Categorized | Events, Featured



In the wake of Haiti’s recent devastation by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake Calgarians have been rallying to assist relief efforts, including raising money.  One of the most innovative charitable events is being organized by three local media personalities, Alex Ruiz, a host of Flames TV on; Camilla Di Giuseppe, CTV producer and news anchor; and Angela MacIsaac, web writer and journalist.  Tentatively called #YYC4HAITI, the event sprang from Twitter discussions between the three women and several other users, and quickly mushroomed into a January 28 event at Flames Central that is supported by the town’s major sports clubs and a growing number of businesses.

When asked how much money the event is expected to raise for Haiti relief, Ms. Ruiz half-jokingly says “A million dollars!”

Alex Ruiz

“We’re aiming high! We actually haven’t even started thinking of that, but to be honest, that number would be completely realistic if all of Calgary’s business community got together. What it comes down to though, is that every little bit counts. We’re not charging people to attend, we’re asking to please donate anything  they can, whether it’s $5-dollars, $5,000 or $50,000. We’ll be collecting donations at the door, and we’ll be raising money through a silent auction as well,” she said in an email interview.

Ms. Ruiz says Ms. Di Giuseppe helped organize a very successful pre-Christmas “Tweet-up” that raised money for the Foodbank.  A Tweet-up is simply a gathering of Twitter followers that is organized using Twitter, the popular social media tool that limits messages to 140 characters.

“So Thursday night on Twitter – she and Angela brought up the idea of doing another one to raise money for Haiti earthquake victims. I was thinking of organizing a Flames tweet-up as well, so we decided to come together to organize this one – and hopefully we can make it a huge Calgary event,” she said.

Local marketer John Cornegge is one of the behind the scenes volunteers for #YYC4HAITI.  He set up a Facebook page for the event and says a dedicated web site will be up shortly.  Mr. Cornegge is an avid social media user and says even though he hasn’t helped organize a charitable event on Twitter before, he has contributed to other Twitter-based charities in the past.

“There are probably over 30 million Twitter users and even more Facebook users. Just imagine if we all skip one coffee this week and donate those $2 to a Haiti relief fund. I bet anyone can miss $2, it’s the power of many that can really have an impact!” he said.

Social media enables concerned citizens to organize very quickly in response to emergencies and disasters, Mr. Cornegge says. 

Angela MacIsaac

“Within 24 hours the framework for the fundraiser has been built and we already have the support of our big sports teams! It’s going to be a great event and hopefully it will help creating some relief for the people in Haiti! Now it’s a matter of spreading the word to as many people as possible!” he said.

Everyone she has contacted so far has been extremely positive and supportive, Ms. Ruiz says.  She and her fellow organizers are expecting a packed house on the 28th, including some local sports celebrities.  She’s reluctant to name names just yet, but is confident some recognizable stars will show up to demonstrate their support for the victims of the disaster.

“An event like this is a perfect way to show our support as a city. Everyone I’ve spoken to is thankful that we’re trying to organize this – and many have offered to help in any way possible. It’s truly a community effort so far!” she said.

Twitter is commonly used in Calgary to organize social gatherings according to Ms. Di Giuseppe.  She notes that celebrities like Haiti native and mutli-platnium musician Wyclef Jean are using Twitter in a variety of ways to help Haitian fundraising efforts, including promoting the idea of donating using cell phones.

Camilla Di Guiseppe

Camilla Di Giuseppe

“I agree one hundred per cent that the Haiti earthquake disaster is prompting a lot of people to use Twitter as a means to fund-raise and give people options on where they can give and use their voice to make a difference…It could very well be the catastrophe that cements Twitter as a means to mobilize, especially in the Western world,  as it has really hit home for countless North Americans, including Canada,” she said.

“There are 1,400 Canadians missing in Haiti. There are so far four confirmed dead. Canada is known to have a presence in Haiti for humanitarian reasons, and about 150,000 Haitian-Canadians are wondering as we speak, are their loved ones okay.”

What began as a quick chat between three “Tweeps” swept across Calgary and southern Alberta in just a few hours, Ms. Di Giuseppe said.  She lauds the Calgary Twitter community for being involved and ready to help those less fortunate.

“We’ve been getting offers from all over. You name it, from silent auction items and venues offering to host the event to folks offering to emcee and people offering to create a website, t-shirts.. and the list goes on. Most importantly, Twitter allows us to gauge support, and it has been overwhelming,” she said.

While Ms. Di Giuseppe is excited about the possibilities social media, particularly Twitter, presents for assisting the organizing and promotion of #YYC4HAITI, she notes that the focus of the organizers and of the event will be the many, many unfortunate victims of the Haitian earthquake.

“I think this is a great opportunity for all of us to see what social media is capable of but at the end of the day, it’s the spirit of giving and building community that will move Calgarians to show their support. And if there’s one thing we know about Calgarians, they are very supportive and generous,” she said.

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  1. Sunny Rai says:

    Applause, I’ll be there to add my part. Way to go!

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  1. #yyc4haiti says:

    [...] The Calgary Beacon – Calgary media personalities use Twitter to organize Haiti relief event [...]

  2. [...] website is coming soon, but if you want to learn more about how #YYC4HAITI came about, see here (it’s fascinating to see how quickly Calgarians can come together!), and you can become a [...]

  3. [...] a previous interview, Ruiz joked about raising a million dollars for relief work in the desperately poor Caribbean [...]

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