The Red Deer Food Bank has recruited Canada’s former top soldier, as well as a war hero who lost his legs in Afghanistan, to drum up donations for a unique luncheon fundraiser in September.
Former Chief of Canada’s Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier and Master Cpl. Paul Franklin will talk about their wartime experiences at the First Annual Gourmet Mac and Cheese Luncheon on Sept. 21 at the Capri Centre.
Organizers hope to sell out the event and raise at least $100,000 by selling eight-seat tables for $1,000 each. The money would pay off the remaining $60,000 mortgage on the food bank at 7429 49th Ave. and the rest would go to restocking shelves and other expenses.
Food Bank executive director Fred Scaife is thrilled that Hillier and Franklin will be coming to town to help with the fundraising campaign.
“We need heroes and these two guys are heroes,” said Scaife, at a news conference Tuesday to launch the event at the Black Knight Inn. “The magnitude of this event is huge for us.”
The economic downturn has been keenly felt by clients of the food bank, he said. Scaife was anticipating demand would rise by 30 per cent, or 40 per cent in a worst-case scenario. Instead, the food bank has seen demand soar 60 per cent, and for some segments of the population, such as couples, the number seeking food bank help has doubled.
While food continues to arrive in “dribs and drabs,” Scaife predicts supplies will be short by the time the September fundraiser rolls around.
“An event like this is extremely timely for us.”
Jim McPherson, who is on the organizing committee, said they are seeking corporate and individual sponsors to cover all of the costs of the luncheon so any money raised can go directly to the food bank.
The Sutter Fund has already stepped up with a $7,500 donation and other sponsors will be approached in coming weeks.
Two local hotels have already joined forces to help. The Capri Centre will host the event and Black Knight Inn chefs and other staff will put a gourmet spin on macaroni and cheese for an anticipated lunchtime crowd of 1,000.
Mac and Cheese Committee chairman Ray McBeth came up with the idea, which was inspired by similar fundraisers he had seen elsewhere.
“We wanted to turn it into a real event by bringing in a couple of exceptional speakers.”
His search turned up Hillier, who is considered Canada’s top draw among speakers. Franklin, a medic badly wounded in Afghanistan in 2006 when a suicide bomber smashed into his vehicle, gets standing ovations whenever he speaks, said McBeth. He has also written a memoir of his experiences called The Long Walk Home and continues to teach medicine at military bases while helping amputees through the Northern Alberta Amputee Program, which he co-founded.
“For sure, we’ll sell out. I suspect we’ll raise in excess of $100,000.”
Hillier has commanded Canadian and international troops throughout the world. He commanded NATO forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina and was appointed commander of the NATO-led Security Assistance Force Afghanistan in 2003. In April, he announced he was leaving his post as Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff on July 1.
The luncheon will run from 11:45 a.m to 1:30 p.m. To order tickets contact Jim Slipp at firstname.lastname@example.org