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Salah Bachir inspires

by Drew Rowsome
photos by Raul Da Silva

Three months after the gala Inspire Awards event, Salah Bachir finally holds the coveted Lifetime Achievement Award in his hands. "It's always a surprise," he says. "You never do anything thinking of awards, it's gravy. 'Lifetime achievement?' I haven't even started. I hope I can earn another one later on."

The award is presented to Bachir by Antoine Elhashem, President & Chairman of the Board of the Inspire Awards, and Boyd Kodak, Vice-President. "Who else has done all Salah has?" asks Elhashem. "His work with the 519 was a big factor and he has worked with AIDS organizations right from the start. This is like a pat on the back to continue." 

Bachir has every intention of continuing, "I fundraise for stuff I'm interested in, that I can make a direct connection with." Bachir's charities of choice are wide-ranging including Famous People's Players, multiple arts organizations and he has already received the Variety Club of Ontario's highest individual honour, The Heart Award. The 519 named him Honourary Patron for Life for his work chairing its capital campaign that funded the building of a new wing. "It all begins at the 519," says Bachir. "Everyone has organized from there from the Rosedale Liberals to the transgender community." But Bachir refuses to pinpoint a favourite charity. "There are so just many gay and lesbian causes - social, international, AIDS, cultural - if I pinpoint one, someone will complain. I have an Arab background so I'm concerned about the Middle East. There is always a need somewhere."

Most recently Bachir quietly, and quickly, raised $210,000 (the target was $150,000) to update the television and computer equipment at St Joseph's Hospital. Bachir sent out an email to his extensive list of contacts, "You ARE NOT invited to a long, formal evening of so-so food, questionable entertainment and uncomfortable shoes. As you may know, since Christmas I have been receiving dialysis three times a week at St. Joseph’s Health Centre. Each session lasts for 4½ hours and I spend much of this time on my BlackBerry or sitting watching a clunky TV that is more than a decade old and sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t. The same situation goes for chemo patients in oncology units.” Bachir then invited the recipients "to save the money you'd spend on a new outfit, parking and a babysitter and put it all towards this great cause."

The non-gala gala campaign worked very well, partly because of Bachir's personal connections and charisma, but he insists it is not the wave of the future. "There are 10 galas we still have to do," he laughs. "People still like to get to together." Bachir was sorry to miss being presented his award at the Inspire Awards gala but being a busy man he was booked elsewhere. He did send a videotaped acceptance speech that was a comic highlight of the evening (and really should be available on the Inspire Awards website) but seems genuinely touched to finally physically receive his Oscar of activism. Where will he keep the award? He looks around his office where every square inch is crammed with art and pauses, "I'm sure there is a perfect place in the condominium." is a proud media sponsor of the Inspire Awards

Photos by Raul Da Silva