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Raising a little hell for a good cause
Children First Society nets about $50,000 for early childhood centre

Laura Busch
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, June 28, 2012

Those looking to have a good time in Inuvik last weekend were in for a special treat, when an interesting kind of variety show came to the Roy Sugloo Ipana Memorial Arena.

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Trooper frontman Ray McGuire performs last Friday at a benefit concert for the Children First Society. - Laura Busch/NNSL photo

The event was part comedy show, part auction and part rock concert but its main purpose was charity. The concert raised almost $50,000 for an early childhood centre being built by the Children First Society.

Comedians Dave Hemstad and Steve Patterson, host of popular CBC radio comedy program The Debaters, warmed up the crowd at the benefit show. Afterwards, Hemstad auctioned off a number of donated items, including a gym pass and a four-day camping trip to Ivvavik National Park. The auction netted an impressive $15,000.

Closing the show was Canadian rock band Trooper, who decided to put on a second show Saturday night to raise more money for the charity.

"It's for a really great cause," Trooper frontman Ray McGuire told Inuvik Drum.

This was the band's third time playing in Inuvik.

"Name a hall in a town in Canada and we've probably played there," he said. "It's what we do."

The band has been touring almost constantly since 1975, said McGuire, and have dealt with all kinds of different venues, crowds, and technical issues.

"There's a different vibe in the North," said McGuire, adding that Trooper songs Thin White Line and Janine are much more popular here than in the rest of the country.

"The audiences are also friendlier in the North."

The money raised from the charity event "will go directly to the construction of the new building," said Children's First Centre project co-ordinator Terry Halifax.

The centre is a new facility currently under construction which aims to give early childhood learning programs a space to operate after Sir Alexander Mackenzie School (SAMS), where the programs had been previously operating, closes permanently later this month.

To complete construction by late February or early March of next year, the best-case scenario, another $2 million in funding is needed.

The Children First Society is waiting for a response from the territorial government to a plea for funds to keep the capital project on track, said Halifax.

"Hopefully we hear something favourable because otherwise (construction) is going to stop," he said.

Funding sources have been hard to find because the project doesn't fit in to most grant categories categories, said Halifax.

"It's tough for them, because (the GNWT) doesn't currently fund capital projects for early childhood," he said. "It's a precedent-setting, this, so they're in an awkward position, but we're also in a pretty unique situation here."

With the closure of SAMS, 58 per cent of the childcare and early childhood programming in Inuvik loses its space, said Halifax. This includes the Inuvik Child Development Centre and the Inuvik pre-school. Temporary space has been granted to most of these programs in the new school, but this is not a long-term solution. The situation also highlights an issue that Inuvik has historically struggled with, which is a lack of daycare and early childhood programs.

"It's going to benefit young children in their first few years," said Halifax, "and that's just so important for us as a community."

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