Chocolate BrunchIt’s a classic fund-raising strategy. Entice people into indulging themselves, then provide them with a guilt-free disclaimer: “I’m doing this for a good cause.”

Anyone who has ever devoured an entire box of Girl Scout cookies over an afternoon knows what it’s like to be a willing victim of this ploy. And in Canada, the VON Hamilton Foundation has taken it a step further, adding eye candy (the Nutcracker ballet) to a decadent chocolate-themed feast.

What’s not to like here? Studies have shown that chocolate is perhaps the world’s most universally desired flavor. Meanwhile, even those who profess to hate ballet will mark their calendars months in advance for a Nutcracker performance, if only for their kids’ sake.

“We were trying to find a family-oriented fund-raiser,” said Krista Law, Fund Development Coordinator for the VON Hamilton Foundation, “and we also wanted to develop a partnership with another organization — in this case, the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble.”

“VON” stands for “Victorian Order of Nurses,” and has chapters across Canada. Among other things, it offers services to indigent patients, homebound visits, a day program for clients with Alzheimer’s or dementia, education for family caregivers and advanced training for nurses.

The VON Hamilton Chocolate Lovers Brunch was designed specifically for the “Good Beginnings” program, a volunteer parent and infant support program that offers weekly in-home visits by a trained volunteer.

“Most of our chapters have adopted the Chocolate Lovers Brunch,” said Law, “but they tend to do it in February, for Valentine’s Day. We were the only chapter to schedule it at Christmas time, along with the Nutcracker.”

The first such event, in 2005, drew 240 people and raised $1,500. Last December, the Foundation attracted 220 and brought in $5,000.

“We really increased our sponsorship money the second year,” Law said, “and that helped a lot. The difference in attendance, I think, was that we did it the first year on Saturday and last year on Sunday. Church probably cut into the crowd a bit.”

The group staged the brunch at 11:30 in the downtown Hamilton Sheraton, with the ballet following at 2. “The ballet was held at Hamilton Place, which is right across the street from the Sheraton,” said Law. “So people only had to park once.”

Indeed, they probably needed a short walk after their feast. Besides the traditional brunch food, the menu also included chocolate Belgian waffles, chocolate eclairs, several cakes, an assortment of chocolate pastries and a chocolate fountain “surrounded with dipping fruit and treats.”

VON Hamilton charged $95 for adults for the brunch and ballet and $50 for children, and $55 for adults for brunch only and $30 for children. The ballet company offered a reduced rate on tickets, Law said.

As for advertising, the Foundation put up a billboard and received lots of air time from Lesley Stewart, the weather and traffic reporter on a Hamilton television station.

The buffet required a significant number of volunteers, Law said, “and we also had a holiday market where we sold angels and nutcrackers and holiday gift baskets. We had a raffle, entertainment (a singing group singing Christmas carols, a clown for the kids.) VON volunteers looked after the events at the Brunch and the Canadian Ballet Youth Ensemble looked after everything at the ballet.”

VON Hamilton hasn’t decided whether or not to try the Chocolate Lovers Brunch for a third year.

“It’s been very popular,” she said, “but you don’t want to overdo a good thing.”

Not even chocolate.

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Chocolate Tasting Event – “For the Love of Chocolate” Fundraiser held on February 11, 2006, Community Events Center on Ft. Hood, TX

Posted on 13 February 2007

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