The second annual Stars for Warm Hearts concert undoubtably entertained those who were on hand at the Arts and Culture Centre Saturday evening, but it was also about much more than that.
Gail Tobin, executive director of Iris Kirby House, saw that first hand when a woman approached her during the intermission with tears rolling down her cheeks.
“She just said how special she felt to be sitting there in the audience (Saturday) and knowing all those people came together to support women like her,” said Tobin. “I like to hear those stories. It’s very empowering for our clients.”
On Saturday night, dozens of performers chose to forego paying gigs to instead share their talents for the benefit of the local shelter for women and children who are victims of domestic abuse.
Shanneyganock, Repartee, Chris Kirby and the Marquee, Ian Foster, Mary Barry, Evry7th, Jerry Stamp, The Neighbourhood Strays and host John Sheehan provided the entertainment, while 500 people who purchased tickets offered the applause.
“It’s just very, very heartwarming for me to see that all these artists came together for that cause,” said Tara Bradbury, the Telegram arts reporter who created the campaign. “Nobody was paid. They were all donating their time ... and on a Saturday night, they could be playing, making money downtown.”
Both former and current residents of Iris Kirby House attended Saturday’s concert. Tobin said one woman who had spent time at the shelter two decades ago came up to her after the concert.
“She was just so amazed at how much the organization had grown over the years,” said Tobin.
Bradbury thanked those current and former residents during the concert “for being so brave and courageous in taking the steps to make a better life for yourselves.”
Video messages were also shared with attendees of the event, including ones from the cast of “This Hour Has 22 Minutes,” Premier Kathy Dunderdale, and “Republic of Doyle” actress Lynda Boyd, amongst others. Boyd, the campaign’s official patron, is currently in British Columbia.
As of this weekend, the campaign has raised more than $15,000. This year’s campaign has focused on collecting pennies, which the Canadian Mint stopped producing last May. The Warm Hearts campaign concludes this Thursday.
Donations can be dropped off at The Telegram’s office in the Village Shopping Centre on Topsail Road. Warm (and new) clothing, including pyjamas, sweaters, gloves, and other items are also being accepted.
Beyond the monetary value of the campaign, Tobin said the awareness it creates for Iris Kirby House encourages victims to come forward.
“One woman said to me not too long ago, ‘I read the article over and over, and it finally gave me the courage to pick up the phone and make that phone call and take it a step further — to come in and meet with one of your staff. And here I am today at the shelter.’”
Highlights from Saturday’s concert included The Neighbourhood Strays (a Gypsy bellydance group) incorporating knives into their routine, Chris Kirby getting help on two songs from 49 Bishop Abraham Elementary students, and Shanneyganock getting all of the evening’s stars onstage for a rousing rendition of “I’se the B’y.”
The campaign was inspired by a series of stories Bradbury wrote for The Telegram about domestic violence.
“I’ve spent the past 10 years as a journalist making sure not to get attached to the stories I write, but when I first visited the shelter for the series I was writing and met women — seniors, some of them — with all kinds of physical and emotional bruises. Well, how do you just walk away from that?”
As a first-year campaign in 2012, Bradbury had to contact performers to participate in the inaugural event. This year, that was not the case.
“This year, not a single person who was on that stage I had to ask. They came to ask me if they could be in it. Some of them started asking right after last year’s show. So every single person that was there was there because their heart really wanted to be part of the campaign.”
While there were several female performers involved in Saturday’s concert, the majority were men. Bradbury feels that fact sends a powerful message.
“There are men in the community who won’t stand for domestic violence either,” she said. “Anything we can do in our corner of the world to raise awareness and empower victims is just fantastic.”