Durham Region's Royal Ascot

Wednesday Sep 07th, 2016


When it comes to fundraising for a good cause, the people at Graymatter Marketing Solutions leave everyone else at the starting gate. Vice president Vanessa Blue had an idea on how to help Joanne’s House, which is a part of Durham youth housing and support services. Memories of her years in England included attending the Royal Ascot, Britain’s most valuable race meeting which attracts many of the world’s finest thoroughbred racehorses. Much like our own Canadian “royal races” like the Queen’s Plate and Prince of Wales,  the Royal Ascot is highly anticipated and is also seen as a spectacle of fashion and style on the social scene. An inspired Vanessa approached Durham’s local race track, Ajax Downs. Ontario’s premier Quarter Horse facility. Soon, both the racetrack and the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG) were on board and Durham’s Royal Ascot was off and running with a twilight feature event scheduled for August 11th, 2016.

There is no spectacle of fashion without lovely hats and fascinators. KvH Fashions in Pickering was named the official milliner for the event. On August 4th, 2016, Graymatter hosted a Ladies Night, a private haute couture event showcasing beautiful, unique and hand-made fascinators and head pieces. They were also on hand on race day for anyone needing to top off their outfit.

The Royal Ascot signature cocktail was the drink of the day. Other features included a “Royal Enclosure” for Platinum sponsors, a Specialty Cigar Lounge, a $10 casino voucher included with your ticket and an exquisite Royal Ascot menu for dinner.

Race six was the much anticipated feature. At 6:00 pm, the horses were in the gate then off and racing in the First Annual Durham Royal Ascot. Ice N Snow was first to the wire with Grabin Awards second while Mad About Speed garnered the show spot to fill out the Triactor.


Fun, fashion and the thrill of the race made for a wonderful day for all who were lucky enough to attend. The day ended with an outdoor concert highlighting a top Fleetwood Mac cover band.

Over $15,000 in sponsorship, gifts in kind and ticket sales was raised this inaugural year.  Thanks to the amazing sponsors: Veridian , CB Law, Gervais Rentals, Pattison Outdoor, Snapd Pickering, Move Media, Rockburne Movers, CVH Fashions, Victory Cigars, Arthur Murray Dance Studio, MacAskill Chiropractor, Rotary Club Ajax as well as Ajax Downs, ticket sales and the OLG.

This year “Joanne’s House”, part of Durham Youth Housing & Support Services, will be the recipient of the funds raised. Joanne’s House provides much-needed shelter, housing and support services for at-risk youth in the Durham Region. Up to 13 youths (both male & female–ages 16-24) can find a home here for as long as 30 days. During their stay, each person is counseled on how to move forward with their lives, a process which begins as soon as they arrive. A case worker is assigned and a plan of action devised. This includes help finding permanent, appropriate housing, jobs or continuing their education. A full time teacher is on hand and runs Grove School right in the home. There is an arrangement with the Ajax Community Centre for participants to work out and to earn their gym credits. But this is not just a crash pad. There are rules to follow and all residents pitch in with chores and responsibilities.  Shelter Manager Adrianna Vanderneut tells us:

“There are many reasons for someone to come here. There is no “typical” case. There may have been family breakdowns, mental issues or abuse, to name a few. They all need the same thing: somewhere they can feel safe so they can figure out what to do. We can give them that and add some structure and guidance along the way.


Recently, Durham Youth opened Jacky’s Place, providing transitional housing for up to a year for those having finished their 30 days at Joanne’s House. Jacky’s Place and Joanne’s House are in the same neighbourhood and gratefully receive a lot of support from the surrounding community. Adrianna tells us that neighbors often drop by with food and offers of help with maintenance, etc. for the house. In return, the kids can often be seen cutting lawns or shoveling snow for their neighbors. If you are interested in helping at-risk youth in the Durham Region, please consider donating clothes, socks and underwear, which are always needed, as well as supplies for setting up their own households. Mops, brooms, utensils, sheets, towels, pots and pans and basic tools. A cooking lesson is always welcome.  There is so much we can do to help

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