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Fred Penner joins the lineup for Comox Valley Child Development Association telethon

2-time Juno winner recently moved to the area, adds skills to annual fundraiser
Fred Penner will play at this year’s Comox Valley Child Development Association Telethon. (Photo by Kendrahopephotography)

One of the best parts about the Comox Valley Child Development Association Telethon each year is the eight-hour-long program of live entertainment.

There are many singers, songwriters and instrumentalists - some performing solo or as duos, trios, choirs, big bands and even dancers.

What makes telethon really special though is all of the entertainment, special guests and MCs are local to the Comox Valley and surrounding area. The telethon committee prides itself on this fact.

“When people ask me what big names we bring in for our telethon, I have to stop them. ‘Bring in?’, I exclaim. I share with them that we do not ‘bring in’ anybody,” says Pam Crowe, chair of the Telethon Committee. “We never have to go outside of the Comox Valley with so much great talent right here.”

This year is no exception. Year after year the telethon welcomes back a number of regular performances along with new, and up-and-comers who donate their time to join us on the stage of the Sid Williams Theatre. All of this is to entertain and celebrate this great community and the supporters of the Comox Valley Child Development Association (CVCDA).

For 2022, the association is pleased to announce that Fred Penner will be joining the ranks of the 47th telethon performer list. This two-time Juno winner — who recently moved to the area — is an acclaimed family entertainer, singer/songwriter, composer, actor, writer, author, TV host and keynote speaker.

At a recent keynote address to an early childhood education conference, Penner delivered a simple, yet powerful message.

“Never underestimate your ability to make a difference in the life of a child.”

Telethon organizers are over the moon for this support from a prominent performer with a heartfelt message in alignment with CVCDA’s mission and vision.

“We are so thrilled for many of our kids to be able to come out for free and see such a wonderful live performer among many. We know many of the parents will be just as excited, if not more,” said Brooklyn Galloway, communications lead for the CVCDA.

Along with Penner will be a whole roster of family-friendly entertainment. For a number of years, Juno Award winner and singer-songwriter Helen Austin has participated as an MC and a performer. Also, BC Country Music Association’s “Entertainer of the Year Award” for four consecutive years and now BCCMA Hall of Famer Kenny Shaw will be back doing double duty as performer and MC, bringing his humour and high-energy antics to the stage. Other MCs we are welcoming back for their second year are Sue Wood and Brian Wise.

Other performances include Juno Award winner and Courtenay native Sue Medley, multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Anela Kahiamoe, Vancouver Island Music Awards Vocalist of the Year Brodie Dawson, and BC Music Hall of Fame guitarist Doug Cox.

There will be more than 30 performances in all, including the Georgia Straight Big Band, Just In Time Choir, musical duo Hey Honey, Peter Bourne, Tammy Fassaert and so many more. The telethon also hosts the Valley’s many dance studios including VIREO School of Performing Arts, Studio G Dance Academy, Laurie Tinkler School Of Dance, Triple Heat, and JT Dance as they perform numerous numbers in a range of disciplines.

Each year, all of the talent is pulled together by a crew of volunteer committee members. These unsung heroes who have been with the telethon from close to the beginning — Edwin Grieve, Brian ‘Fuzz’ Morissette and Shaw — keep the show going well, because the show must go on. Not only have they participated behind the scenes, wearing many hats through planning, promoting, fundraising and running the backstage, but have all at one point performed as musicians throughout the years, either solo or with various bands.

Shaw remembers playing with the band Still Water at the very first telethon, and played many of the years to date either solo or with a band, and even performed as a comedian.

Originally many of the acts were pre-recorded, similar to when the event went virtual during the pandemic in 2020.

“Back then we didn’t have the hall yet for our performers to play in and the recordings took place at the C-CTV studio (before SHAW TV),” said Morissette. “There was only one mic hanging down from the ceiling with plastic on the walls and insulation underneath.”

The event has come a long way from then. It now takes place in a spacious theatre for the public to watch the show in person.

The 2022 CVCDA Children’s Telethon will broadcast live from the Sid Williams Theatre via their broadcast partner, Shaw Spotlight on Sunday, Nov. 6, from noon to 8 p.m. Spectators are welcome to the theatre throughout the event at no cost. And of course, families will still be able to view from the comfort of home, or from wherever they are in real-time from their TVs or streaming devices.

Visit CVCDA.CA for all details and a complete schedule of entertainment.