Odd Squad Productions
(OSP) held their 15th Annual Fundraiser Gala this month and sold out at over 1000 guests. The Vancouver Convention Centre was overflowing with black ties and evening gowns, with everyone looking chic as they perused the silent auction and sipped on a glass of wine. The large support was shown through people of all ages, social statuses and races including many from the Vancouver Police Department (VPD).
What began as a community of volunteer police offers determined to beat work on the East side of Vancouver in 1997, is now an organization at the forefront as a highly regarded resource directed at prevention education and awareness for youth. They began using the scare tactic with the debut of their award-winning “Through a Blue Lens” production. Take a moment to watch the film and you'll understand the effect it can have. Since then, they have grown to incorporate many educational videos and peer-to-peer programs in an effort to keep kids off the streets and out of trouble.
After a walk down the red carpet with the VPD lining each side, the night unfolded in to an evening of entertainment, education and eating. There was a special marine unit show in the surrounding harbor, as well as traditional Chinese dancing by the Public Dreams
An overcast but warm night brought many out on the veranda to sip on their wine or enjoy a chilled cocktail or beer as they were entertained. Once inside the ballroom The Odds
, a Vancouver-based alternative rock band, played their hearts out on stage with a beautifully illuminated backdrop.
When the program began and after the initial introductions, Launa Hinton led the national anthem wowing the crowd with her small stature but her big and beautiful voice. Many speakers ensued, including Chief Jim Chu, who spoke on behalf of the Vancouver Police Department, as well as OSP members Al Arsenault and Jim Byrnes, and Whistling Bernie Smith
, an original Odd Squad Member famous for his unorthodox policing and whistling ways. He's well known for his song Thin Blue Line and the documentary titled "Whistling Smith"
in which he walks the Downtown Eastside in 1975. He was honored on stage that night with a hug and a screening
of an Odd Squad Production featuring him, the Odds and Jim Byrnes.
Laura, a Grade 10 student who participated in the On Track Peer to Peer Program
, spoke to the crowd explaining her experience with the VPD and Odd Squad Productions. She is a huge advocate for the program and has spoken on multiple occasions to peers
and large groups like there was at the gala.
Mayor Gregor Robertson made an appearance and stayed for most of the night, mingling and munching with the rest of us.
Thin slices of maplewood smoked chicken breast atop a dupuy lentil salad with a red pepper rouille dressing Pan seared wild pacific salmon filet with saffron tomato fondue, spinach ricotta ravioli and fresh vegetables of the season Okanagan apple almond croustade with caramel sauce
Dessert was served with freshly brewed Moja
coffees and imported teas.
In order to raise more funds for the Odd Squad Productions there was a live auction that showcased some spectacular items that were graciously donated for the event. Initially there seemed to be a timid crowd for the live auction that was led by Howard Blank
, but once the ball started rolling, bidding cards were flying and the fundraising began.
The items up for grabs were:
- A nine-day adventure in Costa Rica
- A private boat cruise up Indian Arm
- A two-night stay at the Fairmont in NYC, flying business class
- A full-page ad in The Vancouver Sun
- A five-night junior suite at the Fairmont Beijing flying business class
- A shooting day at the range and a ride along with the Odd Squad
- Fund-A-Need for Odd Squad
Attending the gala that evening were members of the Canadian national team and Olympic athletes such as Jan Hudec, Canada’s leading downhill skier, and speed skaters Jamie Gregg, Cindy Klassen, Christine Nesbitt and Brittany Schussler. The day before the gala, they participated in a presentation and learning experience with the Odd Squad Productions Society consisting of a two-hour experience of Vancouver’s downtown east district.
A special guest appearance was to be made by actor and Reserve Deputy Chief of Louisiana, Steven Seagal, but he couldn't make it due to unforeseen occurrences.
Unfortunately not all of the "scheduled" appearances were to be pleasant, as celebrity visits and local heroes are. Word on the street was that protesters were planning on crashing the gala in an attempt to voice their disapproval of the OSP. Jennifer Allan from the Vancouver Cop Watch feels that the OSP is exploiting the Downtown Eastside through their videos. Fortunately for guests that evening there, no chaos occurred and the gala continued as planned, riot-free.
At the end of the night, Master of Ceremonies Akash Sablok and Wayne Braid as well as gala co-chairs Mark and Karen Wolverton thanked everyone in the room for their support, leaving them with a powerful message:
Ultimately, drugs have no boundaries. The further we reach with funding the more programs we can produce and develop, and more lives can be saved before it is too late.
With our ticket came a DVD with Odd Squad Production featuring a 15-year video retrospective that focuses on how the organization has grown and the effect it has had and will continue to have on youth in Vancouver.
For more high resolution photos from the event, check out my gallery
. See the Odd Squad site
for more information about the group's work.