Greg Sam and Jessica Dell'Aquila chose to make their special day even more special. They made a tribute gift to Hart House in honour of their recent marriage. We are grateful for their friendship and generosity. Below, Jessica shares with us her thoughts on the experience.

On January 25th of this year, just a month and a half before Canada enforced lockdown measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, my husband Greg and I got married, surrounded by 225 friends and family. Yes, a rainy January day turned out to be an auspicious decision, and it was a beautiful evening of celebration. 

When planning a wedding, there are many decisions to make, some big, some small, but each one important to creating a memorable day. In our case, a seemingly small decision became one of the most memorable and impactful, both for us and our guests. 

As it’s customary to give your wedding guests a small gift of appreciation for attending, a few months before our wedding Greg and I discussed what we could give our guests that were not “just another tchotchke.” We calculated how much money we would spend on wedding favours based on the number of guests. Once we agreed on the amount, we began thinking about the positive impact that dollar amount could have if allocated towards supporting our community instead. 

Photo of Greg and Jessica

Greg has spent his entire career working in the non-profit sector. He has always felt it important to align himself with community partners who possess a like-minded vision for a better Toronto, the city we have both called home for over 15 years. 

In 2010, Greg worked for a food security organization called Meal Exchange. At the time, they were looking for an event space with underlining social justice practices and landed on Hart House. After a successful event that saw 100+ students from across the country congregate at Hart House, he never forgot the friendly staff and relationships fostered in that setting. Fast forward a decade later, and he has continued to build relationships within the Hart House community. He joined a Hart House student-led governing committee and volunteered with multiple Hart House initiatives, including the International Day of the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the Hart House Community Youth Recreation program that encourages youth from marginalized communities to engage with higher education.

Many institutions have inherent systemic barriers and challenges when it comes to diversity and inclusion initiatives, and Hart House is no different. However, over the years, Greg has gravitated towards supporting Hart House because he has experienced first-hand the passion, intention, and impact that so many of the staff have had on the surrounding community. The organization’s vision for a better, more inclusive and diverse Toronto aligns with his own, in serving marginalized communities and providing them with opportunities afforded to so many others, without judgement or bias. 

Those aligned values prompted us to use the money we had set aside for wedding favours and donate to the Hart House Innovation Fund. 

When our guests entered our wedding reception and took their seats, each setting had a postcard that explained why we chose to make a donation over wedding favours, the organization the donation went to, and our personal beliefs in and history of supporting Toronto community programming. We received a lot of positive feedback from our guests, lauding our choice to make a worthwhile donation, and inquiring about Greg’s involvement with Hart House. 

Great communities build great people. However, great communities do not just happen; they are developed, grown and fostered through the resolve of people, ideas and innovation. To allow a part of our wedding day to go towards supporting a community that means so much to both Greg and I was yet another significant and abiding moment to celebrate on our wedding day. 

Hart House Innovation Fund

The Hart House Innovation Fund supports the development of new strategic initiatives – often with campus, community and youth-group partners–with the aim of making Hart House more accessible and welcoming.