A couple weeks ago, I attended the 8th annual OpportuniTEA fundraising event in Toronto hosted by stars from my favourite soap The Young and the Restless, in support of March of Dimes – a community-based advocacy and charity group for people with physical disabilities. As a loyal fan of the soap since the early ’90s, the experience was like a mini dream come true!
Although this was their 8th year in Toronto, it was my first time attending. I had seen ads for the event in the past on social media, but I never realized that it was open to the general public. So this year, when I noticed a similar post, I immediately jumped at the opportunity. I brought my cousin along, who is just as big of a fan as I am.
The main purpose of the event was to raise funds in support of March of Dimes’ Conducive Education program – a rehabilitation program designed specifically for people with neurological motor disorders. Their goal was to raise about $80,000 and I would not be surprised if they exceeded that goal as the event was sold out.
I didn’t really know what to expect, other than the prospect of being in the same room as some of my favourite stars of the show being completely amazing – but it turned out to be so much better than I expected!
It’s obvious that the people on the guest list were an obvious factor in drawing the large audience to this event. If you’re a Y&R fan, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. Long-time veteran of show, Kate Linder, who has played the Chancellor estate housekeeper Esther Valentine since 1982, hosted the event with special guests Sharon Case (Sharon Newman on Y&R), Mark Grossman (Adam Newman on Y&R), Christian LeBlanc (Michael Baldwin on Y&R) and Christel Khalil (Lily Winters on Y&R).
Before the event began, they had a table of promotional merchandise on sale with anything from a Y&R tote bag to a Genoa City t-shirt. I ended up getting a Crimson Lights mug pictured here. As Y&R fans know, Crimson Lights is the name of Genoa City’s famous coffee shop so it felt like the most fitting item to take away from this event.
Also, as I was in line to get to the merchandise booth, I started chatting with a very kind lady named Carol. (I can’t recall her last name). She actually thought I had come to this event last year and I was flattered by the prospect of having done so. I jokingly told her that my ‘twin’ must have done a great job at leaving a lasting impression. 😉
A large part of the event was Q&A with the stars, giving attendees an oppotunity to ask some of their burning questions about the show. It was pretty cool to get the inside scoop from the actors themselves on some of the behind-the-scenes action and get their true personal feelings on certain storylines.
The picture above shows a fan with Christian LeBlanc sharing her story of mental illness. She talked about how Sharon’s character’s storyline in the recent past about the struggles of mental illness really helped her cope with her own real-life struggles. It was heart-warming to see the very real impact of these storylines on the lives of loyal fans of the show.
Also, during the Q&A session, Sharon revealed a little tidbit herself: contrary to popular belief, (in soap opera land), she actually did not opt to keep her real name for the part of Sharon Collins that she’s been playing since 1994. For whatever reason, it was assumed all this time that she had preferred to use her own name on the show, but actually it was merely a coincidence that the part she ended up getting, happened to be for a character named Sharon. So there you have it.
Going, going, gone!
The auction was entertaining to watch as well. Attendees had the chance to bid on all kinds of items including clothing worn by cast members on previous episodes of Y&R.
Here, Sharon Case modelled a Christmas sweater worn in a past episode that eventually got auctioned off to the highest bidder.
Christian LeBlanc is also quite the avid artist and sold one of his paintings at the event. You can view his gallery of creativity at his online art store here.
The one prize that really excited me was the trip to LA to visit the Y&R set. Eventually the trip went to four people for a whopping $10,000!
Getting up close and personal
So like I mentioned, the event was attractive enough to my cousin and I knowing that we’d be in attendance with our favourite stars. And while the agenda had mentioned an autograph session, because I’d never been to one of these before, I really didn’t know if we’d actually have the pleasure of meeting each cast member in case there were time constraints, etc. But when we did get the opportunity, it was just incredible!
Sharon Case celebrated her 25th year on the show this year. When the character was first introduced in 1994, she was the third actress to play the role of Sharon in less than a year, and clearly, the third time was a charm!
Sharon has been an integral part of the show ever since and I’ve admired her for just as long. When I had the pleasure of actually meeting her, I was quite simply on cloud nine! She is just as warm, lovely and beautiful, in person as her onscreen character.
Christian LeBlanc has been playing the character of bad-guy-gone-good Michael Baldwin, on the show on and off since 1991. He is a well-respected and much-loved cast member and meeting him was also an incredible experience. He’s such a nice guy and a big joker.
Meeting Mark Grossman was completely awesome. Although he’s only been on the show for eight months, he’s certainly made an imprint in a short amount of time. I personally think he fits the role of Adam perfectly. He was super nice and charming.
Kate Linder was a delight to meet. She was the main host of the event. Out of everyone there, she has been on the show the longest and has been actively involved in various charitable causes throughout her career. When she is not playing Esther on the show, she is actively involved in various charitable causes. She is the driving force behind these high tea events that have been held in Toronto since 2012. I personally think it’s great that the show has given its Canadian fan base so much recognition by having events like this here giving fans frontline access. You can learn much more about Kate’s career at her website.
Christel Khalil unfortunately could not stay for the autograph session so we didn’t get a chance to meet her. She actually lives in Toronto now with her son and boyfriend, Sam Restagno, who is from Toronto, so who knows, we may just cross paths one day! 🙂
Here’s my cousin and I by the gorgeous hotel Christmas tree before we wrapped up an amazing afternoon of glitz and glam with our Y&R fam!
Needless to say, the overall experience far exceeded my expectations and was just awesome. To anyone that lives in the GTA that is a long-standing fan of The Young and the Restless, I would highly recommend going next year. You won’t be disappointed!