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Baycrest dance gala supports brain health

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Dancing With Our Stars dancers, from left, are Joshua Wise and Sarah-Maude Thibaudeau; Nicole Inwentash and Daniel Studenny; Margaret Nightengale and Mikhail Zaslavskiy, and David Purdy and Tanya Laremchuk [Susan Minuk photo]

TORONTO — Baycrest raised $22 million for brain health this year, including $750,000 from its recent gala, Dancing With Our Stars, a charity spinoff of the hit TV show.

The March 7 event, held at Toronto’s Allstream Centre, Exhibition Place, brought out some 600 guests. Since its inception in 1989, Dancing With Our Stars has raised close to $15 million for Baycrest.

Presented by the Baycrest Foundation, the event paired community leaders with professional dance partners, to foxtrot, samba and tango their way into the hearts of the judges and audience.

Guest judges included musician-manager Jake Gold, dancer Jordan Clark and the host of the TV show Cityline, Tracy Moore. One of the evening’s highlights was an impromptu Harlem Shake dance performed by hosts Dina Pugliese and Kevin Frankish, Canadian television personalities.

Dancing With Our Stars co-chairs were Warren Kimel, general manager and vice-president of Fabricland Distributors, as well as the chair of the Baycrest Foundation, and Keith Pelley, president of Rogers Media.

All of the fundraising occurred before the event. To raise funds, the dancers posted videos on YouTube so that sponsors could support a dancer. David Purdy was the top fundraiser.

The dancers each had their own personal reasons to dance for brain health.

Nicole Inwentash, 24, wanted to raise awareness in the younger generation about the issue of aging brain health with which many of her peers are unfamiliar. “Illness related to the aging brain can affect anyone,” she said. “We want to have the best technology out there to help treat the illness, so when the time comes for the younger generation to need it, it’s there,” she told The CJN.

Purdy, a senior vice-president of Rogers Communications Inc., added, “Everyone has a family member or friend who is affected by aging brain health. That’s why I’m putting my best foot forward to help Baycrest achieve its goals.”

Dancer Joshua Wise, senior wealth adviser of Wise Wealth Management Group of Scotia McLeod, said, “This touches me personally because my immediate family is affected by Alzheimer’s. Raising funds for this cause seemed like a worthy challenge.”

Baycrest is a global leader and one of the world’s most comprehensive centres for aging brain health. 

“We provide wellness and outreach programs, residential housing, outpatient clinics, a long-term care home, a 300-bed hospital and an independent-living facility,” said Susan Sutton, president of Baycrest Foundation and Baycrest’s vice-president of global institutional advancement. “What that means is that our proven research can be applied immediately to help the people we serve, so our expertise is second to none.”

Dr. Nicole Anderson, a senior scientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest, said how the brain ages and why some people’s brains hold up better is a complex puzzle involving an interplay of genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors.

“Successful aging studies consistently point to a few fundamental qualities of a brain-health lifestyle,” she said. “The overall message is to stay active, mentally, physically and socially. The most powerful thing we can do is engage in aerobic exercise.”

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