motionball is back! Feel good and do good, all in one night. Founded in 2002 by three do-gooder brothers – Paul, Mark and Sean Etherington, the charity aims to raise funds for Special Olympics Canada and support their important athletes all year long.

Celebrating their twentieth year, and first year back since the pandemic, we spoke with Paul Etherington on what attendees can expect at this year’s gala.

The motionball movement is impressive! Since 2002 you’ve created more than just an annual fundraiser but a social call to action too. Can you detail why this is more than just a charitable event?

What started out as a one-event Gala in Toronto back in 2002 has now turned into a National movement with an objective to introduce thousands of Canadian young professionals and University students EACH YEAR to the Special Olympics movement through integrated social and sporting events. To date, we are currently running 50+ annual events in 18 cities and on 35 University campuses and have donated just over $15,000,000. But just as importantly, motionball is about providing meaningful community leadership opportunities to this target audience as well as positively changing their perspective on the way Canadians view and engage with our proud Special Olympics athletes.

Motionball Gala
Photo by 416 Kings

The #NoGoodWay campaign encourages Canadians to remove a certain “R” word from our vocabulary. Can you speak to the importance of all of us adopting better verbiage and why that’s important for inclusivity?

Words can hurt. We all know this. And while motionball’ers across Canada have bought into our anti-bullying #NOGOODWAY campaign designed to stop the negative and casual use of the “R” word (retard or retarded) there are so many other words that are too often used in slang or casual conversation that offend. Wouldn’t it be nice if we all committed to educating ourselves on knowing which words offend who; and making a choice to remove them from our everyday vocabulary? This would no doubt lead to a more inclusive and compassionate society at large.

With events in various cities and events all year long, motionball certainly puts in a lot of effort to create funds for the Special Olympics. Where does this money go and how are you recovering after the pandemic?

In 2019 (pre-pandemic) motionball was donating just over $2,000,000 net each year to the Special Olympics Canada Foundation. 70% of those funds raised are then sent back to the affiliated Special Olympics Provincial Chapters in which each specific event is run in order to help fund the grassroot level programs that provide life-changing sport and social community programming for the 50,000+ Special Olympics athletes. These funds pay for team uniforms; tournament costs; travel expenses; equipment and the Healthy Athlete program.

25% of the funds raised stay within the Special Olympics Canada Foundation. These funds support the Foundation in its objective to reach more Special Olympics athletes with programs across the country as well as to recruit and train new volunteers and to also ensure the long-term financial stability of the movement.

The remaining 5% of funds raised are directed towards the marketing and promotion of our anti-bullying #NOGOODWAY campaign which aims to end the use of the R-word in everyday conversation.

And yes – the pandemic certainly set us back in terms of our National goals and objectives and in 2022 our net donation to the Foundation will likely be closer to $1,500,000. However, given the remarkable and inspiring makeup of our National Office staff; our volunteer Board and Event Directors I have no doubt that 2023 will be our most successful year to date!

Motionball Gala
Photo by Ryan Emberley and Kennedy Pollard

Without giving too much away, what can guests look forward to on September 29th?

Picture the best Gala/party/gathering you have ever been to; amplify that experience by 100, and then add in a great cause where all the net funds are going – that is likely the best way I can describe a motionball Toronto Gala event.

Hosting this event at the beautiful Liberty Grand we fully expect to sell this event out with 2000+ young professionals who are dressed to impress in predominantly Black tie attire. We have a ton of different entertainment acts performing throughout the night ranging from the world-renowned electric violinist Dr Draw; top of the charts solo artist Karl Wolf; Beatbox champion Scott Jackson; Somali-Canadian singer Amaal; Kiss 92.5’s own DJ Clymaxx; the Lindsay Brohan band; and so much more. We have a host bar with some delicious cocktail activation stations located in the 2 main ballrooms. There are 3 fun photo booth stations; an incredible silent auction; late-night food stations and just so much more.

Motionball Gala
Photo by Snapd

Learn more about this impressive event by following along on social media @motionball

When: Thursday, September 29, 2022. Doors open at 9 pm.

Where: Liberty Grand, 25 British Columbia Rd, Toronto, ON M6K 3C3

Tickets: $125 early bird tickets on sale now, $160 regular. Available for purchase here.

Lead photo of Tessa Virtue by Ryan Emberley and Kennedy Pollard