Smoky skies were no match for the stars that shone through the haze at the inspiring Andrew Allen Backyard Concert featuring Olivia Penalva and Taylor McKnight on August 17th.
Organized by Lavington resident Nadine Laraway-Toop, the gathering of nearly 100 friends and family featured music and a silent auction to raise funds for Canadian Mental Health Association, Vernon & District Branch.

“I wanted to do something for my friend who recently lost her son,” said Laraway-Toop. “By raising money for youth mental health programs we can honour Jordan’s memory while helping youth in our community so other parents don’t have to go through that pain.”

Jordan Mooney tragically passed away in May.

“When a family and a community loses a young person, it fractures so many lives,” said Julia Payson, Executive Director for CMHA Vernon & District. “Coming together as a community to remember Jordan and to support local mental health is a healing tribute. This is how we end stigma and when stigma ends, people can feel empowered to get the help they need.”

Funds of $3,500 will be designated to early intervention for mental wellness and suicide prevention programs for youth at CMHA.

“Our thanks go out to Nadine for organizing and hosting the event and to everyone for their support, from talented performers Andrew Allen, Olivia Penalva and Taylor McKnight, to the many businesses who donated items for the silent auction, and everyone who took part in the event,” said Payson.

Funds will support the Super Saturday Youth Mental Health Program which provides youth aged seven to 12 with confidence and social skills development through fun-filled and educational activities, and the Friday Night Live Program which provides youth aged 13 to 17 with a supportive environment to learn life skills, build a peer support network and take part in recreational activities.

“These programs change lives,” said Payson. “Over the years we have seen our youth grow into resilient, confident individuals who really care for each other and their community. This has such a positive impact on their family dynamic and far-reaching effects into all areas of their lives.”

Youth are referred to the program through school counsellors, physicians, local social service agencies and Interior Health.

“It is truly a wonderful program, one that my son looks forward to every month,” said Laurie,* mother of a Super Saturday youth participant.

They do things that he would otherwise not have the opportunity to do. It has helped him be more comfortable with mental illnesses and to realize that other people go through it too.”

A special thank you goes to the many supportive individuals and businesses: Andrew Allen, Olivia Penalva, RAKU Rice & Noodle Bar, Homestead Studio, Carol Edwards – Epicure consultant, Center Stage Performing Arts Center, Okanagan Lifestyle, Paula Callender Fashion Foundations, Bra Haven, Unique Gardens and Gifts Kal Lake Road, A Thread for all Seasons- Samantha Fiset, Nick Lutsenko – Remax Vernon, Carla Buchanan, Tenacity Health And Fitness, Dean Toop Excavating Ltd., Deb Lalonde designs, Rose Anne Diprose, Lincoln Lanes, 123Artful, The Fig Bistro, Natures Fare Vernon, Dawn Stolberg – Epicure Consultant, Noir Salon and Boutique, D’s Customized Cleaning -Deanna Baker for all your generous donations to make this such a successful event for CMHA.

Andrew Allen is a Top 10 Canadian recording artist garnering hits in Canada and the U.S. and a dynamic live performer with an exceptional voice, incredible songs and limitless energy, who enlivens his performances with comic wit and heartfelt storytelling.

A pop star on the verge, Olivia Penalva, has been captivating audiences and critics alike since she was just 11 years old. At only 13, she began writing and recording her debut album, Fight For You, a release that earned her a top spot in the final 15 for the 2014 International Songwriting Competition.

Creating a dynamic soundscape on percussive instruments and hailing from the Sunny Okanagan, Taylor McKnight has toured with the likes of Mike Edel, performed with Vernon’s own Olivia Penalva, recorded and written for The Valley Collective and is currently on the road with Andrew Allen.

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