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Newfoundlander Alan Doyle’s Suppertime Singalong offers fresh helping of fundraising for mental health


The cause has become even more important because of the burden created by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic

Newfoundland’s bold balladeer Alan Doyle had a blast with his recent socially distanced Atlantic bubble shows, including four nights in Halifax, and now he’s taking his music back online for a multitude of good causes.

Starting on Wednesday evening at 7 p.m. AT and continuing through December, the singer resumes his Suppertime Singalong shows on Facebook Live to continue raising money for the A Dollar a Day Foundation, which he co-founded in 2018. 

A Dollar a Day was created with businessman Brendan Paddick and now-N.L. Premier Dr. Andrew Furey to support organizations working in the fields of mental health and addiction. The cause has become even more important in recent months as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are creating a burden on Canada’s mental health support system the full extent of which has yet to be realized.

“Whatever need we have right now for mental health services in Canada, it is about to explode,” says Doyle. 

“This is going to be an extremely difficult time for mental health in our country, and we need to be as ready as we can.”


“Whatever need we have right now for mental health services in Canada, it is about to explode. This is going to be an extremely difficult time for mental health in our country, and we need to be as ready as we can.” — Alan Doyle


Performing online for worthy causes

With his Rough Side Out tour canceled by COVID-19 and wanting to stay connected with his audience during the pandemic, Doyle had the idea of performing on Facebook Live, “just to sing a few songs for people, and maybe if they wanted to donate to the charity, that’d be great.”

It turned out to be more than great. Doyle’s fanbase, which stretches back to his days with the arena-filling folk band Great Big Sea, signed on in droves. The singer also called on some high-profile friends to join in, including Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson, Jann Arden, and actor/musicians Russell Crowe and Oscar Isaac.

Hearing one of their favourite musicians performing songs in an intimate, online fashion with celebrity guests was certainly a draw, but the singer also saw something more profound at work.

“They were so eager to respond to this negative situation in some kind of positive fashion and be seen as helping,” says Doyle.

“We were so delighted to have individuals jump on board, but the corporate community really got behind it as well.”



From left, businessman Brendan Paddick, musician Alan Doyle and Dr. Andrew Furey at the launch of their A Dollar A Day organization Tuesday at The Rooms in St. John’s. - Joe Gibbons
From left, businessman Brendan Paddick, musician Alan Doyle and Dr. Andrew Furey at the launch of their A Dollar A Day organization Tuesday at The Rooms in St. John’s. - Joe Gibbons

Dollar a Day Foundation co-founder Paddick calls the reaction “a groundswell”, with several thousand viewers taking part and a coast-to-coast roster of corporate sponsors boosting the campaign’s reach and goals.

“It’s probably resident in the fact that we’re a virtual foundation, and have been from the outset,” says Paddick. “Very lean with only one employee, and the rest of it takes place online.

“Many charities and foundations have found it a struggle during this time, with all the mobility and social distancing restrictions. We were fortunately set up to thrive during that time, and that’s a big part of what happened.”
 

Nearly $1 million raised for organizations across Canada

Paddick pegs the total donated amount through A Dollar a Day at close to  $1 million, with proceeds going to organizations like the Canadian Mental Health Association, Unison Benevolent Fun and Covenant House.

In Nova Scotia, the fund has been supporting the No Time for That anti-bullying society and Landing Strong, which supports and assists members of the military, veterans and first responders coping with PTSD and operational stress injuries.

Pre-COVID-19, Paddick and Doyle met with Landing Strong, and they were invited to sit in on a group session with some of the people the organization supports, with emotionally moving results.

“It was nothing short of gut-wrenching, and eye-opening for us, meeting with seven or eight participants who were largely from a first responders background,” Paddick recalls.

“Most of them, if not all, were suffering from some form of PTSD, and when we were finished with the session we drove back to Halifax in the most driving rainstorm I’ve ever experienced in my life, and I don’t think either of us said a word for an hour-and-a-half, it was that moving.”



This map shows the variety of organizations supported across Canada by A Dollar a Day in the fields of mental health and addiction. - Contributed
This map shows the variety of organizations supported across Canada by A Dollar a Day in the fields of mental health and addiction. - Contributed

Doyle says the whole journey has been eye-opening since it started, especially as he visited more facilities across the country and realized the full effect of the campaign’s efforts.

“We started this whole thing to help people who needed mental health and addictions support,” says Doyle. “After a few visits, and certainly after visiting all the places and facilities that are providing the support, the more we realized we’re just as much raising funds and support for the people who are offering the care.

“These people are doing the hardest work we know, often volunteering, and if they’re getting paid, they’re getting paid very little. It’s the hardest and most difficult work, and they’re doing it so well; the quality of the people who are working in the mental health and addictions programs across the country are some of the finest people I’ve ever met.”


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