altogether and that’s why we are standing and fighting for the war for freedom.”

Canada has the second largest diaspora of Ukrainians outside of Ukraine, at 1.4 million people, and according to Picton Rotary, 16 Ukrainians call Prince Edward County home.

“We are deeply committed as a club to the humanitarian support of the people of Ukraine,” said Barbara Proctor, Rotary Club of Picton president.

She explained how the fundraiser focused on the needs of the children of Ukraine, with all funds raised to be used for medical and school supplies for the needs of these children.

“They are innocent victims who have been traumatized as a result of this unprovoked ongoing war,” Proctor said.

One of Rotary’s health partners in this endeavour is HPIC (Health Partners International of Canada), a philanthropic organization which funnels Rotary’s aid to Ukraine, distributing medical supplies.

“The money you donate, because of the contributions of the pharmaceutical industry to basically provide medicines at little or no cost, is about a six to 10-fold increase,” said Don Leslie, president-elect, Rotary Club of Picton. “If we donate $100,000, that turns into $600,000 for medical supplies.”

Working with Rotary clubs in Ukraine, the fundraiser will also help children by supporting the school in Buzova, a town of about 1,500 situated about 35 kilometres west of Kyiv.

“This is a collaboration among many Rotary clubs around the world,“ explained Leslie. “The work has already progressed on this school. The children at the school were online practicing learning online while the school was being re-built.”

He said the roof is back on, the windows are back in and the inside of the school is presently being worked on, especially the computer room which was destroyed.

“Now, the Ukrainian kids don’t have any schools to go,” said Kovaliv. “With your initiative to support their re-building of the school in Buzova, it is so important as it will give a chance to Ukrainian children to go to the classes, to speak to each other and to be able to grow up and build with us and Ukrainian after our victory.”

Leslie noted that someone asked why the schools were being re-built if they can just be destroyed again.

“This is one of the key elements to getting the people back in the towns where the kids can go to school,” said Leslie. “It is a key element across the country to re-build the schools.”

Following Ukrainian appetizers, the dinner menu consisted of borscht with garlic buns, roast pork with potatoes, squash, carrots and cabbage rolls, where dessert consisted of several home-made treats, such as honey cake and apple cake.

Dinner was book-ended by a silent auction, flag and Christmas ornament sales, a Ukrainian pop quiz, then Ukrainian entertainment (poetry reading and singing), along with video presentations on the Ukrainian relief projects.

Ukrainian mother and daughter performers, Inna and Angelina Leschuk each performed several songs on stage.

A skilled voice teacher and vocal coach, and accomplished solo performer, Inna Leschuk arrived in Canada (Kingston) just a few months ago, Leslie noted. She performed as soloist for the orchestra behind the forces of Ukraine, as well as symphony orchestras across Europe.

Silent auction items included hundreds of bottles of wine, art work, food baskets, hotel accommodation, a 10-speed bicycle and a snowblower.

For anyone who missed the evening and wishes to donate to Ukrainian projects, visit pictonrotary.ca and click on the ‘Donate’ button at the top (tax receipts for the full amount will be issued). All monies donated through the Rotary Club go directly to Rotary Ukraine which has people working on the ground in Ukraine.

 

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