Joining forces

Tournament organizers Anne Madden and Joe Azzopardi
What does an annual Valentine’s Day gala, a pink-hued pale ale and a golf tournament all have in common? Raising support for Sunnybrook!

A little over a decade ago, Joe Azzopardi was hanging out with his friends when one of them issued a challenge. “I was saying, ‘We should give back,” he says. “And one of my friends replied, ‘You know, you’re always saying that - so let’s do it. Let’s go.”

Joe did, launching The Giving Hearts Gala with his wife, Rose, and a group of volunteers. A decade later, the annual event – a fun and entertaining Valentine’s Day party – has raised more than a quarter of a million dollars to support the future of breast and prostate cancer research and care at Sunnybrook.

Joe Azzopardi thanks participants for supporting breast cancer care and prostate cancer research.

At the most recent gala in February 2020, Anne Madden spoke about how the funds raised had directly helped her. An associate at a law firm and the co-founder of Black Lab Brewing in Toronto, she was diagnosed with breast cancer at just 27. Anne shared how the PYNK: Young Women with Breast Cancer Program at Sunnybrook’s Odette Cancer Centre connected her with other women her age and helped her access group and personal support.

Funded entirely by donors, PYNK is the first program of its kind in Canada designed for women aged 40 and younger newly diagnosed with breast cancer who will be receiving their medical oncology care at the Odette Cancer Centre.

“People ask, ‘Why do we do it?’ Anne is why,” says Joe. “People like Anne are living proof why it’s so important to fundraise for programs that help people every day, while they’re going through the hardest moments in their lives.”

Anne did far more than share her story at the gala. She created PYNK Hibiscus Pale Ale – a pink-hued beer – and every glass raised since has also raised support for the program it is named for. “From personal experience, I know how much PYNK can help,” says Anne. “I want to make sure programs like these keep running, so they can help as many young people as possible.”

Anne Madden, Rose and Joe Azzopardi, Dr. Robert Nam, Joanna Sullivan, Jerry Horwath

Joe recognized a kindred spirit, and Anne and Joe joined forces to create the Mulligan Charity Golf tournament held this past September. Hosted by the Lebovic Golf Club, in its inaugural year the tournament raised over $30,000 in support of breast and prostate cancer research and care.

With planning well underway for this year’s Giving Heart Gala it looks like Joe more than met his friend’s challenge.

“What could be better than bringing together people who want to give back, have fun and make an impact!” says Joe.