Anna Maria de Souza, Brazilian Ball founder and friend to York

Philanthropist and dedicated volunteer Anna Maria de Souza, the founder and remarkable driving force behind the Brazilian Carnival Ball, died Tuesday after a nine-month battle with cancer.

Mrs. de Souza was a great friend of York University and York was chosen twice within the past nine years as the beneficiary of the glamorous red carpet event. In 2006, $2 million was raised for The Accolade Project and in 1998, York’s LaMarsh Centre for Research on Violence and Conflict Resolution received $1.5 million.

Right: Anna Maria (left) and Ivan de Souza at the 40th anniversary of the Brazilian Carnival Ball, benefiting York’s Accolade Project

“Anna Maria touched and improved countless lives through her tireless efforts,” said Paul Marcus, president and CEO of York University Foundation. “She was a remarkable individual, combining a unique warmth with sheer determination to help others. She leaves a legacy of so many good deeds and we extend condolences to her wonderful husband, Ivan.”

The entwined story of Mrs. de Souza and the Brazilian Carnival Ball has become a major piece of Toronto folklore. The daughter of a coffee plantation owner, she arrived fresh from the steamy Brazilian interior to find herself in Toronto in the midst of a snowstorm in February, 1965. The next year she founded the Brazilian Carnival Ball in a church basement. Together with her husband, Ivan, they have been trailblazers, raising more than $46 million over the course of 42 years of running the ball to support a variety of health, educational, cultural and research institutions.

Visitation for Mrs. de Souza will be held at the Morley Bedford Funeral Home today from 2pm to 4pm and 7pm to 9pm. A funeral mass will be held at Holy Rosary Church on Friday at 9:30am.