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WaterKeeperGord Downie shares his water story to kick off an energetic performance with The Sadies at the 2014 Waterkeeper Gala presented by RBC. (Photo by George Pimental Photography)

Last night’s Waterkeeper Gala presented by RBC set a new fundraising record for the annual event, bringing in $500,000 to support Lake Ontario Waterkeeper’s work on water issues.

“Water is a central to the Canadian cultural identity. When we do harm to water, we do harm to ourselves,” Waterkeeper Mark Mattson told the 350 guests who gathered at Palais Royale.

The evening featured a lineup of powerful performances by Peter Mansbridge, Edward Burtynsky, Sarah Harmer, Albert Schultz, Scott Thompson, Atom Egoyan, Tanis Rideout, Naomi Snieckus and Matt Baram, Kevin Drew, Jian Ghomeshi, Andrea Nann, Leslie Feist, Wab Kinew, Gord Downie and The Sadies. The show was curated by gala co-host and longtime Waterkeeper supporter Gord Downie.

“Performers shared an idea, a memory, or a belief about water that is unique. They told stories, sang, and made us laugh,” says Mattson. “The message was unmistakable: each and every one of us has a personal connection to water.”

The show flowed into a live art auction featuring pieces by Barbara Cole, Michael Adamson, John Brown, Kim Dorland, Katharine Harvey, Tony Scherman, and Edward Burtynsky.

RBC delighted guests early in the night with a surprise presentation of a $100,000 from the RBC Blue Water Project to Waterkeeper’s National Water Centre initiative.

“Lake Ontario Waterkeeper’s emphasis on strengthening our cultural connection to water is key to a clean water future. We are proud to be the founding presenter of their annual gala,” Shari Austin, Vice President, Corporate Citizenship, RBC.

“We were honoured to announce our support for the National Water Centre to the remarkable group of arts and business leaders who gathered with us at Palais Royale last night.” Austin said. Details of the grant will be released on RBC Blue Water Day, June 12, 2014.

The 2014 Waterkeeper Gala was presented by RBC. Other event sponsors include: Cement Association of Canada, Lafarge, McKeil Marine, Bullfrog Power, Cisco, Fox Harb’r, Gordon and Lorraine Gibson Family Foundation, Miller Thomson, Cinnie Segsworth Travel INC., Hatch Research Intelligence, Lassonde, Ontario Power Generation, and Savoy Pitfield Foundation.