Timing is everything, no matter how randomly it presents itself.
In September 2018, when Sean Eyre and Morris Turney first considered staging a major local fundraiser for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) research, there was little to no indication that major changes to how provincial dollars are allotted to autism families were on the horizon.
Come early in the new year, autism was very much in the news and on the general public’s radar when Ontario Community and Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod announced her plan to revamp the Province’s autism funding model.
The ensuing outrage, anger, and frustration expressed by parents and guardians of autistic children received extensive media coverage.
That outcry has settled down somewhat since as a result of the Ford government revisiting the issue and modifying its plan, but the plight of autism families remains firmly in the spotlight — a good thing when it comes to selling tickets for a fundraiser related to autism research.
“That was a godsend because it brought awareness (of autism) to a high peak, which we would never have been able to achieve begging media to give us backing on this thing,” says Eyre.
“This thing” is Awesome And Then Some, a musical fundraiser for ASD research set for Sunday, March 26th at 2 p.m. at Showplace Performance Centre (290 George Street North, Peterborough, 705-742-7469).
Tickets cost $40 at the box office or or online at www.showplace.org. As a result of substantial support from Peterborough Community Savings, ticket buyers who mention or input ‘Alterna’ at the time of their purchase get 10 per cent off the ticket price, lowering the ticket price to $36.
Eyre and Turney have lined up a number of impressive local musical acts to perform, among them Danny Bronson, Washboard Hank and The Wringers, Catfish Willie and The Bucklebusters, Fiddlin’ John, and the McDonnel Street Gospel Quartet. In addition, they’ve brought together former media personalities Bruce Anderson, Wally Macht, Mike Melnik, Paul Rellinger, Gord Gibb, Sylvia Sutherland, and J. Murray Jones to introduce each act.
The fundraiser’s name comes from the Awesome And Then Some radio show that Eyre and Turney host Wednesday afternoons on Trent Radio 92.7 FM, which sees the two reminisce on days gone by, mixing their banter with music from the past that they both love.
“This is not a talent show, it’s a showcase,” Eyre says.
“It’s going to be a real fun day. A nostalgic day. The music is going to be representative of a period that certainly appeals to the demographic that’s going to come. It’s not going to be ‘Wham bam thank you ma’am, I can’t understand what you’re saying.’ It’s going to be stuff they understand like Gordon Lightfoot and John Denver, thirties, fourties, and fifties swing music with Catfish Willie, and the originality of Washboard Hank and Sweet Muriel.”
Despite “a great break” provided to the event by Showplace, there are expenses attached to the event. Still, Eyre estimates about $30 of each ticket purchase will go directly to ASD research via Autism Canada.
ASD covers a range of neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and Asperger syndrome. It should be noted that ASD is a diagnostic label from the fifth edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5). Autism rights advocates prefer to use the term “neurodivergent” when describing people with autism, reflecting the belief that it is a variation in function rather than a disorder to be cured.
Those on the spectrum have varying levels of difficulty with social communication and interaction, and display restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities. Symptoms are typically recognized between one and two years of age. Long-term issues may include difficulties in performing daily tasks, creating and keeping relationships, and maintaining a job.
Both Eyre and Morris are longtime members of the Peterborough Masonic Lodge #155. Eyre explains that Paul E. Todd, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Canada in Ontario, announced at the start of his current two-year term that his charity of choice would ASD research.
Anchoring that designation was the fact that Grand Master Todd has a grandchild with autism.
In the first year of his term, Grand Master Todd presented a total of $150,000 to advanced autism research, with $50,000 each going to teams at Queen’s University in Kingston, the University of Western Ontario in London, and McMaster University in Hamilton.
VIDEO: “Setting The Woods on Fire” – Catfish Willie & The Buckle Busters
Eyre notes that while he and Turney have that connection as Masons, their fundraiser is a non-Masonic event. Rather, he says, it’s being staged to complement the efforts of Mason lodges in the Peterborough district.
“We’re the whole organizing committee,” Eyre adds.
“We thought ‘Hey, they’re looking for money as a charitable donation from each member of the lodge, so let’s take it one step further and take it to the public.’ That was our decision with the blessing of the district hierarchy.
“I’ve never been so all consumed with a project in my life as I have been with this one. Every waking hour, even while walking the dog, I’m thinking of things to do and who to approach. I’ve been eating it and sleeping it since September. We both have.”
Eyre promises that Awesome and Then Some, featuring an afternoon of “just good ole entertainment”, will be a show that the entire family can enjoy while raising money for a good cause.