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The 14th Annual UWI Toronto Benefit Awards Raises Major Funds for Caribbean Students and Gets a Surprise Pledge from Luminary Recipient Sheryl Lee Ralph

May 2, 2023 | Vision Newspaper |

Toronto, ON – More than 450 people attended the sold-out 14th Annual UWI Toronto Benefit Awards at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Saturday, April 29th exceeding expectations in its fundraising efforts to support Caribbean students attending The University of the West Indies (UWI), top ranked among the world’s best universities.  This year’s theme was Beyond Our Imagination, and the spectacular night was a dazzling array of celebration and goodwill that went well beyond the organizers’ imagination.

Several hundred thousand dollars were raised through ticket sales, attendee donations, a silent auction and a live auction. Led by auctioneer Frances Fripp and her team, it was an exciting night of bidding on exclusive items that included a pair of autographed boxing gloves and one hour training session with Olympian and Heavyweight Champion of the World Lennox Lewis and a pair of business class tickets to anywhere in the world courtesy of Air Canada.

Other highlights of the evening included the first volunteer awards presented to the night’s host CBC anchor Dwight Drummond and the event’s former longtime auctioneer Gordon Cressy as well as a speech from scholarship recipient Sabraina Perry, who expressed hers and the other scholarship recipients’ gratitude for the financial support.    “Sabraina, and success stories like hers, are the reason we do this event year after year,” explained Mrs. Elizabeth Buchanan-Hind, Director of the University’s Institutional Advancement Division. “Our committee of volunteers, the patrons and our lead sponsor Scotiabank are committed to our mission of giving Caribbean students the advantage of a great education and not letting finances be a hindrance.”

Ms. Anya Schnoor, Scotiabank’s Executive Vice-President, Caribbean, Central America & Uruguay – International Banking, surprised the audience in her remarks by further pledging Scotiabank’s commitment to extend and increase their annual sponsorship of the UWI Toronto Benefit Awards to One Hundred Thousand Dollars.

Another surprise came from Luminary Award recipient, Dr. The Honourable Sheryl Lee Ralph, OJ, who announced in her recorded acceptance speech that she would be awarding scholarships to UWI Students in the name of herself and her family.

 The other honourees of the night were:

  • G. Raymond Chang Award: Dr. Dodridge Miller – Group President and Chief Executive Officer, Sagicor Financial Company Ltd.

  • Chancellor’s Award:Black North Initiative (BNI) – Asocial justice initiative designed to remove anti-Black systemic barriers negatively affecting the lives of Black Canadians.

  • Vice Chancellor’s Award: Mr. Kevin Hibbert – Chief Financial Officer, Senior Managing Partner & Co-Head of Enterprise Shared Services Group, Sprott Inc.

  • Vice Chancellor’s Award:  Mr. Ray Williams – Vice Chairman & Managing Director – Financial Markets at National Bank Financial

 Multi-award-winning Jazz/Blues/Gospel singer Jackie Richardson and Juno Award winner R&B singer Sean Jones wowed the audience with their soul-stirring performances and KOSA, a young rising star, stole the show with her beautiful rendition of Whitney Houston’s Greatest Love of All.  Thunder Dome Sounds featuring Eddie, Quincy and Tre-Michael Bullen kept the night grooving with their contemporary jazz sound, flavoured with Caribbean rhythms. While pan legend Patrick “Panman Pat” McNeilly and his Steelpan Ensemble got the night started by leading attendees into the beautifully decorated ballroom to a calypso beat.

Following the awards dinner ceremony, attendees headed upstairs to The Air Canada Lyme featuring DJ Blackcat to celebrate the university’s Diamond Jubilee – 75th anniversary – under the theme, Rooted-Ready-Rising.  It is a global celebration of its history and legacy within the Caribbean Region.

“For 14 years we have gathered like-minded individuals amongst the corporate and other sectors, for a cause thousands of miles away.  I am pleased with this year’s event as more and more corporate Canada comes on board. This fundraiser continues to showcase the best of  the Caribbean community in Canada and the world – especially the diversity that brings us together for one common cause – to uplift and support these students,” said Dr. Donette Chin-Loy Chang, UWI Toronto Benefit Awards Co-Patron.

Co-Patrons of the UWI Toronto Benefit Awards are Dr. Donette Chin-Loy Chang, Mr. Andrew Chang, and Ms. Brigette Chang, with Dr. Wesley J. Hall (Wes), as honorary patron.    The event is proudly supported by Scotiabank for the 14th consecutive year. The UWI Toronto Benefit Awards has raised over $3 million and awarded 800 scholarships.


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