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Swirl and Twirl bubbles up for ninth year

Annual fundraiser supports queer Ottawa organizations

Swirl and Twirl founder Mario Larochelle says he is always surprised by the generosity and contributions of Ottawa's queer community. Credit: Bradley Turcotte

Swirl and Twirl will celebrate its ninth year of popping corks and raising funds for Ottawa’s queer community on May 30.

Mario Larochelle, Swirl and Twirl’s founder and co-producer, estimates the event has raised $45,000 for various queer Ottawa organizations aince its inception in 2003.

Created to rescue Capital Pride from the brink of bankruptcy, Swirl and Twirl stepped in when “nobody was willing to support or help Pride,” Larochelle says.

This year’s beneficiaries include Bruce House, Jer’s Vision, Pink Triangle Services (PTS) and the Canadian Tribute to Human Rights.

“The overall guiding principle of beneficiary selection is to achieve as diverse a range of organizations from across as many sections of the local GLBTTQA community as possible,” Larochelle says. “Swirl and Twirl seeks beneficiaries who are responsive to their members or community needs and seek to make a meaningful difference and impact in the community.”

Beneficiaries are selected based on the strength of their applications, their ability to provide volunteers and their dedication to support and promote the event, he adds.

This year’s gathering will feature a silent auction with prizes donated by the Ontario Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and Bodé Spa, DJs Chris Murray and Ashley Gauthier, and more wine and beer vendors than ever before, Larochelle says.

Looking back on nine years of Swirl and Twirl, Larochelle fondly recalls the inaugural event, held at Suite 34. Expectations were not high, he says, remembering how overjoyed he was when he opened the door and found 200 community members waiting to pour in.

“That was nice to feel like you are reaching out to a market who responds,” he says, “and there is a need for it, as well.”

Other highlights for Larochelle include participation from Ottawa trans support group Gender Mosaic at the 2012 event and an appearance by gay Amazing Race winners Reichen Lehmkuhl and Chip Arndt at the 2003 event. “They came to the event after their wedding. Unfortunately, they came late or maybe they had too much fun at their wedding. By the time they arrived, we were almost closing,” he laughs.

He notes that attendance from Ottawa’s lesbian community has waned over the years. He hopes to engage more women in time for Swirl and Twirl’s 10th anniversary next year.

“After eight years, there are still so many people who don’t know about our multi-community fundraiser event,” he says. “But I am still surprised by the response and participation.”