Musical fundraiser in Port Alberni supports life after loss

Camp Kerry Society raising funds to provide grief and loss supports to children and youth

Aspen Switzer is a singer, performer and music therapist. SUBMITTED PHOTO

A musical fundraiser will take place at Char’s Landing in Port Alberni this weekend, raising funds to provide grief and loss supports to children and youth on Vancouver Island.

The Camp Kerry Society specializes in providing bereavement programs and supports to individuals and families impacted by serious illness, grief and loss. Most recently, the society has started working with hospices across Vancouver Island to development a youth bereavement program on the Island.

Although Camp Kerry is based in New Westminster, its founder—Dr. Heather Mohan—lives in Port Alberni.

“That’s part of the reason behind bringing something [to the Island],” Mohan explained. “We definitely know there’s a need for grief support here. We just wanted to do something to help.”

The starting point for Camp Kerry is connecting with youth who have experienced significant loss—usually the loss of a parent or guardian. After connecting with youth, therapists will work with them in group settings or one-on-one counselling. Camp Kerry also offers retreats and recreational activities—many of which are planned and delivered by other youth. The first camp on Vancouver Island will take place next spring.

“We try to support where we see that there are gaps,” said Mohan. “We’re beginning conversations with hospices to see that that would look like.”

To introduce their work to the Port Alberni community, Camp Kerry will be hosting an all-day event at Char’s Landing on Saturday, June 29.

The event will start with a music and mindfulness self-care workshop for those coping with or working with grief and loss. The workshop runs from 1-4 p.m. and is ideal for caregivers, health care workers and other volunteers.

The June 29 event will culminate with an evening fundraising concert, featuring award-winning singer-songwriter Aspen Switzer at 7:30 p.m. (doors at 7).

Switzer’s influences range from folk to country to bluegrass to rock and jazz –but she has evolved a style that is all her own. Her second studio album, “humble but bearing no apology,” won two awards for best Folk/Traditional Recording of the year and best Roots/World Recording and was also chosen as a finalist for three awards at the 2009 BC Interior Music Awards.

Switzer took a break from touring and recording to complete her Bachelor of Music Therapy Degree at Capilano University and now specializes in working as a music therapist with those coping with serious illness, grief and loss. She returns to her art wiser, more fulfilled and balanced. Her new material reflects her experience of working deeply with people from all walks of life and integrates her own experiences with those she touches in her work.

She will be joined on Saturday by a team of music therapists—including Mohan.

“We’ve all worked extensively in this field,” said Mohan. “The music isn’t about grief, per se. It’s celebrating and recognizing love and loss. This will be an evening to bring people together to hear some good music and to raise money for a good cause.”

Tickets for the concert and registration for the “Find Me A Sanctuary” workshop on Saturday, June 29 can be found at Tickets will also be available at the door.

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