5 Questions with CANFAR: Can You Do Lunch? Co-Hosts Lily & James

Bloor-Yorkville is proud to return as a Community Partner for CANFAR‘s (Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research) annual Can You Do Lunch? fundraising luncheon. Taking place April 28th at the Four Seasons Hotel, this is the 11th anniversary of CYDL, one of CANFAR‘s milestone fundraising events. The event brings together businesses and philanthropic leaders for an afternoon of awareness and fundraising. To date, CANFAR has raised over $25 million and funded over 550 research and implementation projects across Canada. 

CANFAR has a goal to help eliminate HIV in Canada, by the year 2025, through strategic interventions. With generous donations and the support of many community members, including many Bloor-Yorkville businesses, CANFAR believes we can “bend the curve” with HIV and see new cases in Canada become a rare event. If you’re able, please consider visiting the CANFAR website to donate to this fantastic cause.

We’re thrilled to announce that this year’s Can You Do Lunch? is another sold-out affair, thanks in large part to the efforts of the event’s Co-chairs, Lily Li and James Milonas. We caught up with the philanthropic duo ahead of the big event to find out more about what to expect this year and how Bloor-Yorkville businesses have been long-time supporters of the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research.

5 Questions with Lily Li and James Milonas, Co-Chairs for CANFAR’s 11th Can You Do Lunch? 

Lily Li and James Milonas

CANFAR’s Can You Do Lunch? is coming up on April 28. Can you tell us about the event and what guests can expect? 

Lily: Guests will attend a beautifully curated luncheon at Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, with a gourmet meal followed by an in-depth panel discussion and live entertainment. You will meet the entire CANFAR team, hear a meaningful discussion about CANFAR’s national youth awareness platform, Sexfluent.ca, from our panelists, and learn about inspiring stories from CANFAR’s national ambassadors. Your support will have a positive impact on youth and their families!  

James: Well, the event is in its 11th year (I know right!) and this year we are focusing on youth and HIV. Our guests can expect live entertainment, delicious food and a fabulous silent auction! 

Why did you want to co-chair the 11th annual CYDL? on behalf of CANFAR? 

Lily: James and I are friends who met through CANFAR. We share similar values and vision. We would like to leverage our personal network and influence to contribute to the community that we live in! Some parts of our community are in desperate need for help in awareness, prevention, and testing. With all of your support, we can achieve our goal of ending the HIV epidemic in Canada by 2025!  

James: I wanted to Co-chair for a variety of reasons. One, because I have a big platform and an influential voice. Two, we are focusing on youth and as a millennial, I feel like the message would resonate well coming from me. Three, it’s one more way I can give back to our community. 

Why do you think it is so important to raise awareness around the HIV epidemic in Canada? 

Lily: It is an epidemic that no one is talking about anymore. Currently in Canada, one person acquires HIV every six hours. Over ten percent of Canadians living with HIV are unaware of their positive status. Our voice will be amplified by yours and together we can raise awareness and increase access to important tools like HIV self-testing.  

James: I think it’s important to raise awareness around the HIV epidemic in Canada because it affects us all. It affects every community. Black. White. Gay. Straight. It’s not a “Gay Disease” as it was once mislabelled. A third of new HIV cases in Canada are among heterosexual-identifying individuals. We need to end the stigma for all communities.

Many businesses in the Bloor-Yorkville area continue to support CANFAR’s initiatives, like the annual Bloor Street Entertains. What does their support mean to you and to CANFAR? 

Lily: It means the world to us! CANFAR was founded in 1987 and aims to end Canada’s HIV epidemic by leading national strategies to increase prevention, testing, treatment and linkage to care, and to end HIV stigma. Over the past three and a half decades, the foundation’s donors have supported research that has changed the lives of those living with HIV. CANFAR’s work would not be possible without the support and generosity of all the donors. 

James: OMG! Having the support of our Bloor-Yorkville community means so much to us! Our neighbours, fellow business owners, patrons in the community; all coming together under the CANFAR family is just wonderful. Having the support of our community is what is going to help us to raise the funds needed to hit CANFAR’s goal of eradicating new HIV transmissions in Canada by 2025! 

What are your favourite Bloor-Yorkville shops / restaurants / hotspots? 

Lily: James and I spend lots of time in the Bloor-Yorkville neighbourhood, from a business lunch at Cafe Boulud to a MediSpa treatment at D Luxe Lab, from shopping winter coats at Sentaler Atelier at Yorkville Village to resort wear at Revelle, from picking up my newest Rimowa luggage to visiting my travel agent Mary Jean Tully to plan my next trip!  

James: My favourite Bloor-Yorkville restaurants and shops? Well, I am at One [Restautant] in the Hazelton [Hotel] at least four times a week for either breakfast or cocktails; ZaZa coffee keeps me fueled during the day; and Holt Renfrew Men keeps me looking fly – always and in all ways. And you can catch me at Barry’s and Equinox daily!  

While this year’s Can You Do Lunch? is sold out, you can still support CANFAR by making a donation here. (https://canfar.com/donate)  

About Lily Li and James Milonas 

Lily Li is an Investment Counsellor and Portfolio Manager with RBC PH&N Investment Counsel. She is an established investment professional and RBC PH&N Chairman’s Counsel and RBC Performance Conference Award winner. She is also passionate about mentoring youth, and advising her clients in charitable giving and philanthropic endeavours. She has been involved with CANFAR CYDL? and BSE committees since 2021. 

James Milonas, better known by his social media moniker, James In The City, is a full-time realtor in the city of Toronto with a passion for fashion and always puts charity first. James has also served on CANFAR’s Bloor Street Entertains committee and currently resides in the Financial District.