TORONTO — Comedian Martin Short hosted the first annual SMASH celebrity ping-pong tournament, a United Jewish Appeal fundraiser that raised more than $100,000 to send underprivileged children to summer camp.
“I love ping-pong. UJA is an amazing cause, and there is nothing nobler than helping kids enjoy a summer camp experience,” Short said at the March 1 event at a nightclub in downtown Toronto.
“I went to Camp Wanakita in Haliburton, Ont., and when I wasn’t at camp, I spent my time in cottage country. I have great memories of camp, and that is why I am here to give countless Jewish children that experience, too.”
Comedian Carla Collins, one of many celebrities and professional athletes at the event produced by Solutions with Impact, said, “I am from Sault St. Marie, Northern Ontario, so I grew up on a lot of ping-pong.
“There are three things I always support for charity events: children, women and dogs. When [Solutions with Impact president] Joel Hock, approached me, I was happy to fly in to Toronto from Los Angeles.”
Some 300 people attended the fundraiser. The ping-pong tournament consisted of 26 teams of three people each, playing four doubles matches over the course of approximately four hours, including a championship game with the highest fundraising teams. The top 10 highest fundraising teams played with a celebrity teammate.
Team Frodismash, comprising Dani Frodis, Jeff Stal and Jacob Zaidenberg, who raised $8,564.37, won the tournament. Their celebrity player was former Toronto Maple Leaf captain, Wendel Clark.
Throughout the evening, music flowed and the energy escalated. Ping-pong balls flew in midair as the crowd, watching displays of skill, screamed and applauded their teams, while sipping cocktails, drinking beer and sampling hors d’oeuvres. Guests also bid on items in both silent and live auctions.
Julie Albert, who co-chaired the event with Jay Silber, said, “The fact that both of us are ardent ping-pong enthusiasts didn’t hurt, but, more than that, it was all about raising money to help send underprivileged Jewish kids to summer camp, an experience so many of us take for granted and so many of us have benefited from.”
Dan Horowitz, editorial director of the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, said it was “great to see so many members of Jewish Toronto – of all backgrounds and ages – come together to have a great time, shmooze, and, of course, play some serious ping-pong, all to support this event which is all about helping to build and strengthen Jewish identity among our next generation by helping them experience Jewish summer camp.
“I hear from so many people today that Jewish summer camp was their bridge, their connection, to Jewish life, where they made lasting friendships, and great memories,” he added.
John Salley, former NBA player and current broadcaster, said that “you strengthen people… by helping those who are not as [fortunate] as you may be or think you are.”
Actor William Baldwin said, “First and foremost, the organization UJA brought me here to assist kids to attend summer camp. A very interesting concept – speaking as one who was a poor Irish kid who never went away to camp in his entire life.”
Les Dukes, an information technology consultant, said, “I am an avid player. I even brought my own paddle and have been working very hard practising to get ready and prepare for the tournament.
“It is awesome to see the celebrity support tonight, to be able to raise money for kids to have a summer at camp, an experience they may not have been able to enjoy.”
Also attending the fundraiser were actor Ellen Dubin, former Leafs and Calgary Flames player Gary Leeman, actor Kiowa Gordon and Toronto Raptor Amir Johnson. Singer Chantal Kreviazuk wowed the audience with her performance at the event.