Tally has just come in, and as expected Langley organizers announced that the 2019 Gone Country – Here for the Cure was another record-breaking year. Consequently, hundreds will be helped by those who came together this weekend to enjoy some country music and help defeat cancer.
The seventh annual charity concert, held at Bill Reid Amphitheatre in Cloverdale on Saturday, was a sell-out. And, according to event co-founder Chris Ruscheinski, many of the Gone Country’s 6,000 guests showed up early, stayed late, and spent lots of money in aid of the cause.
“The generosity this year was next level,” Ruscheinski said. “Tip jars were full, merchandise sold out before sundown, and you almost drank our taps dry,” he added of the participants who packed the fairground’s field.
In fact, Ruscheinski announced Sunday night, that the team was overwhelmed by all the generosity.
The goal was to raise $750,000 this year. They brought in a “whopping” $822,000.
“We are so thrilled,” Ruscheinski said. “We never imagined our little backyard barbecue could turn into something this size.”
While tons of high fives and compliments were flying around for the volunteers and among guests at the show, it was the generosity of everyone involved that made it happen, he said.
“Thank you all for supporting us idiots and our fight against cancer.”
Personally grateful for Gone Country
A 39-year-old Brookswood mother of three shared just how much Gone Country and the assistance she’s receiving from Chris and Jamie Ruscheinski and the Twins Cancer Fundraising initiatives mean to her.
Friends and loved-ones organized a few fundraising efforts to help Nicole Champagne and her family since she was diagnosed with aggressive triple negative breast cancer in spring 2018. One of those methods of fundraising was participation in the Gone Country’s Raise It For the Cause program.
Since Champagne was diagnosed last year, she has undergone surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, confirming her treatments are now over, and she’s focusing all her energy on healing and recovery.
“As of March 15, I was done… I was so happy,” Champagne shared, noting she’s hoping to be back to work this fall.
“My energy is not 100 per cent, so I still get tired pretty quickly,” but there was no way that Champagne and Jordan, her partner of 14 years, were going to miss this year’s Gone Country – on site from 4 p.m. ’til closing.
“Saturday was amazing. It was soooo busy. The energy was so positive, and knowing everyone was there because they care was so powerful,” she shared with Black Press on Sunday night, just minutes before the final fundraising totals were revealed.
““The highlight of my day was just seeing all the people smiling and getting along. Showing so much love and support,” she said.
While Champagne is learning to appreciate country music, it wasn’t the tunes as much as having a chance to say “thank you” that drew her to the show.
“The support my family and I have received means so much to me. Support from family. Support from friends. Support from my work. Support from complete strangers is amazing,” Champagne shared.
“Jordan and I were devastated when we found out I had cancer. We knew this journey was going to be a battle. The support we’ve received has made it so much easier and the love I feel is a healing force all in its own. There were really crappy days and there was always something to smile about.”
For her, Saturday was a good day. It was definitely a day of smiles, a few tears, and many hugs.
A few big hugs were saved for Chris, and his twin brother, Jamie, who started this “little” fundraising endeavour seven years ago. But the boys actually started fundraising to fight cancer almost 20 years ago.
How Raise It For the Cause began
It all began because of Ruscheinski boy’s mother, Janice. She was – and despite her passing, continues to be – their inspiration.
The twins were only 17, both working part-time, minimum wage jobs after school, when they realized their mother was broke.
“Cancer took everything from her, physically and financially. She couldn’t work. Hell, she could barely eat,” Jamie shared.
They did what they could to fill her fridge with groceries every week. But given her plight, they decided to host a fundraiser, their first being a backyard barbecue.
It raised a little more than a thousand dollars for their mother and meant so much to her.
“We started our first cancer fundraiser while she was still alive, to help pay her rent and bills. I still remember the numbers to this day: Her rent was $675 a month, and her disability cheque was $650,” Jamie explained.
The boys have since gone on to throw numerous other fundraising events that help various cancer-related causes.
Past events have included a few more backyard barbecues, a beach party at the Langley Events Centre, a black-and-white event at BMW Langley, a comedy night, a long-table Christmas gala for 250 people in the aisles of Potters Nursery. They even transformed an airport hangar into a nightclub for an evening, and hosted several photo sessions with RAD Santa to raise money.
And while, this year marked the Ruscheinski boys’ seventh consecutive Gone Country, it was their 19th year of hosting fundraising in their fight against cancer.
The formula they developed with Gone Country seems to be working well, Chris said.
He noted that last year’s event raised a record-breaking $651,000 for the cause. This year, they handily exceeded their $3/4 of a million goal, which brings the overall total raised by Gone Country to date to within pennies of $3 million.
“And every single penny raised goes to fight cancer!” Jamie chimed in.
“We have never taken a penny and never will – something we know our mom would be proud of,” added Chris, noting it’s not just them but now a “huge” team of some 300 volunteers who helped make this fundraiser such a success.
While their late mother would be touched to know of all that her boys are doing to help others struggling with this disease and other serious medical conditions, Chris believes she’d be most thrilled to see the triumph of their Raise It For the Cause program.
“We know first hand the financial beating that a family can take after that awful diagnosis,” he said, excited to not only help bigger causes – like Canuck Place children’s hospice and this year’s recipients at the Surrey cancer centre – but to aid individuals (just like their Champagne, and their own mom all those years ago) who are in need.
The Raise It For the Cause component of Gone Country was added three years ago, and allows individuals or groups of supporters (raisers, as they’re dubbed) to nominate a person for assistance from Gone Country.
Ultimately the amount of assistance for that person (and their family) – who is suffering financially in their fight against cancer – receives a donation that correlates directly to the amount of Gone Country tickets sold on their behalf.
This year, cheques go out to a record 34 recipients (up from 21 recipients in 2018), and range between $1,000 and $10,000 each, Chris said.
This year the Raise It For the Cause program, operated by Kara Geransky, saw 1,555 tickets sold, which translated to $92,500 raised for individuals in need.
Nicole’s team, headed up by her friends Sarrah Myrol and Clayton Grice, was among the larger fundraisers in this year’s program, selling more than $7,500 worth of tickets.
Watching so many people rallying to help loved-ones and even complete strangers, Chris only expects this component of Gone Country to grow.
“I know how much [Gone Country has] helped families affected by cancer and how this disease has personally touched Chris and Jamie,” Champagne said.
“They first hand know how hard it is and it’s awesome they have grown to make such a difference in the battle against cancer. It is truly amazing what they have done to help families in need (emotionally and financially) and how much support they get to put this fundraiser together. I am now a lifer to this cause and this fundraiser. I know it will be a blessing to so many families that are hurting for years to come,” Champagne added.
Raise It For the Cause has become a big part of that, Chris boasted, noting that in its first three years that program has raised close to $150,000.
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