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$100,000 Goal Achieved!

From the Oven, with Love

Loss of her partner moves Susan Cox to start a unique fundraiser

Burnaby Now
Wednesday, December 3, 2008

by Jennifer Moreau

When Laurine Harrison, 51, died of a heart attack in 2007, the Simon Fraser University community lost a key figure, and her partner of nearly two decades was in shock.

Harrison had worked with SFU for 30 years, and for 14 of those she was the student society's ombudsperson. And, for Susan Cox, she was a life partner.

"We were together for almost 20 years," said Cox, a faculty member with the University of B.C.'s applied ethics centre.

That's why, after Harrison's death, Cox decided to set up an endowment fund to help needy students with scholarships.

Her goal is to raise $100,000 so the fund can earn enough interest to be self-sustaining while paying out three student awards worth between $2,500 to $5,000.

To help raise money, Cox has turned to the kitchen. For the second year, she's baked 51 cakes to auction off in support of the fund - 51 cakes because that's how old Harrison was when she passed away.

All the cakes are made by Cox herself, using "only the finest" ingredients.

"They're mostly all Italian-inspired, because I like them to be more healthy," she said. Some recipes use olive oil instead of butter, for example. The cakes suit a variety of diets, including diabetic and vegan.

This year's culinary confections included a Tuscan orange cherry cake, a grappa pine nut and currant tart, a lemon polenta cake and two dessert risottos.

That Italian-inspired cuisine harks back to her relationship with Harrison and her ties to Burnaby's Italian community.

"We have a great love of Italian culture, food and wine," Cox said. "Living in the Heights neighbourhood, we did a lot of Italian cooking together."

This year's Nov. 29 event, held in Cox's North Burnaby home, drew 70 to 80 people and raised about $5,000. That brings the fund's total to about $86,000.

It was an Italian-themed night, featuring a performer of Renaissance songs, a belly dancer, wine, cheese and snacks. Local businesses Caffè Artigiano and Cioffi's Meat Market and Deli were both sponsors of the event, helping with donations and discounts.

The cake catching the highest bid was a chocolate chili pepper espresso tort, going for more than $200.

Erin Geary, who partly oversees donations at SFU, attended the cake fundraiser.

"(It was) a room full of people who loved Laurine Harrison, and that was palpable," she said.

While Geary didn't know Harrison personally, she sees the impact she had on the SFU community.

"I can tell from the number of gifts that came in, she was someone who was really important to the student community, to faculty and to staff," she said.

With memorial funds, it's typically families who donate money, but not the case with Harrison, she said.

"This was from a lot of different people across the university and the community," she said. "We had 80 different people make donations to this fund and 13 organizations."

Geary said Cox's fundraiser was innovative.

"She put so much work into it, and her creativity was just outstanding," she said.

Cox has baked extra cakes for those who could not attend, and she's auctioning them off online, with all proceeds going to the Laurine M. Harrison endowment fund. E-mail Cox for further details at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 604-762-7515.

See www.laurineharrison.ca for more details on the student awards and Harrison's life.

Cox predicted to reach the $100,000 mark by next year's cake auction. But even when she reaches her goal, she won't stop - she hopes to raise money through cake auctions for other charitable causes. To get on the guest list for the 2009 cake fundraiser, contact Cox.

© Burnaby Now 2008

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