When CASA Foundation Board Chair Teresa Debevc-Cantalini had the chance to join the Minds Over Mountains cycling tour last June, she jumped at it.
Yes, the trek would be physically demanding, and no, she hadn’t done a lot of training for it. But it was all for a good cause – cyclists hoped to raise $150,000 to support mental health for CASA’s kids and families. But one thing she didn’t count on was running into a Grizzly bear enroute to Lake Louise.
“I was petrified,” she says. Once unclipped from her bike pedals, she felt trapped. So she began sprinting downhill. Fortunately, two women in a passing vehicle stopped to let Debevc-Cantalini jump in.
So what’s the plan for this year? Debevc-Cantalini is already in training for this year’s tour – bears be damned. When the going gets tough, she gets going – that seems to be her motto in life.
Debevc-Cantalini was a full-time Periodontist – a dentist who specializes in treating gums – until a few years ago, when she suffered a herniated disc while lifting a heavy garden urn. The pain forced her to ease out of her dental practice, before a colleague urged her to try teaching.
“Honestly, I didn’t think I could do it, but I wound up lecturing 3rd year dentistry students for four or five years, and in January, I started working full-time as Discipline Lead, Periodontics in Undergraduate Dentistry.”
Clearly, Debevc-Cantalini loves a challenge. In fact, that’s also how she became Chair of the CASA Foundation.
“I first heard of CASA about 15 years ago. We had a friend who invited us to go to their little fundraising Gala. At the time, my husband George (founder and CEO of Beaverbrook Group of Companies, a successful integrated real estate company) and I were just starting out here after moving to Edmonton in the mid-1990s,” she recalls.
“Anyway, it struck a chord with us, and as we grew in the community, we attended more of these charitable events. We were inspired to give back by people like Irv and Dianne Kipnes, the Browns, the Webbs, Dennis Erker, the Knights and Nick Lees. We wanted to
introduce our friends to the cause of child and family mental health, so we did a small but successful fundraiser at our home.”
That prompted an invitation to join the CASA Foundation Board, which was then immersed in a $7 million capital campaign to fund construction of the CASA Centre. Teresa and her husband George became campaign Co-Chairs.
“We decided to make the CASA Gala really awesome, so the corporate community could be introduced to the worthy cause
of children’s mental health,” she says.
“We were just blown away by the response. We charged $400 a ticket or $4,000 for a table, and we got $1 million in the room that night. Probably a third or a quarter of it came from people the Beaverbrook staff had reached out to, along with their business colleagues. I think of CASA as a huge success story that’s been supported by the entire community.”
With the 2019 CASA Carnival approaching, Debevc-Cantalini is busy stoking interest in this year’s big event.
“Whether you’re a big company contributing $10,000, or an individual who can only give $300, we want your support. This is a community event. We’ve got some fabulous entertainment and great food, so it’s going to be a great night.”