There is nothing that feels better for the soul than laughter – except, possibly, sharing it with more than 500 friends and neighbours, under a summer sky, knowing that it's for a really great cause.
Comedians Joe Pillitteri, David Green and Frank Spadone, along with local band The Hopyards – with Pillitteri joining the musicians on stage for a song to wrap up the show – raised $54,000 for Team Pillsy Thursday night at Jackson Triggs Winery, to benefit the Terry Fox Foundation.
Cousins Joe and Mike Pillitteri – a comedian and a musician – had set themselves a goal of raising $60,000 for this year's run, by working together rather than challenging each other, as they did last year. They have already surpassed that, thanks to last week's event, a car wash and a lemonade stand held leading up to it.
This week, heading into the run, they are looking at the possibility of hitting the $100,00 mark.
Although they had several fundraising events leading up to the evening at Jackson Triggs, they put their heads and their talent together for the big event to come up with an amazing evening that included a a great dinner by the Garrison House under a tent beside the winery amphitheatre, a couple of hours of laugh-out-loud fun, and some local boys wrapping up the evening with cover songs of great rock classics.
It was a fabulous evening, and one shared by a crowd of locals who appreciated the fantastic food, jokes and music, but most of all, the spectacular feeling of coming together as a community to help out Team Pillsy, Terry Fox run organizer Joan King who each year works hard to boost the run total, and the Terry Fox Foundation, which continues to raise money for cancer research with the annual Marathon of Hope, carried on to honour a Canadian icon whose dream was to put an end to suffering from such a devastating disease.
Pillitteri “kept the crowd in stitches,” said King, bringing laughter to a community that came together to support him in raising money for the Terry Fox Foundation for cancer research.
“He's a true leader,” she said. “He is so talented and generous, making him such an inspiration as he makes a difference in so many lives.”
Most of Joe's jokes were as usual directed at his parents and kids – his father Vince attends all of his shows and takes it in good humour. His mother Margaret, who seldom comes to his stand-up performances – “she's afraid I'm going to bomb,” explained Joe – was there to support the Terry Fox Foundation.
There were a few digs at the local political scene, but Joe, who told the crowd he is helping with Lord Mayor Pat Darte's election campaign, aimed his jokes at candidates for the craziness of putting themselves out there, hoping to win the right to spend their Monday evenings attending long council meetings. He also threw a few jabs at those who come to Niagara-on-the-Lake and then complain – he never misses a chance to remind us how fortunate we are to live and work in such a great town.
And his faith in his home town was renewed at last Thursday's event, which was sold out. “Needless to say,” said Joe, announcing the total raised, “this community has once again shatered every expectation we ever had about the limits of its generosit and kindness.”
Joe praised the many volunteers who helped make the evening such a success, especially Stacey Mulholland and the folks at Jackson Triggs, for providing the venue and the staff at no cost to help with the fundraising efforts. Although Garrison House provided most of the meal for those who chose to attend, Mulholland and Joe's sister Eileen Pillitteri-Smith, who helped organize the event, also prepared some of the food. He also singled out King, who has organized the run for more than a decade, drawing a standing ovation from the crowd.
Wine was provided by Jackson Triggs, Pillliteri Estates Winery and Riverview, with beer from Oast and prizes donated from Seaway Farms.
At a car wash in Virgil in the parking lot of Cornerstone Church, held late in August, church volunteers turned the event into a bake sale as well, and Team Pillsy raised $7,500.
Joe, Mike and their families will be participating in the Terry Fox Run this Sunday, Sept. 16. Registration begins at 9 a.m. at Simcoe Park, with the run beginning at 10 a.m.
Most people walk the five-kilometre route but the runners or cyclists can do it twice to make it a 10-kilometre event, says King.
There is a barbecue put on in Simcoe Park by the Niagara-on-the-Lake-Lewiston Rotary Club, pizza is donated from Sandtrap Pub and Grill and ice cream from Cows, all served up the day of the run.
Also at the run site, fruit is donated from Walkers Farms and Tim Hortons donates coffee and goodies, water is provided from A1 flooring and Valu-mart. Shirts are sold the day of the run for $20 but can be purchased ahead of time.
A Tunes for Terry trivia night will be held Friday, Sept. 14, and on Sept. 15, students who need volunteer hours will be out at the two Valu-marts and Avondales in the Old Town and Virgil collecting money for the Terry Fox Foundation for cancer research.
'When we run on Sept. 16, we will run with all of our hearts for Terry Fox and his dream,” said Joe.
To all who have volunteered, donated and helped Team Pillsy toward their goal, he and Mike said in their thanks to the community, “every step of the way, we will be thankful to have you all in our lives.”