Leisure and Lifestyle

Honouring Heritage: Villa Charities Breaks Ground on Italian Canadian Immigrant Tribute

TORONTO – The first shovels hit the ground Thursday morning at a landmark event marking the beginning of the Villa Charities Italian Canadian Immigrant Tribute project. This installation aims to celebrate and honor the rich history and contributions of Italian Canadians.

The ceremonial groundbreaking at the Columbus Centre was launched at 10 a.m., hosted by international chef and executive producer David Rocco. The event brought together a diverse group of dignitaries, politicians, project donors, representatives from Italian organizations, and members of the Italian Canadian community, all united in celebrating Italian Heritage Month.

Prominent speakers included the Consul General of Italy in Toronto, Luca Zelioli; the Hon. Michael Ford, Minister of Citizenship and Multiculturalism; the Hon. Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions; and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow. Each expressed strong support for the project before a crowd of over 350 attendees.

“Italian Canadians have played such a pivotal role in developing the vibrant cultural traditions that exist in our community today,” said Marco DeVuono, President and CEO of Villa Charities. “Through the Italian Canadian Immigrant Tribute project, Villa Charities seeks to celebrate them, recognize their contributions, and encourage others to do the same.”

Designed by Brown + Storey Architects Inc., the installation will be located on the Villa Charities site at Lawrence Avenue West and Dufferin Street, on the north-facing wall of the Columbus Centre. It will feature name plaques dedicated to thousands of Canadians of Italian heritage and the year they immigrated to Canada. The installation will also include a landscaped seating area and a bronze sculpture by artist and marketing executive Aldo Cundari.

The tribute will offer a space for individuals of Italian heritage to gather, commemorate, and reflect on their collective achievements and immigrant heritage.

Guest speakers and donors Julian Baldassarra and Rose Foti shared personal stories, highlighting the significance of honoring their loved ones’ immigration journeys and family legacies. All Tribute Project donors at the event wore special donor buttons, showcasing their pride and support for the initiative.

“Being able to tell my parent’s story and reflect on my family’s legacy in the city is truly special,” said Rose Foti. “Without Villa Charities, our stories would be lost on future generations.”

As construction progresses, personalized name plaques are available for purchase with a $1,000 donation, featuring the name of the family member and their year of immigration. Donors will receive a tax receipt for the maximum allowable amount.

The initiative extends beyond the physical installation, offering Canadians nationwide the opportunity to purchase plaques and share their family stories on the Villa Charities Immigrant Tribute website. This digital archive will preserve family photographs and histories for future generations.

Funds raised through the Tribute Project will support various Villa Charities Foundation programs, including senior care, youth services, education and scholarships, cultural programming, and capital needs. The unveiling of the completed installation is planned for later this year.

For more information on the Villa Charities Italian Canadian Immigrant Tribute project and to purchase a name plaque, visit villacharitiesimmigranttribute.com.

Tiana Squire

Tiana Squire is our Leisure and Lifestyle Writer, dedicated to covering a wide array of topics including restaurants & bars, fashion, travel and tourism, family events and entertainment. With a passion for exploring and sharing the best in leisure experiences, Tiana brings her unique perspective and enthusiasm to each piece she writes. For inquiries or feedback, contact Tiana at tiana.squire@gtaweekly.ca.

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