Over 700 guests attended the Hats On For Awareness Eighth Annual Hatsquerade gala — with the mandate Wear A Hat Show Your Support. Raise Awareness — in October, raising over $125,000 to battle the stigma around mental illness.
The funds will be distributed to organizations that provide support to those living with mental illness and their families.
Hats On For Awareness has raised over $600,000 to date. Recipients of donations include the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), Jack.org and Humber River Hospital’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Program.
Enza Tiberi-Checchia, co-founder of Hats On For Awareness, spoke passionately from the heart about her personal experience with mental illness.
“Mental illness did not break me. It broke me open,” she said. “Mental illness connected me to my life’s work; to change how we see and treat mental illness. I face my life’s work with humility and great privilege. Every person we’ve lost and every roommate I had while I was hospitalized, stand alongside me.”
Tiberi-Checchia also shared a heartfelt message from one of many HOA’s followers, who reached out via social media about his recent diagnosis of depression and the impact HOA has had on him personally. Validating HOA’s mission of letting those who suffer in silence know that they are not alone, an excerpt read: “I just wanted to thank you for all your messages about this affliction. It helps more than you know and makes me feel not so alone.”
“The enormous support from our sponsors, guests and volunteers this evening has been overwhelming,” noted co-founder of HOA president Benny Caringi. “We are truly thankful for everyone’s contributions that will allow us to continue our mission to raise awareness and fund support programs for those living with mental illness and addiction. Our vision is ‘mental wellness for all’ and we need to be drivers of change to help make that a reality for everyone.”
The evening was emceed by Tony Monaco, Z103.5 radio announcer, with feature performances from Kardinal Offishall and Alx Veliz.
Offishall, well-known Canadian “hip hop ambassador,” delivered an outstanding performance while embracing the cause whole-heartedly.
“I’m letting you know that we have to break the stigma and learn to seek help and help others. Many people of colour are taught to ignore or suppress some very detrimental signs that could actually help us prevent or heal mental illnesses,” Offishall posted to his Instagram feed.
“It was an honour to be a part of such a great cause, as well as being surrounded by people whom are making a positive change in the world., “said Veliz.
Francesco Sorbara, MP for Vaughan-Woodbridge, commended Hats On For Awareness and co-founders Caringi and Tiberi-Checchia for their dedication.
“Your passion for giving and your love for helping others in need is what helps to bring our community together,” Sorbara said.