OVC Pet Trust Walk in the Park Gala co-chairs Roly Browning Watt and Emmanuelle Gattuso

The University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) will benefit from a record-breaking $ 4,944,680 million raised by Toronto animal lovers and philanthropists this week.

The fourth Walk in the Park Gala was held Oct. 1 to raise funds for OVC Pet Trust, the first companion animal charitable fund in Canada dedicated to improving the health of pets.

Proceeds from the event, which attracted 250 people to Daniels Spectrum in Toronto, will be used to support emergency medicine and critical care at OVC.

“As pet lovers and caregivers, we know that the relationship we have with our veterinarian is one of the most important bonds we can develop to give our four-legged family members the healthiest life possible,” said Emmanuelle Gattuso, a longtime health-care philanthropist who co-chaired the event along with Roly Browning Watt. “It is for this reason I am proud to support the Ontario Veterinary College and ensure we continue to have access to the very best in veterinary care close to home.”

Nearly 2,500 animals, or 60 per cent of the pets referred each year to the OVC Companion Animal Hospital, require care in its intensive care unit (ICU). Funds raised at this year’s gala will support an expansion of the ICU, which has seen 30 per cent more animals visit over the past two years.

Gala at Daniels Spectrum in Toronto

“You will not meet a more dedicated group of professionals than members of OVC’s clinical team,” said U of G president Franco Vaccarino during the event. “They are a big part of the reason why OVC is consistently ranked number one in Canada and among the top veterinary colleges worldwide. The team personifies U of G’s singular shared purpose to improve life, and the Ontario Veterinary College and OVC Pet Trust are incredibly fortunate to have the generous, kind and loyal support of everyone here tonight.”

During the event, a gift of more than $4 million was announced from the estate of the late Catherine Bergeron, professor emerita of neuropathology at the University of Toronto. Bergeron was formerly division chief and staff neuropathologist at Toronto General Hospital, formerly principal investigator at the Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases and founder of the Canadian Brain Tissue Bank at U of T.

Supported by lead sponsor Bank of Montreal, the gala was emceed by Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, star of the Canadian comedy series Kim’s Convenience, and featured a cocktail reception, a meal provided by Toronto chef Sash Simpson and a hologram appearance by actor Jon Hamm.

Auction items included a spectacular pet-friendly trip to New York City; a private party for eight at Toronto’s exclusive jeweler Mindham Fine Jewellery; floor seats to a Toronto Raptors game; a pet photo session with artist Deborah Samuel; an exclusive dinner provided by chef Sash Simpson; Fleetwood Mac concert tickets; and dog beds from eight Toronto designers.

“OVC Pet Trust has played a crucial role over the past 30 years to advance new discoveries when it comes to pet health,” said Roly Browning Watt. “Bringing this group of animal lovers together to help continue this work into the future has been an honour.”