Pretty-in-pink Mayor Pierre Leroux and his wife Lynn congratulate the guest of honour (centre). Van Dusen photo

EMBRUN – Mother Theresa… Santa… Pink Lady!

Marie Claire Ivanski was called a lot of things Saturday night at the Embrun Community Centre but none of the names were of the type usually associated with a celebrity roast.

As several “roasters’’ observed, it’s a tall order to make snarky comments about a legendary philanthropist who has spearheaded the collection of more than $1-million, most of it for breast cancer research… and Ivanski hasn’t even been afflicted by the disease; she became involved in support of a friend who was stricken.

Once you get past the big hair, there wasn’t much to poke fun at and the roast – dubbed Hairspray – quickly became a love-in. Organized by Russell Kin Club as a fundraiser for a proposed aquatic centre, the event brought in more than $20,000. The full house and level of funds raised, is just one more example of how much Ivanski –widely known as MC – means to the community, said event chair Doug Anthony.

Their tables laden with overflowing charcuterie boards handcrafted by Kin volunteers, pink latex gloves were issued to guests so they could greet the “roastee’’ with hands waving in the air as she was escorted to centre stage. It had been set up as Salon Ya Ya Ya in recognition of her trade mark 1950s hair. She later told the crowd she was in therapy for help in trying to scale her doo down a bit. The Ya Ya Ya is a reference to one of her favourite expressions.

Hosts, Seb Pilon and Estelle Patenaude welcomed a stream of speakers to the salon where Ivanski sat in state to sing her praises. Russell power singer Tara Shannon did so literally, belting out MC’s favourite song “Wind Beneath My Wings.” She thanked the guest of honour for providing support when she became seriously ill.

Fittingly, Russell Trivia Queen Connie Johnston, whose fundraising numbers are getting close to MC’s, was one of the speakers, as was local actor Sandra McNeil who donned fake big hair as part of a skit showing the love for the fundraising legend. John Rogers did a stellar job auctioning off big-ticket items for thousands of dollars, and Russell Township Mayor Pierre Leroux out-pinked everyone in the room.

The star of the podium – and he got a standing ovation for his truth-telling – was Emmanuel Chabot who described MC as his favourite mother-in-law and proceeded to chastise her for owning a vacuum cleaner for every occasion and for making mashed potatoes fit to be used as tile grout. The day after the event, MC said she was still laughing at her son-in-law’s punch lines and hadn’t banished him from the family.

She received a handmade quilt from Victoria’s Quilts for whom she routinely delivers original creations to cancer victims which they receive free of charge. It’s the first quilt she has ever owned. Another gift was to have her golf cart used at the cottage painted in “breast cancer pink.’’

As is her way, MC delivered a very gentle rebuttal, thanking everybody for the support, and observing that it has been a “joy and privilege’’ to work for such causes as cancer research.


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