A Night to Remember

Help Us Help The Children Celebrates 10 Years


It was a very special evening for the Children Of Chornobyl Canadian Fund and its largest project, Help Us Help The Children. On May 10, 2003 more than 500 volunteers and supporters of HUHTC gathered in the Barbara Frum Atrium of the Canadian Broadcasting Centre in Toronto to celebrate ten years of hard work and achievement. 

The evening was filled with drama and excitement with many of the organisation’s key benefactors in attendance. Among them was Eugene Melnyk, newly-minted owner of the Ottawa Senators. Melnyk left the Senators’ game in overtime to fly from Ottawa to Toronto to address the gathering. Also in attendance was Viktor Yushchenko,former Premier of Ukraine and leading contender for the upcoming Presidential elections. Yushchenko re-arranged his travel plans for a week-long visit to Canada, arriving a day earlier to attend the HUHTC Gala.Closer to home, Jim and Louise Temerty, also generous benefactors of the project, took time out from their fundraising activities for the Royal Ontario Museum to assist in the organization of the event.

Under the soaring ten-story Atrium of the Canadian Broadcasting Centre, the evening was launched with a moving dance executed by the Arkan dancers entitled “Always One More”, choreographed especially for the gala by Danovia Stechishen.

The dance was immediately followed by a prayer –“Bohorodytse Divo” –sung by Olenka Slywynska accompanied by Daria Filip, both volunteers of the project. Bishop Cornelius Pasichny blessed the meal.

The evening’s program featured addresses of the three key supporters of the project, Temerty, Melnyk and Yushchenko, as well as greetings from the federal and municipal governments. A brief video, prepared for the evening by Ihor Krut, highlighted the past ten years of the project’s work. Scenes depicting delivery of humanitarian aid, the organization of summer camps, the provision of medical and dental services to the orphans and abandoned children in Ukraine, gave the audience a good overview of the complex and multi-faceted work of the organization.The video also included scenes of students participating in HUHTC’s recently established scholarship program.

The Gala featured a surprise guest, Milya Mashkovtseva, one of the orphans under HUHTC’s care since 1997, who was flown in from Ukraine especially for the event.Milya is now 20 years old, has completed her post-secondary education and is studying to become a lawyer. She speaks both English and Ukrainian, is engaged to be married and, in an effort to reciprocate, now volunteers with HUHTC in Ukraine.Milya is one of HUHTC’s many success stories.She addressed the audience on behalf of the thousands of orphans assisted to express gratitude and appreciation.

The keynote speaker of the evening was prize-winning journalist and author Victor Malarek, well-known to audiences as one of the hosts of CBC's The Fifth Estate. Malarek delivered a moving speech about the plight of young women in Ukraine and other parts of Eastern Europe who often turn to prostitution as a way of making a living. Many of these young women, the “Natashas” of Europe are the products of orphanages who, upon leaving the institutional setting, find prostitution as the only alternative for supporting themselves. Malarek’s book on the Natashas is due out this summer.

A major element of the evening’s rich and variedprogram was the awarding of special medals of recognition to those volunteers who had made a significant contribution to the organization over the past ten years.Ruslana Wrzesnewskyj, co-founder and moving force behind the project, delivered a heartfelt speech of thanks and appreciation to her family, friends and supporters for their assistance over the past ten years. Ruslana made a point of thanking the project’s three key supporters, Melnyk, Temerty and Yuschenko, whom she dubbed “the three wise men” of the project. She also made a point of thanking her country Canada for nurturing a climate of volunteerism amongst its citizens. 

The evening closed with two numbers from the Ukrainian Dance group Desna and was followed by dancing to the music of the Kari Ochi band. Attendees had the opportunity to put in their final bids for a large and varied Silent Auction in the lobby of the Canadian Broadcasting Centre. 

– 10th Anniversary Gala Organizing Committee, Digital imaging courtesy 

Lu Taskey.