A local health-focused charity is hosting its ninth annual fundraising gala – a yearly event dubbed Light Up the Night – in support of health and wellness priorities on Sept. 24 at Genesis Place.
Since its inception as a grassroots organization in 2010, the Airdrie Health Foundation has sought to better support the Airdrie Community Health Centre, Urgent Care Centre, and mental health services, along with other high-priority health-care needs in the community through raising funds and awareness of its cause.
According to Michelle Bates, executive director of the foundation, the annual fundraising gala has been an integral part of the mission to garner local support for and spread awareness of the need for enhanced health services in Airdrie.
“Our first gala began as our major fundraiser just to get our name out there and we called it Light Up the Night because at that time, Urgent Care was closed and we had no 24-hour services for health care in Airdrie,” Bates explained.
The Airdrie Health Foundation formed after Bates’ five-year-old son Lane tragically died after falling ill in December 2009. Without 24-hour access to emergency care at the time, Bates and her husband made the fateful decision to wait until morning to take their son to their family doctor. Lane passed away before the doctor’s office opened, propelling Bates into becoming an advocate for improved access to health care in Airdrie.
She noted that, since the Urgent Care Centre started providing 24-7 service a day back in 2017, the foundation has held onto the moniker Light Up the Night, adding a unique theme to each year’s gala ever since.
Bates stated this year’s theme is “Carnival,” featuring a carnival tent, roaming jugglers, street performances, and an elaborate act from Mr. Skinny of Skinny Entertainment, who operates a six-foot unicycle.
Though the gala’s last two years were held virtually due to health restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic, this year, the event will be back to an in-person setting, hosted on the Shane field at Genesis Place Recreation Centre.
“In 2020, when the world stopped, we were able to host our gala online. It had multiple events including pairing wine and food,” Bates said. “And then we also had some paint nights and an online concert with Brett Kissel.”
The executive director added in 2021, due to the continued unpredictable nature of the pandemic, the foundation held off on hosting an in-person gala and opted to organize a golf tournament instead.
This year, she said the foundation is excited the gala will return to a traditional format with programming, a sit-down dinner, and speeches from local dignitaries. She added Airdrie Urgent Care Centre doctor Ania Cormack will be presenting a keynote speech during the evening’s festivities.
“We’re really excited about that. She can talk about how the donations have truly helped her profession, her work, her coworkers, and how that’s impacted patient’s care,” Bates said.
Thereafter, the evening’s programming will culminate with a live performance from local band and country music brother duo Flaysher. Bates added people can “dance and have some cocktails” as they enjoy the live tunes throughout the evening.
All funds raised from the evening will go toward the Airdrie Health Foundation’s efforts to advocate for better health-care services in Airdrie.
“It is our major fundraiser of the year and up until now, it’s really been the only fundraiser this year,” Bates said, adding that health-care services in Airdrie are still lacking.
“Airdrie is in this grey area between being rural and urban and being located so close to Calgary,” she said.
“We’re often met with, the answer for our health-care needs is to go to Calgary – and really that’s not the answer anymore.”
According to Bates, the Airdrie Health Foundation prides itself on being the leading voice for health-care advocacy in the community.
“Since [we began], Airdrie Urgent Care has opened up and we’ve been able to purchase and support programs that never would have been purchased or supported otherwise,” she said of the organization's accomplishments.
“We’re really fundraising to help each other, and it takes a village. All money raised goes to help support and enhance otherwise unfunded needs that we have in Airdrie.”
Bates added the foundation also holds a few smaller-scale fundraisers throughout the year, including a Bronco Sport raffle in partnership with Cam Clark ford. The Tim Horton’s Smile Cookie campaign is also set to kick off during the same week as the gala from Sept. 19 to 25, with the week’s proceeds donated to the foundation.
“Last year was the first year that the funds raised from the local Tim Hortons…stayed in Airdrie and the Airdrie Health Foundation was the beneficiary and again this year,” she said. “All funds raised will stay here and if someone wants to help and decorate, put smiles on some cookies, we’re also looking for some volunteers.
“We raised just over $40,000 last year with all funds coming back to Airdrie.”
Those who are interested in participating in any of the non-profit’s upcoming fundraising events are encouraged to visit airdriehealthfoundation.com for more info.
Early-bird tickets for the Light Up the Night gala can be purchased for $150 each. The tickets pay for a night of live entertainment, and a formal sit-down dinner with a four-course meal.