Vernon's Barrita Durward (second from left) with some of the children at one of the orphanages in Mexico she is assisting through the Valentines for Mexico fundraiser March 8.

Vernon's Barrita Durward (second from left) with some of the children at one of the orphanages in Mexico she is assisting through the Valentines for Mexico fundraiser March 8.

Sweet event spreads smiles

Valentine’s may be over but sweet smiles will still be spread from an enchanting evening in Vernon to the faces of orphans abroad.

Valentine’s may be over but sweet smiles will still be spread from an enchanting evening in Vernon to the faces of orphans abroad.

The fourth annual Valentines for Mexico gets underway March 8 at the Best Western Vernon Lodge.

“It’s for the babies,” said organizer Barrita Durward, who uses the funds raised at the event to help orphans in Mexico. “They are so sweet, I just love them.”

Durward, who owns Cotton’s Chocolates in Vernon, created the Sweet Smiles Foundation to assist children who have been exploited, abused and abandoned and are now living in orphanages.

She annually assists the City of Angels Orphanage in Cozumel, the House of Hope and Love Orphanage and a Mayan school for children with special needs (Little Yellow School House).

With the funds raised at last year’s Valentines for Mexico, Durward was able to renovate three of four bathrooms in one of the orphanages – which houses 23 children. Mattresses and bedding were replaced at both orphanages and bunk beds and appliances were purchased for the City of Angels’ fifth home, which allowed eight rescued children to move in. English scholarships were also purchased for needy children and adults.

Durward also brought sewing machines and fabric (donated by Undercover Essentials) to the rural orphanages and school.

“That’s part of a program we’re trying to implement, to teach the children a trade.”

Last year’s efforts will continue in 2013 with the funds raised at Valentines for Mexico and Durward would also like to assist two keen youth with big dreams.

“One wants to be a teacher and one wants to be a doctor and if there is any two that can do it, it’s these two,” said Durward. “I’d like to see them get there.”

The popular event has traditionally sold out, as people come for all the sweet treats, extravagant prizes and array of silent auction items.

“I’m introducing a new truffle, it will be an event truffle that won’t be available at the store.”

There will also be a buffet dinner and entertainment by Kath and the Tomcats.

The semi-formal event will also include a photo booth and henna art.

Door prizes include a $3,200 diamond tanzanite bracelet and a blue diamond pendant and chain (valued at $1,200). You can also unlock prizes in the treasure chest by purchasing keys, purchase a balloon and burst it for your chance at prizes (including a Las Vegas getaway) or cross your fingers to win an entire tree full of treasures and more.

Tickets are available at Cotton’s Chocolates or contact Durward at 250-503-2534 or cottonschoclates@shaw.ca. The Best Western Vernon Lodge will donate all three ballrooms for the event if 300 people attend the fundraiser therefore advance tickets are $39, otherwise they are $50 at the door.