United Way’s new Suitcase Party takes flight

When the instructions say show up with a packed suitcase, travel buddy, valid passport and Friday booked off, you know it’s going to be a different kind of event.

United Way’s Suitcase Party launched on Feb. 27, delighting a packed crowd at the ultra-cool Jet Aircraft Museum. Food trucks, local beverage vendors and a live band created an upscale shed party vibe for laid-back chilling with good friends.

Over 150 guests showed up ready for adventure…and the chance to win fantastic travel prizes like the WestJet Getaway, an all-expenses paid long weekend trip for two to New York, valued at $6,500.

The grand prize trip destination was top secret until 8:00 p.m. when it was revealed in a dramatic countdown.

Winner Andrea VanHoeve couldn’t believe her name was drawn. “I never win anything,” she exclaimed. When she and husband Jeff were asked what they were most looking forward to, both replied: “All of it!”

The lucky couple was whisked away to Toronto direct from the Suitcase Party in a fantastic getaway vehicle from Lexus of London. They flew to New York early Friday morning.

The VanHoeve’s three-day adventure included a luxury hotel in SoHo, tickets to see the NY Knicks take on the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden, top seats for Broadway’s Sleep no more, and a 30-attraction sightseeing pass. VanHoeve said she was looking forward to a tour of trendy Brooklyn and the 911 Memorial.

Guests had the opportunity to win adventures closer to home too. One lucky couple won a luxury VIA Rail train and hotel adventure. Another stayed in London to enjoy ROOM at the Grand Theatre and a night at the luxe Hotel Metro. The door prize winner took home a weekend in Port Stanley plus a Lexus rental car.

“This is a new adventure for United Way,” said Kyla Woodcock, Founder, Forest City Sport & Social Club and Past Chair of this year’s United Way Campaign, who helped launch the idea.

“I was thrilled to see so many new faces in the room. Suitcase Party is a great way to introduce United Way to people who haven’t met us yet.”

Kyla Woodcock, Founder, Forest City Sport & Social Club & 2019 United Way Campaign Past Chair

To help new audiences understand United Way, Woodcock demonstrated an art installation featuring two kinds of “suitcases” that kids bring to summer camp: a plastic grocery bag filled with just the basics including a toothbrush, running shoes, shorts and a t-shirt, and a rolling suitcase overflowing with books, toys and camping gear.

The plastic bag represents everything that a child living in poverty can bring for a week of camp. The suitcase represents everything that a child with an unstable home life own, because they’re not sure where they’re going to be after camp.

“Sure, Suitcase Party is exciting, but it’s the community who really wins,” Woodcock said, noting that events like Suitcase Party help United Way send more than 600 kids each year to overnight camp for a week of carefree adventure, learning new skills and making new friends.

”Summer camp is a pretty magical travel opportunity for a kid who experiences poverty or an unstable home life every day.”

United Way was able launch the Suitcase Party with the help of a crew of committee volunteers and generous local sponsors, including TD as elite sponsor and Intact Insurance, The Pacific Institute and Forest City Sport & Social Club as lead sponsors.

Proceeds from United Way events stay 100% local, always, to help United Way ignite awareness about #UNIGNORABLE issues in our community, inspire action to help solve them, and invest in solutions that get proven results.

Check out #SuitcaseParty2020 on Facebook, Insta and Twitter for photos and stories

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