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Pink Pearl fundraising party coming up at Ironwood Cider

After holding virtual fundraisers for two years, Pink Pearl founder Elise Gasbarrino is excited to be finally hosting an in-person event. She has chosen Ironwood Cider House as the venue, for a few reasons — it’s just down the street from where she lives.
At a cheque presentation of $35,000 for Pink Pearl from the Dustin family, which runs Harness the Hope fundraisers across Ontario, were George Gasbarrino, Mary Gasbarrino, Doreen Dustin, Brandi Dustin-Poels, Kristine Dustin, Elise Gasbarrino and Melaina Gasbarrino.

After holding virtual fundraisers for two years,  Pink Pearl founder Elise Gasbarrino is excited to be finally hosting an in-person event.

She has chosen Ironwood Cider House as the venue, for a few reasons — it’s just down the street from where she lives, she knows the staff are helpful and friendly, and she loves the new modern building and large open spaces it offers.

The event is called Hybrid Black & White with a Touch of Pink, and is being held Feb. 4, which is also World Cancer Day, to raise funds in support of young women facing cancer. It is also intended to raise awareness that young women face different challenges than others, with few resources available to help them.

Pink Pearl is a registered charitable organization that provides support, facilitates connections and empowers young women who are courageously overcoming the social and emotional challenges of a cancer diagnosis.

There are typically several Pink Pearl fundraisers a year, including an annual event at Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery that will be held again in May, and the popular Purse Bingo at White Oaks Conference Resort and Spa.

The Feb. 4 event will be something a little different, says Gasbarrino, and
is one of the first events Ironwood is hosting since it opened just as the pandemic started.

It has an open space downstairs, and a large event room upstairs, both of which will be available for the fundraiser. “Downstairs will be more like a party atmosphere with dancing, and those who want to get a table and chat can take their drinks and food upstairs,” Gasbarrino explains.

A local band, Undercover, will be providing the music.

Although “there will be a lighter mood,” she says, “we will also be sharing some information about the charity, and some of the programs available.”

She explains in-person programs are slowly returning — a safe, outdoor family support day and picnic was held this summer in Simcoe Park, with 15 women and their family members attending.

“We’re excited to be planning things for 2023. It will be nice to see people face-to-face again.”

As happy as she is to host an event that will be fun to attend, Gasbarrino has learned through the pandemic that virtual meetings can attract and reach many more people. So for those who live too far away, and those who are just not comfortable at public gatherings, there’s also an option to join the event virtually from home.

There will be a silent auction those watching from home can attend, she adds.

Reaching more people virtually, Gasbarrino says, “is a bigger responsibility, and also a bigger opportunity to make an impact.”

Gasbarrino explains how Pink Pearl came to be, as a result of her own experience with cancer.

“At 21, I was in the process of getting my business degree at Wilfrid Laurier University, and was doing a co-op term in Ottawa. I felt some pain in my abdomen, went through the process of surgery, and found it was ovarian cancer.”

After two surgeries, then chemotherapy at Juravinski Cancer Centre, she discovered there were few women her age to talk to about her situation, and no resources geared to helping young women.

“There were great camps for kids, and programs for everyone else, but there wasn’t a lot for young women. There still isn’t,” she says. “The 20s and 30s are defining decades,” she adds, when people are going to school, starting their careers, moving in with partners and getting married, “and then this cancer thing comes along.”

Her experience led her to organize programs for the younger age group, including wellness retreats and social events, providing a means for them to conquer their issues together.

Some of the women who benefited from earlier programs now volunteer and help others on their journey, she said.

“We have an ambassador program, for women who want to stay involved and give back, as they have more time to give back.”

This upcoming fundraising event, though, “is really all about having fun.”

It gets its name from the very first fundraiser organized by her family in 2006. At the time, she explained, there was a popular TV show called The Black and White Affair — it makes Gasbarrino laugh to explain it now, saying it was early reality TV — and they used the name for their fundraiser, saying “let’s have a party, like they have.”

The fundraisers have continued as party events, and eventually the name got changed to Black & White with a Touch of Pink. “It gives it a theme. People can wear black, white and pink.”

Some of those attending, she says, “were at our first event 17 years ago.”

For more information about the Feb. 4 event, to buy tickets, register for the virtual venue, or donate, visit

The auction opens Monday, Jan. 30 at noon, and closes Saturday, Feb. 4 at 7:30 p.m.

About the Author: Penny Coles

Penny Coles is editor of Niagara-on-the-Lake Local
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