Everyone knows that listening to Christmas carols is good for the soul, but at Peterborough’s ‘A Cozy Christmas’ benefit concert, Christmas music does a lot more than spread holiday cheer to those in the audience — it also helps under-privileged children in West Africa get access to education.
On Sunday, December 17th beginning at 2 p.m., the Foley family and their musical friends will once again be decking the halls of the Showplace Performance Centre for an afternoon of festive song, fun storytelling, a silent auction and artisan market, and lots of community spirit.
With the 20th anniversary theme of “Christmas Around the World,” Hugh Foley will once again be emcee for the evening, sharing stories of holiday traditions around the globe. Other members of the Foley family will take to the stage to show off their musical talents, including Bridget Foley and the Gospel Girls, Dan Foley (who will be coming from New Brunswick to take to the stage in his Mountie uniform alongside his daughter Amelia), and a handful of young children who dance to the Christmas tunes as only young people can.
“Everyone’s from these different walks of life, but they all come together for a good cause,” says Theresa Foley, the event organizer and box office manager at Showplace, a long-time supporter of the fundraiser. “It’s really great to see.”
Returning to the stage, Theresa herself will be performing alongside her group Asante, joined by Sheila Prophet and Norma Curtis. Other performers who have donated their time year after year include Murray and Sibernie James-Bosch, Lochlan Craighead Foley, Glen Caradus, The Woodhouse Crooks, and more.
New this year, Theresa has invited The Men in Black, formed by a group of Filipino priests, to perform and share their own traditional songs and stories about Christmas in the Philippines.
The 20th anniversary theme is certainly a fitting one considering the concert’s profits will be donated to students attending Hungerpiller Christian Academy in Payneville, a poor village in the West African country of Liberia.
“The schools there aren’t supported by the government, so the teachers don’t make proper wages or often don’t get paid at all,” explains Theresa. “We raise funds and find sponsors for students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to go to school because they’re either orphans or from families who just don’t have the funds.”
Theresa finds sponsors through her organization Humanwave that she started with business partner Peter Brown. Working alongside Thunder Bay-based charity Lifewater Canada, Humanwave was originally formed to raise money to bring safe water wells to communities in need.
“We were both church musicians and we would have all these conversations about making the world a better place,” says Theresa. “We were very aware that we live very privileged lives in comparison to other people, so the organization just grew into its own thing.”
When Theresa and Peter visited the community in 2007 and 2008 after a few years of running the fundraisers, they came to realize that there was another way they could provide support.
“When you’re feeding and taking care of an entire village and you’re getting safe water, it’s providing health which is, of course, so important,” says Theresa. “But if you ask the people there if they want water or education, 99 per cent of them will say education, because for them education means hope and a better future.”
Since then, the organization began finding sponsors to help the students go to school — which is not inexpensive in the rural community — while the benefit concert provides holiday bonuses to the teachers who pave the future for the young learners.
The 20th anniversary concert is extra special, as proceeds from the silent auction held during the show will go towards funding one of the sponsored graduates, Grace Bockary, who is attending a nearby university to study nursing.
“It’s amazing because when she graduates she’ll become a nurse in her community and that’s a win-win-win,” says Theresa, adding that Grace and her principal negotiated with the university to get a reduced rate to be able to study. “We don’t usually sponsor post-graduate studies but with that kind of determination, we definitely want to show support.”
The auction will be taking place in the lower-level Nexicom Studio at Showplace during A Cozy Christmas, and will have products donated by the artisan vendors, including The Chocolate Rabbit, Pampered Chef, and pieces from local artists and makers, who will also be selling gifts in the artisan’s “village.”
“The whole event is a lot of fun,” says Theresa, adding that hosting A Cozy Christmas is something the family looks forward to doing each year. “We love doing it. It’s a chance for us to get the family together, for the little ones to have their opportunity to be on stage, and for people can give back during the holidays.”
A Cozy Christmas is taking place at the Showplace Performance Centre at 2 p.m. on Sunday, December 17th, with doors opening at 12:30 p.m. Tickets cost $25 for adults, $22 for seniors and $15 for students and can be purchased online at showplace.org or by visiting the box office at 290 George Street North. Groups of more than 10 can get a discounted rate of tickets for $20 each. To become a market vendor for the afternoon, email Theresa at email@example.com.