Republic Live co-founder Stan Dunford, who also owns the sprawling Burl’s Creek Event Grounds hosting the Rolling Stones this Saturday (June 29) in Oro-Medonte, Ontario, always adds a charity component to its annual Boots and Hearts country music festival, headlined this year (Aug 8-11) by Jason Aldean, Miranda Lambert and Maren Morris.
Years back, he teamed with music education charity MusiCounts and asked members of the music industry to donate $50 in exchange for tickets to the three-day festival but then he heard about Camp Ooch, a unique overnight summer camp for children with cancer and brought in the hashtag #BootsLovesOoch and enabled the festival-goers to help raise money.
“It's a cancer resort in the Muskokas, where kids that aren’t allowed or can’t do certain things because they’re fighting cancer, they come up to Camp Ooch, where they have complete medical facilities there for blood transfusions, radiation, chemo and everything,” Dunford tells Samaritanmag. “The kids get to actually live a normal life for a while, while they're being treated for their cancer.”
Stan, wife Eva, daughter Brooke, and “the whole team” at Republic Live are involved, he says.
Past initiatives for Camp Ooch at Boots and Hearts included a 50-50 raffle and donating $1 from every bottle of water sold. The country music festival is the largest of its kind in Canada and regularly draws 40,000 people over three days.
The really special part comes later — Ooch & Hearts.
Republic Live go to Camp Ooch and “create a festival experience for them,” Stan enthuses. “We take our Boots and Hearts wristbands and all our paraphernalia with us. We make it like they have to enter and go into a music festival. We bring artists.”
The first year for Ooch & Hearts, they took The Darcy's, says daughter Brooke, event marketing specialist for Republic Live, as the Toronto band had just played at WayHome Arts and Music Festival, the younger-skewed event the promoter staged for a few years and is now on hold. “They wrote a song with the kids,” Brooke recalls.
“Last year [at Ooch & Hearts] the opener was Ryan Langdon, who was a 2016 contestant in the emerging artist [showcase] at Boots and Hearts and the ‘headliner’ was Melissa Payne. She has raised nearly $20,000 for the SickKids Hospital Foundation with her song ‘Strong Heart’ and is a fierce supporter of children warriors in the fight against cancer.
“We were there doing the end of the teen week. It was 130 kids around the age of festival attendees that received wristbands to attend, a festival merch package, with an ice cream truck and performance at the end of the night.”
Stan, who sold his lucrative trucking business before entering the music industry in 2011, says in purchasing Burl’s Creek in 2014, he has been committed to raising money in the surrounding community for hospitals and various events, but he’s “most proud” of the charity work for Camp Ooch. “If you could ever go to one of those, it'll make you cry. It’s the most overwhelming and amazing thing to see.”
On the Boots and Hearts Facebook, there are photos from the inaugural Ooch and Hearts of kids in front of the Boots and Hearts backdrop, wearing Boots and Hearts caps and straw cowboy hats, and glow necklaces. There is even a giant cow, decorated with hand prints.
Along with the photos is this post:
“Being immersed in a music festival first-hand can be an incredibly uplifting, transformative & healing experience, one that everyone should be able to participate in. Last week, we were honoured to bring a little bit of the Boots & Hearts magic to Camp Oochigeas, a place for incredibly brave campers who are battling and recovering from cancer. The inspiring camp councillors, volunteers and campers participated in song writing sessions, screen printing ‘Ooch & Hearts’ merch and, most importantly, the joy manifested through the shared experience of live music, as performed by the Darcys.”
Camp Ooch — also known as Camp Oochigeas — has been operating since 1983, as a privately funded, volunteer-driven charity that’s free for families. According to its web site, it helps more than 1,600 families and kids affected by childhood cancer every year. The camp is run by more than 50 full-time staff, specially trained medical teams, and over 600 volunteers.
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