How do you stay engaged with issues that matter when you’re a bustling, thriving, up-and-coming young professional?
The Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research or CANFAR was founded in the late 1980s by three friends, Dinah Koo, Van Beltrame and Robert Mang, up-and-coming entrepreneurs in the service industry who had a desire to raise funds for HIV and AIDS research, as the epidemic impacted them and their social circles. CANFAR is Canada’s only independent charitable organization dedicated entirely to funding innovative and promising HIV and AIDS research. Over the years, CANFAR has grown and expanded its donor base and sought to engage youth in educational capacities on the basics of HIV after recognizing the importance of engaging the junior demographic.
In 2010, in the hopes of bridging the gap and connecting with a new generation, the Young Professional Council (YPC) was created with a simple mandate: spreading HIV and AIDS awareness and education amongst young professionals through the use of media, technology and fun and sophisticated social events.
Currently, the YPC is comprised of 12 diverse, influential young professionals who are actively engaging late gen X-ers and millennials alike through social media, relevant information and gatherings. In addition to the YPC’s 12 council members, there is a multitude of 50+ volunteers spread across various sub-committees (communications, event planning, fundraising, etc.) who contribute their time, ideas, and energy towards supporting the goals and mandate of the YPC.
Each spring, the YPC hosts their annual fundraiser, Our Future Without AIDS (OFWA). On the surface, this party may look like your typical schmooze-fest; however, upon closer inspection, it’s very evident that there is something markedly different going on. For starters, there are HIV and AIDS facts cleverly situated throughout the venue, AIDS ribbons worn by party-goers, intentional red decor, and bustling volunteers who are more than happy to share their passion for the work they do with you. In addition, you get to party in some super trendy venues (The Burroughes, Airship 37 in the Distillery), drink a vast array of beverages (thanks to the generous in-kind donations by various sponsors including Barefoot Wine, Eska Water and Labatt’s) and titillate your palate with a rich offering of food stations (Emma’s Eatery, Caplansky’s, Fidel Gastros, Glory Hole Doughnuts, and Cardinal Rule), all the while supporting an amazing, worthwhile and timely cause. When party options like OFWA are available, it kinda makes you wonder why you’d choose any other event, don’t you think?
It’s clear that the YPC is doing something right as attendance, sponsorship (RBC, TD Canada Trust and Porter Airlines joined the ranks of sponsors this year) and donations are steadily increasing year after year. This year’s party, dubbed “Paint the Town Red” attracted more than 400 young professionals plus some notables including mayoral candidate, Olivia Chow, and CANFAR’s President and CEO, Chris Bunting. Previous years have seen the likes of Rachel McAdams, Terrence Howard, and Rick Mercer.
Keep your eyes peeled for CANFAR and YPC at the upcoming World Pride festivities in Toronto! They will be marching in the parade on Sunday June 29 and will also have a booth set up so please look out for them and stop in to say hello if you feel so inclined!
The YPC is always looking for energetic, committed, and engaged volunteers who represent the diversity of the city so if you’re interested in getting involved, please contact Christopher Blomkwist, the vice-chair of the YPC at
for more information. You can also visit their website at www.CANFAR.com/YPC or follow them through a variety of social media outlets: