By Laura Jasmine
The October 14 Babes4Breasts concert at St. Brigid’s Centre for Arts marks the tenth fundraiser concert series started by local singer-songwriter Ana Miura. Instead of five artists, this year’s concert introduces 10 local musicians who will be performing together to raise funds for a great cause.
After initially doing a smaller, one time fundraiser show in 2003, the idea of a bigger fundraiser event lifted its head three years later when the mother of Miura’s good friend passed away from breast cancer.
Miura and Juno-nominated singer Amanda Rheaume initiated B4B the following year after the two met at an open mic in Ottawa. Rheaume had lost her great-aunt to breast cancer, and immediately felt connected to the cause.
The collaboration started multiple Canada-wide tours and concerts over the last 10 years and during that time B4B released five compilation albums with several Canadian artists.
“Back in 2007 we did our first show in Rasputin’s Folk Café for about 35 people, and as of last year we played in venues where 300-400 people attended,” Miura said. “I was reflecting on it just recently on how something so small turned into something huge!”
B4B has raised over $140,000 since 2007 and all the proceeds go directly to Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre (OICC). A number of years ago OICC put together a Head Start Program, which is a program for women who have been newly diagnosed for breast cancer, and are potentially in a situation where they are overwhelmed with choices.
Head Start program offers meetings and workshops where women can share their experiences with others, and also receive free naturopathic and other alternative treatments that might not usually be readily available for cancer patients.
“We came across OICC through a good friend who had breast cancer and after attending the program, she recommended we’ll take a look at what the program does,” Miura said. “When I met the team I was floored. All their kindness and humanity just materialized. To see the amount of effort they put into their centre and programs and how they care for everyone is amazing.”
B4B has also offered a songwriting workshop at OICC this year with some of the women who have gone through the Head Start program.
“Amanda and I were actually just there the other night writing with some women and it really brought it home to see the faces of these women, and see how the program matters so much to them,” Miura said. “It gave me shivers all throughout my body because that’s exactly why we are doing this. It was a really amazing full circle moment for me.”
This year, B4B’s main sponsors, The Royal Oak and Beau’s Brewery, will also donate a portion of their sales between October 10 and 23 to the cause.
Local artists Keturah Johnson and Danny Sylvestre are a part of another fundraiser, Art of Hope, organized by Vixens Victorious. The event takes place on October 13 at Kivuto in the Byward Market.
The interactive and collaborative event will honour many talented and creative local artists and musicians who have been touched by cancer, while raising money for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.
Vixens Victorious was formed two years ago by Jennifer Mielke who was diagnosed with breast cancer a year earlier, and her childhood friend Jennifer Mulligan, who had just recently lost her mother to cancer.
“During my own cancer treatments I felt very lucky that I had very little side effects, but saw others who were not as lucky and I decided I wanted to help them,” said Mielke. “I called the women I met during treatments vixens to remind them they are still feminine and sexy, and that is how our organization got its name.”
Including musicians in the event was a no brainer to Mielke.
“I had a soundtrack during my treatments that would help me get pumped for surgeries or chemo. I listened to everything from Motorhead’s “Hellraiser” to Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane.” As I finished treatments, the set list included Jerrod Niemann’s ‘Drink to That All Night,’”Mielke laughed.
Vixens had their first fundraiser event in 2015 at the Algonquin Commons Theatre in the form of a film festival focused on female filmmakers across Canada. This year, the Vixens decided to keep it more local and include artists, artisans, and musicians from Ottawa who had all somehow been touched by cancer and showcase their talent. Their goal is to top up the amount raised to $20, 000 from last year’s $18, 000.
Singer-songwriter Keturah Johnson said she feels honored to be a part of Art of Hope.
“Practically everyone I know has someone in their lives whom they have lost, whom have survived, or are currently battling cancer,” said Johnson. “After chatting with the event co-ordinators about their stories and direction for the money raised, Art of Hope seemed like the perfect fundraiser to be a part of.”
Singer Danny Sylvestre lost his grandfather to cancer just days after his daughter was born.
“She never got to know the man who was such a role model in my life. A few years ago another close family member lost his battle to pancreatic cancer. He never had a chance at treatment,” said Sylvestre. “If any form of art, or an artist, can help raise awareness while also raising money for research, I see it as a win-win. You never know who might be affected next, so we should all contribute any way we can.” •