Cast takes part in charity auction

Sheri Block,

When Raymond Ablack from “Degrassi: The Next Generation” was asked to help design a piece of jewelry in support of the Red Door Family Shelter, he knew instantly what he wanted it to convey.

Considering how close he was to his own family, Ablack worked with jewelry designer Samantha Hawkes to create a diamond ring that represented each of his five family members, using sheets of metal held together by five rivets.

“Everything we do is about our family,” says Ablack. “(The piece) kind of symbolizes an interdependence of my family members on each other.”

Hawkes, who is a recent graduate of George Brown College’s jewelry arts program, said she really enjoyed working with Ablack on the piece.

“He was really, really passionate about everything he had to say about his family and home and community,” says Hawkes. “I really wanted to make (his family) the focal point of the entire ring.”

The piece is part of the Uniti Collection, developed by 18Karat Goldsmiths, who paired local jewelry designers with celebrities such as Ablack, fellow “Degrassi” cast mate Paula Brancati, actors Gordon and Leah Pinsent, and figure skater Elvis Stojko.

The one of a kind designs will be auctioned off online through Waddington’s, with all proceeds going directly to the Red Door Family Shelter. Red Door operates two locations in Toronto and provides a safe haven for more than 300 families a year.

Anne Forsyth, Fund Development Manager for Red Door, says this is the first time the organization has been involved with such an initiative and they are very grateful to everyone that has contributed to the campaign, including celebrities such as Ablack and Brancati.

“This is an issue that a lot of people relate to … It’s not something that’s defined by class, by culture. Anyone unfortunately can experience a hardship in terms of a housing crisis or domestic violence and we felt that really resonated also with the celebrities that have given their time to this,” says Forsyth.

Ablack is also a speaker with Free the Children and says giving back to organizations such as Red Door is the least he can do, considering how fortunate he has been.

“I have a home and I have a family that I can depend on and so if there’s anything I can do to help those who don’t have that, I would totally do it,” he says.

For her piece, Paula Brancati wanted to incorporate Toronto’s multi-culturalism. She worked with designer Therese Cruz, who chose different colours of metals and types of surfaces to represent this. They also liked how the closeness of a bangle to the skin could symbolize the warmth Red Door provides.

Brancati says she was honoured to be asked to participate in the collection and is glad she can help bring awareness to the issue of homelessness, in particular in her home city.

“I’m a pretty proud Torontonian. I love living in this city and I think just the fact that the organization reaches out to all these families needing shelter and women suffering from domestic violence, it really does have its doors open to anyone who needs it and I think that’s really important,” says Brancati.

All of the jewelry pieces are currently available for viewing online at or in person at 18Karat (275 Dundas Street West) until Nov. 26 when the auction closes. For more information on the Red Door visit


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