On a cold April Wednesday, when it seemed that winter in Toronto would never end, 145 women left the comfort of home and hearth and ventured out to the Columbus Centre to celebrate “Sacchetti’s Women’s Night Out.” For organizer and originator Jane Sacchetti, this was the ninth successful evening in an annual event that started with a simple idea. She had a few friends she hadn’t seen for a while and decided to get them all together.
To make the event more interesting, she invited some of those friends to share their talents for ten-minute segments throughout the evening. Jane said that’s when the first extraordinary thing happened: “People started calling, saying, I hear you have an event. Can I come?'” So thirty-five women crowded into Grano Restaurant on Yonge Street in Toronto. The evening was so successful that people began inviting friends and performers for the next year. Jane is still a little amazed at the response to her “little get-together.” Women were keen to bring things to share – not just talent or business-related products, but simple things like homemade cookies.
From that modest beginning the evening has spread, and Jane says, “Each year I learn better ways of doing things. Everyone loves a fortune-teller. The first year I had one, then two, now I’ve got three.” Other performers this year included the dancer/teacher Menaka Thankkar, author Marisa De Franceschi who read several short works in progress, mezzo soprano Tatiana Ivchenko-Carino who thrilled the group with lovely opera pieces and the ubiquitous actors Toni Ellwand and Maria Syrgiannis dramatizing the female version of The Odd Couple.
There were fifteen tables for ten set up in the rotunda, but lots of mingling around the bar, the fortune tellers, the donations table and, of course, the buffet dinner tables. For the last two years Jane has added a fund-raising aspect to the evening, with the proceeds going to Villa Charities. Because of the enthusiastic response of both donors and supporters, she was able to raise $850 last year and $2000 this year. Jane is somewhat surprised, but definitely pleased, by the response – she says people offer donations for door prizes and raffle ticket prizes before she can even ask. Flower centrepieces were raffled off as well as autographed books, ladies wear, gift certificates and gift baskets. One of the most admired items was a hand-embroidered tablecloth and napkins from Malaysia, which was donated by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.
Although the evening has evolved over the years, the purpose remains the same. Jane emphasized that it is “a stress-free, fun night – an opportunity for women to showcase their talents.” The essence of the evening is pleasure. That feeling of camaraderie and joyousness was certainly in the air on that April night. Although many of us were strangers to each other, we were not outsiders. Jane explains, “I think Women’s Night Out is a chance for women to be themselves. They don’t often get the chance to socialize in the absence of men. Many women put their energy into good works, into meeting people for business reasons. This is a fun night without the stress of having to do something. This is a chance to promote oneself in a gentle way.”
From its original aim to get a few friends together to its present position as a successful fund-raising event, Sacchetti’s Women’s Night Out has maintained its purpose: to provide a highly engaging and fun-raising evening.
Maria Coletta McLean is a Toronto writer and businesswoman. She is the author of My Father Came from Italy (2000).
First published in Accenti Magazine, Issue 3.