An annual campaign is scheduled for this weekend in support of the Sunrise House emergency youth shelter.
The Big Heart for Big Kids concert fundraiser will be held at the Entrec Centre with the show beginning 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24. It will feature a silent and live auction followed by musical duo High Valley rocking the stage with songwriters Tenille Townes, Barry Dean, Tom Douglas and Keelan Donovan.
“I’m a so thankful to be a Grande Prairie girl. I’m constantly in awe of the generosity and community spirit that I feel so proud to be a part of and to always been anchored in,” said Tenille Townes, musician. “I feel thankful for the opportunity to get to reach out to youth in our community. Home will always be such a special place to me and I think that’s our job as human beings, to look out for one another and find ways that we can lift each other up.”
Townes started the program when she was 15-years-old in 2010 after hearing about the number of children her age that needed a safe place to go.
“It’s so important that they have the Sunrise House as a place to be able to find that love and guidance that they need. To keep the doors open and the operations running is very important and I’m really thankful for the way that Big Heart for Big Kids can play a part in that,” she said.
In its inaugural year, the fundraiser generated $30,000. In 2017, they raised over $265,000 bringing in $1,256,000 in eight years.
The money came in a time when the shelter’s future looked bleak.
“The night of the very first year, the shelter director came to me in tears explaining that the doors of the shelter had to be closed that morning due to lack of funding,” she said.
“That night, I think something stirred within all of us in the room to really step up and find a way to make those doors open again,” she added. ”I just can’t get over how remarkable everyone is in the way that they just keep showing up and make it happen.”
A year and a half later after the first event, the Sunrise House renovated, re-staffed and re-opened to youth in need in northern Alberta.
“We’re able to focus on the job we are here to do as opposed to having to focus, on a regular basis how we’re going to maintain and keep our doors open. This event really took that pressure off the agency to have to be continuously fundraising or continuously looking for additional grants,” said Tanya Wald, executive director of Sunrise House. “We’re able to focus on the kids and make sure we’re providing the best care and the best services we can for them.”
Wald expressed tremendous gratitude to Townes in starting the event to keep the doors open.
“She is an absolutely incredible human being, who we’re so proud to have as part of our agency,” Wald said. “She’s provided mentorship to some of our youth that have come to the shelter. Her involvement has gone beyond the Big Heart for Big Kids event. She’s one of my favourite people.”
“Now with her success, she’s very busy growing her career in Nashville (Tennessee) and yet her heart is at home and the things that she has built here, she’s not forgetting about. That means a lot to us,” Wald added.
In its ninth year, Wald said she continues to be amazed by the amount of support from the community through the event.
Sunrise House provides a 24 hour emergency shelter to support youth between the ages of 12 and 17. That includes front line staff and counselling support.
On average, 100 children per year come through the door seeking support.