The people of St. John’s have big hearts and deep pockets when it comes to helping others, said CBC News chief correspondent Peter Mansbridge at a weekend charity gala.
“This community has shown how it cares on so many different levels, in so many different causes,” he said in an interview toward the end of the night.
The anchor of CBC’s nightly news program, “The National,” attended Exit Rocks the Rock With Mansbridge on Friday evening at the Delta St. John’s Hotel and Convention Centre. The black-tie event was held by Exit Realty on the Rock in support of Daffodil Place, which, as part of the Canadian Cancer Society Newfoundland and Labrador Division, provides accommodations for cancer patients who arrive in St. John’s for treatments and have nowhere to stay.
Mansbridge gave the keynote address, sharing various anecdotes and “stories behind the news.”
“It’s funny, you know. Most people expect me to come and do a big news thing,” he said. “And I learned a long time ago that’s not really what they want to know from me.”
Instead, Mansbridge told stories that dealt with “showing how we care,” which he related to audience members who were there to show “how they care about their friends and neighbours and people they don’t even know.”
Mansbridge, who joined CBC News more than 40 years ago, enjoys any opportunity to create positive change through his reporting.
“There’s a lot of stories we cover that are pretty straightforward ... Those are important and they can be interesting and viewers and readers want to know about them. But the stories that make an impact on us as individuals, not just as journalists, usually have something to do with putting the spotlight on a situation that could use help from others.”
The stories help journalists understand “that they can really make others aware of something to the point where they can make a difference.”
These are also the stories that can define a journalist’s career.
“I’ve been lucky,” said Mansbridge. “I’ve travelled all over the place. I’ve met lots of people. I’ve done lots of big interviews — celebrities and important people. They all kind of sit there on your wall of accomplishments and you’re proud of them. But the things that really make you proud are the stories that you do, usually with ordinary people, who are caught in some kind of extraordinary circumstance, that make others think about what they can do with their own lives to help, to make life better and easier for others.”
This, he said, is why the gala’s guests bought tickets to the event.
“They’re here to help others. They’re not here to see me. They’re not here because Anne (Squires) is a friend. They’re here because what they’re doing here tonight will be a real benefit to others — others who can use the help.”
Squires, a realtor and a franchisee for Exit Realty on the Rock in Newfoundland and Labrador, said the gala was “absolutely fabulous.”
Its causes, she said, are “amazingly close to the heart.”
“Cancer is something that has been very, very, very ... it’s been challenging in my family, cancer certainly has been. Had a lot of family die from this terrible disease.”
Squires’ father died of cancer on his 65th birthday.
“I know what it took for my dad to come to St. John’s, find places to stay and take chemo treatments,” she said. “If there had been a Daffodil Place back then, I think that things would have been a whole lot easier.”
Now Squires and her “amazing staff” of 35, who she credits largely with co-ordinating the gala, host major events for different organizations. Mansbridge, a lover of Newfoundland, has been present at three of them.
“I’ve been coming here since the mid-’70s,” he said. “I like to describe it as kind of wide open and honest. The people are great. The scenery’s spectacular. The varied weather conditions, they’re exciting.”
Mansbridge revealed Friday, he sought Squires’ realty services. “We’ve been looking with Anne at a property not far from St. John’s for the last couple years. We just haven’t been able to nail it down yet,” he said, laughing.
Asked if Newfoundland could be home one day, Mansbridge replied, “It might be.”