18 SEP 2018: They came not just for the golf but to help raise money for the worthiest of causes – the SickKids Foundation. “It’s one day that friends and competitors can come together,” said TravelBrands president and CEO Frank DeMarinis of the 5th annual golf tournament and fundraiser, which put the travel company over the top in its five-year mission to raise a million dollars for SickKids, specifically the Toronto hospital’s Labatt Family Heart Centre.

“I was a Sick Kid [patient] myself,” TravelBrands co-owner Joe DeMarinis noted in explanation of his family and company’s massive support of the facility over the years. DeMarinis had surgery at the hospital in 1972 after being diagnosed with a heart condition and returned for eight years for follow-ups. “I am so grateful to SickKids,” he told the SickKids web site. “Dr. Mustard and the staff gave me my childhood back. They gave me my life back.”

More than 180 golfers and dinner guests from the travel industry and corporate world turned out for the event, held at Eagles Nest Golf Club in Vaughan, Ont., on Sept. 13. Many trade partners chipped in with on-course festivities, like an oyster bar, mechanical bull riding and putting contest, while the event’s signature helicopter ball drop and million-dollar shootout provided added prize possibilities.

But the day was about giving, not receiving, and a silent auction and lively prize auction for donated travel packages and airline tickets boosted the live time total for the year to $291,000 and over the million mark cumulatively. (One of many enthusiastic bidders was the third DeMarinis brother and TravelBrands co-owner, Enzo, whose wife even bid against him at one point).

Adding to the sum raised by TravelBrands were ongoing events throughout the year, such as an employee 5 km walk, participation in the Mississauga Dragon Boat Festival and a one percent of Sales Donation Day.

Despite the theatrics, there was little doubt that the goal would be achieved, with a giant million-dollar cheque pre-prepared for the Foundation and presented to SickKids child ambassador, Dorothy, who earlier delivered a moving and mature speech (to a standing ovation) about her experience as a patient at the hospital. Dorothy was also given a play station by the DeMarinises and her family a trip.

SickKids exec Anne-Marie Newton told the audience that its donations would help the hospital achieve its fundraising target to build a new facility, continue to advance heart transplant treatment and, most importantly, “save lives.”

Frank DeMarinis, meanwhile, pointed out that it was the duty of the private sector to “step up to the plate” to help hospitals like SickKids, particularly as governments, he said, “aren’t helping.”

“It’s a great opportunity for us as a community to do better,” he added.

To that end, TravelBrands is already looking ahead to its “next chapter with the SickKids Foundation” in 2019, not to mention teeing up its sixth annual golf tourney.

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Michael Baginski

Editor at Large, Mike Baginski is well known and well respected within the industry across Canada, the US, in the Caribbean, Mexico and numerous other destinations outside North America.

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