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Calm ‘After the Storm’ for victims of September tornadoes

On Sept. 21, six tornadoes ripped through parts of Ottawa and Gatineau. Many homes in Dunrobin and Trend-Arlington were either damaged or completely leveled, displacing their families and everything they owned.

Since then there have been many fundraisers to raise money for the victims helping to support them as they rebuild their lives physically, emotionally and mentally. One of these fundraisers was an event called “After the Storm” which was hosted at TD Place Arena on Nov. 10.

Algonquin staff and students were an integral part of bringing the evening together. Colin Mills, program coordinator for the music industry arts diploma, was instrumental in both the planning and execution of the event. Indigenous rapper Cody Coyote and his DJ Boa, who are both past Algonquin students, opened up the lineup of 13 acts. Many other students lent their time as volunteers walking among the crowd of approximately 5,000 collecting donations or working to sell the artists’ merchandise.

“I know the feeling of being hurt, know the feeling of struggling,” said Cody Coyote, “And it was just like, ‘Where do you need me?'”

Music Canada Live executive director, Erin Benjamin, was a driving force behind the initial idea for the event.

“It was my idea to try and rally the music industry to come together and put on a show to raise money for victims of the tornadoes,” said Benjamin. “Then in conversation with our colleagues at the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group and Live Nation, we identified the CUPE 503 show as a potential opportunity to collaborate so we wouldn’t have to reinvent the wheel.”

In the end, the event featured a line-up of 13 artists including Blue Rodeo front-man Jim Cuddy, Matt Mays, LGS, Rebecca Noelle and Jim Bryson.

“One of the good things about this night is that so much came together to make it happen,” said Mills. “All local media came on board – Bell, CORUS Entertainment, Rogers – all donated time. CTV broadcast the news from the event. It was cool to see everyone put their (differences) down and work together, not only in the music industry but media, etc.”

Entrance was free and victims of the tornadoes were bused in from the affected areas. The evening was for them after all and they were treated as the guests of honour.

“What a great way to change the channel even for a night for all of those people,” said Greg Patacairk, president of the Dunrobin Community Association. “I thought it was a great thing. Even on a personal note, it was great for me. I needed a break.”

Lori Kemp-McGrath, also a member of the Dunrobin Community Association, was really impressed when they arrived to find they had been reserved front row seats and had an excellent view of the stage to be able to enjoy the show.

“I really liked the variety of music they had. I didn’t realize there was going to be 13 bands that night (including) Jim Cuddy,” said Kemp-McGrath. “When we heard that we were like ‘holy smokes! What are we going to see tonight?’ It was a fun-filled night.”

After Cody Coyote finished opening the show, he went down and mingled with the audience. He was profusely and repeatedly thanked for being there and doing what he was doing.

The evening was a success thanks to the artists, the businesses, the media, the volunteers and the audience. According to Benjamin though, Mills was an instrumental part of the success as he stepped up to run the visual display equipment when there was an emergency technical failure.

“Colin Mills saved the show,” said Benjamin. “He was absolutely instrumental in the execution start to finish of the entire event.”

Over $55,000 was raised through the United Way and the funds were immediately deployed into the communities and to the people that needed it most.

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