Tenors and balloons, a celebration of brain health

Ken Lavigne, Philip Grant and Paul Oullette are belting it out for brains at the Black and White ... Because Grey Matters gala on Nov. 9.

Tenors Paul Oullette, Ken Lavigne and Philip Grant, perform together Nov. 9 as Romanza at the Black and White ... Because Grey Matters gala, the biggest annual fundraiser for the Victoria Brain Injury Society.

Ken Lavigne, Philip Grant and Paul Oullette are belting it out for brains.

The trio, who perform together as Romanza, are singing for the Black and White … Because Grey Matters gala on Nov. 9, a fundraiser for the Victoria Brain Injury Society.

Romanza performed at the event three years ago, but at the time the audience only anticipated Lavigne on stage. Grant and Oullette were dressed as waiters and only after spilling a tray of drinks and causing a scene, joined Lavigne on stage.

“(Romanza) has been performing together off and on for years,” said Steve McKenzie, past-president of the society. “They all have individual careers too.”

The gala performance is different from the traditional operas the men perform in.

“This show takes away the stigma of opera. They do it with antics and fun,” McKenzie said. “It’s really remarkable.”

This may be Romanza’s second time performing at the gala, but Lavigne has been on stage four out of the event’s six years. The tenor stepped in with support for his friend when McKenzie asked him to help raise money for the charity.

A fundraising aspect of the gala is the black, sliver and gold balloons patrons can buy for $20, $50 and $100. Purchased balloons are tied to the buyers’ chairs and traded in later for random prizes worth more than the price of the balloon.

“No one knows what prize they will get and the balloons are sold out in 10 minutes,” said Nicole Nelson, society executive director.

The gala is the largest fundraiser of the year for the Victoria Brain Injury Society, last year bringing in $60,000. “We are always close to selling out,” Nelson said.

The society depends upon donations and grants, as only 38 per cent of its budget is covered by Island Health.

With the money raised from this gala Nelson hopes to increase the hours of the centre’s three counsellors, two of whom work part time. “Once people finally build up the courage to call and ask for help there is a seven-week wait list right now.”

The society offers counselling, peer support drop-in groups, running and walking groups and youth support. Three years ago the society had 300 clients and this year has served more than 800.

The Black and White gala is being held in the Pacific Ballroom of the Victoria Marriott Inner Harbour Hotel and will feature a bubbles & ale reception and culinary delights from local chefs.

Tickets are $175. To purchase them or learn more about sponsorship opportunities, contact the Victoria Brain Injury Society at 250-598-9339 or email admin@vbis.ca.

 

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