DASCH (Direct Action in Support of Community Homes) had their 12th Annual Recognition Awards Luncheon recently in the Grand Ballroom at the Hotel Fort Garry. The honouree this year was the legendary children’s performer Fred Penner.
About 400 people came out for the event, a fundraiser for DASCH which has been in existence for 40 years. Their main goal is to build and provide homes for Manitobans with intellectual disabilities. DASCH has built 55 homes in that time and they’re not stopping anytime soon.
They recently opened a gift store, The Scrap Came Back (a play on the famous Fred Penner song ‘The Cat Came Back’), at 153A St. Anne’s Rd. The store was set up to empower individuals with learning disabilities and provide them with employment skills. They also have an artist workshop in the back of the store where artists are given lessons and encouraged to make art which the store sells. Proceeds of the sale of the art in the store help fund DASCH projects.
Two time Juno Award winner Fred Penner, whose sister had Down Syndrome and passed away at 12-years-old, has been entertaining children (and adults) for the past 25 years.
The humble humanitarian credits his wife of 25 years as the catalyst who inspired him to start his career as a children’s entertainer after she started a children’s dance theatre program. He was also inspired by his late sister’s pure love of music to become a performer.
Penner knows about the ability of music to heal. Throughout his career he has released 12 albums and also had a hit TV show on CBC for 12 years called Fred Penner’s Place. The show also aired on the Nickelodeon channel and Fred still receives fan mail to this day from some of the 55 million viewers.
“Never underestimate your ability to make a difference in the life of a child,” Penner said at a recent Early Childhood Education conference. It’s comments like this that inspired the Los Angeles Parent to dub him “the Canadian Minister of Positivity.”
He was the first children’s entertainer to headline at the Los Angeles Amphitheater.
Another milestone for him was being the first ever winner of the Prairie Music Awards.
He also received the highest honour that a Canadian citizen can receive in this country, ‘The Order of Canada’ and in 2000, the Canadian Institute of Child Health honoured Penner for his contribution to the well-being and safety of children.
Also honoured on this day was Jennifer Adams, who has been a part of the DASCH family since August 2012. She has lived in a DASCH-built home for the last two years. Adams is the recipient this year of the DASCH Merit Award.
Energetic and cheerful, Adams is an accomplished athlete and since 1996 has participated in the Special Olympics, the Provincial Games, National Summer Games (Brandon) and she represented Canada at the World Winter Games in 1997 and 2001.
Through her motivation and with the support of DASCH, Jennifer has become independent; people who know her say she a real go-getter.
Many people donated their time to the event such as Kerri Salki from 102.3 Clear FM who was emcee for the day.
The event started off with Salki introducing one of the guests of honour, the Lieutenant Governor of Manitoba, the Honourable Philip S. Lee C.M., O.M. who was led into the elegant room behind a bag pipe player. His Honour said a few words of praise for the work DASCH has been doing for the past 40 years.
Also attending were the Minister of Family Services, the Honourable Kerri Irvine-Ross, and His Worship, Mayor Sam Katz, who also praised the efforts of DASCH, and added, “What you do for yourself dies when you are gone, but what you do for your community lives on forever.”
Then the man of the hour, Mr. Fred Penner, got up and spoke a few words after which he opened up a gift bag that Brendan, one of the DASCH residents, gave him.
Penner then donned a pair of shades and performed three songs. He had the whole room sing the chorus ‘In the Children’s Garden’ in the song of the same name. Delightful music to eat our pea soup and fresh baked buns.
Penner’s performance was followed by ‘The Winnipeg Youth Chorus and DASCH Vocal Ensemble’ who sang six songs including a very beautiful and touching ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’, ‘He Takes Us Everywhere’ and a wonderful vocal version of ‘The Cat Came Back’ which really got the crowd going as they sang along and clapped. Penner was very impressed.
Fred Penner’s long time friend Gilles Paquin (Paquin Entertainment) did the honours of awarding Penner with the Annual Recognition Award. He was also given a jacket and cap from DASCH and a piece of art made by local artist and Social Enterprise Supervisor, Candis Militere, which was a metal sculpture of a farmer on a tractor named Fred (hmmm, what a coincidence) and a guitar playing cat on the back. It seems that the cat ‘did come back’. Penner gracefully accepted the award and posed with the presenters in his DASCH jacket and cap, which Susanne Williams from DASCH gave to him.
The main course was then served which was chicken, vegetables and potatoes (a vegetarian meal was also provided). Throughout the day the waiters and waitresses were kept busy keeping the wine glasses and coffee cups full.
The fundraising portion of the day was next when Bernie Clement of Pembina Chrysler made a donation of $10,000 in the form of a giant cheque.
Then the Grand Ballroom turned into an auction hall with people in attendance offering donations of all sorts. After Glen MacAngus kindly donated $7,500, Bison Transport matched them with $7,500. Duraco Windows stepped up to the table and offered to supply all the windows for a home being built by DASCH. There were 3 donations of $2,500 each by Earl Barrish, Curtis and Lorraine Steiman, and Joanne Provinciano for a total of $7,500. Lisa Soloman and the Noonan family each donated $1,000. Other monies were raised through the silent auction. Over $35,000 was raised that day.
All in all, the event proved to be very successful. There was such a good vibe in the room full of kind, generous and compassionate people. Oh yeah, and the food was terrific. Some in attendance said that it was one of the nicest meals they’ve ever experienced at one of these events. The dessert was a fresh fruit and cream tart which was oh so tasty.
And for your added enjoyment, here is Fred Penner singing ‘In the Children’s Garden’:
All photos and video by Doug Kretchmer