Literature for Life hosts unique fundraiser at Toronto club to raise awareness about reading

At the beginning of May, Leviana wrote about Literature for Life, a non-profit organization in Toronto that was founded in 2000 and is committed to helping marginalized young mothers develop their reading practice to successfully access opportunities. Literature for Life hosted their second annual Read & Beleive fundraiser on May 15, where 1,000 guests attended and raised critical dollars to support the non- profit organization. I had the privilege to cover this event with our photographer, Meaghan DeClerq.

Meaghan and I met outside of Product Nightclub in Toronto’s entertainment district, the location for the fundraiser. Once we got inside we were so warmly welcomed by Literature for Life representatives. There were several volunteers (it took over 50 volunteers to make Read & Believe happen) manning the door, giving us wrist bands and directing us to coat check.

Product Nightclub, where the Read & Believe fundraiser benefiting Literature for Life was held. It is located in Toronto's entertainment district.
Product Nightclub, where the Read & Believe fundraiser benefiting Literature for Life was held. It is located in Toronto’s entertainment district.

One of the first people to greet us was Lydia Parent, Manager of Communications and Operations at Literature for Life. Looking fabulous in her black dress with gold accents, she invited us to have a look at the silent auction, sponsored by ZipCar, which included items like Toronto Blue Jays tickets, Toronto FC tickets, tickets to the sold out Drake OVO Festival in August, a five-class pass to dance lessons at the Toronto School of Burlesque, as well as signed items from the acclaimed performers of the night, Vita Chambers and DJ Jojoflores. Guests could even win VIP passes to Vita Chambers’ next live performance!

Lydia Parent, the Manager of Communications and Operations at Literature for Life, with Teneile Warren, the Manager of Strategies and Fund Development.
Lydia Parent, the Manager of Communications and Operations at Literature for Life, with Teneile Warren, the Manager of Strategies and Fund Development.

Entering the club, my eyes were immediately drawn to the ceiling, where the light fixtures mimicked icicles with blinking blue lights. The bar, which was the length of the entire dance floor, was well stocked with all sorts of alcohol. Booths in each corner of the room were full of people mingling and nibbling on snacks. The back wall was the designated DJ area, set on a stage, and on the right side of the room were booths dedicated to the silent auction.

I have been to events with silent auctions before, one not too long ago where I won a comic book and a tour of the CBC, but I have never in my life seen such a huge selection of…stuff! There were at least three tables filled with so many different auction items, like a Spalding basketball signed by the Toronto Raptors, which was also the item with the most intense bidding war. The silent auction was worth approximately $3,000, collectively.

While Meaghan and I walked around and mingled with the volunteers and executives of Literature for Life, a young man soon came walking towards us with a tray of food. He offered, and for blog purposes only, we took an appetizer that consisted of chicken and green beans. It sounds so simples but it was full of flavour. Later he came back with crab cakes… CRAB CAKES! I didn’t think crab cakes could be finger food. I took a portion and, oh my goodness. Restaurant on a platter.

On top of all this, there were small plates along the dance-floor-sized bar with sushi, vegetables, pita bread and hummus. Read & Believe was catered by Windup Bird Cafe, a restaurant named after a Murakami book that serves a combination of French and Japanese fusion food. From the appetizers I had, I know I will be visiting the cafe in the College and Bathurst Sts area sooner rather than later. They even have brunch!

Product Nightclub was bouncing with the sounds of award-winning musician, DJ Jojoflores. The music wasn’t too overpowering (Read: My bones weren’t thumping), but it was also not too quiet, meaning I didn’t have to strain my poor ears to hear. DJ Jojoflores played everything from Top 40 to dubstep to Queen Bey.

When I first found out that this event was being held at a club, I was really confused. If Literature for Life is an organization that supports young mothers and their children by providing them with reading material as an outlet for expression, then what were we doing in Toronto’s entertainment district?

After talking to Jo Altilia, the founder and Executive Director of the non-profit organization, I got my answer. “We want to interest young professionals to a worthy cause that is run in their own city,” Altilia says.

Jo Altilia, the founder and Executive Director of Literature for Life.
Jo Altilia, the founder and Executive Director of Literature for Life.
Kaaleen Joseph and Meaghan DeClerq, A Quarter Young contributors, having fun in the photo booth at the Read & Believe fundraiser on May 15.
Kaaleen Joseph and Meaghan DeClerq, A Quarter Young contributors, having fun in the photo booth at the Read & Believe fundraiser on May 15.

To encourage more young mothers to get reading and find inspiration in stories, Literature for Life uses reading to leverage a chain reaction: Reading books leads to significantly improved literacy, leading to better mental health outcomes, which leads to awareness of the importance of education, which leads to confidence and leadership, which leads to passing all of these integral lessons down to their children, Lydia says.

“[Read & Believe] is clubbing for a cause, and it’s a worthy cause,” she continues. “We are looking forward to everyone having a great night and raising funds and increasing awareness about our organization. I would call tonight a success; I am seeing a lot of new faces, the auction is a hit and it looks like everyone is enjoying themselves.”

The Read & Believe fundraiser was not only a great time, but it also provided a unique way for audience members to learn about a charity that shares their love of reading with mothers across Toronto. Who doesn’t like clubbing especially when it’s for such a great cause, like building literacy skills in mothers and their children? Seriously, this event couldn’t do any wrong!

For more photos from the event, check out the slideshow below:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Interested in learning how much Read & Believe raised on May 15? Check back the week of May 20 for more details.

All photos in this post were taken by Meaghan DeClerq.

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