Why I Donate: The Jamboree for Charity

Homage to legendary country crooners pays off for Jamboree organizers Craig and Cara Senyk

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GUITAR PRO: Country music artist Bobby Wills, seen here with organizer Craig Senyk, donated his guitar at the Jamboree before performing at the fundraiser.

Country music? No thanks. When his dad put on his favourite country melody, Craig Senyk would have preferred an industrial set of earbuds. Yet those spirited hours listening to the country twang of legends like George Strait somehow managed to seep into the soul of Senyk, to the point where has chosen to find a method celebrating his favourite genre of music with his family’s altruistic spirit.

“Bringing friends and family together, introducing them to country music, while helping a great charity – there is no better feeling in the world,” says Craig Senyk.

Craig and his wife Cara held the second-annual Jamboree for Charity this past June, raising a cowboy-hat tipping figure of $103,000 for the Alberta Cancer Foundation. The money will be used for enhanced research and patient care at the Tom Baker Cancer Centre. “I don’t think I’ve seen so many smiles in one place,” says Craig, who says he was finally submerged by the triumphs and trials of country music in his university days. (Cara has yet to discover the same passion for spurs and banjos.) “Cara has given me a long leash for this passion,” says Craig with a chuckle.

The show, held at the Calgary Petroleum Club, featured a lineup of Canadian talent, including Adam Gregory, Gord Bamford and Bobby Wills, all Canadian Country Music Association nominees who were proud to be “two-stepping for change.” Kim Wright, a business development manager for CANWELL H2S Solutions as well as a jamboree donor and guest, says the evening was one that couldn’t be captured at a regular concert event.

“It’s the type of experience that you just can’t purchase on Ticketmaster,” Wright says. “You would never see three bands of that calibre in a relaxed club environment, where you could drink, dance, and laugh with your friends. The Jamboree is so much more.”

Many of the guests actually took two-stepping lessons at the beginning of the show, allowing them to amplify their country music experience. Jessica Cuerrier, manager of Events South for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, said the music and event’s environment had an uplifting and positive impact on everyone’s mood.

“Music therapy is an integral part of healing and has a cathartic element. People gravitate towards the genre that is most meaningful at the moment and gives them a voice for what they are feeling. In this case, it was country music,” she says.

Not only did the artists perform their signature tunes, but they also chose to elevate the mood by staying for photo opportunities, sharing stories and even revealing their own personal experiences with cancer. “There isn’t a person in the world that hasn’t had to deal with cancer in some way,” says Craig. “Part of the objective is to bring the audience closer to the fans, and of course showing off top-notch country music,” he notes.

Craig lost his grandmother to cancer, and it is her torch that he carries when hosting emotionally-charged evenings like this one. Cuerrier commended Craig for being an incredible supporter of the Alberta Cancer Foundation. “His generosity of spirit is beyond compare. He was the most significant contributor to the silent auction in terms of items,” she says.

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Although the event was raising funds for the Alberta Cancer Foundation, it kept the door open to a number of other causes, including the Children’s Wish Foundation.

Kiptyn Claypool, a three-year-old boy who has recently struggled with kidney cancer, was one of the true cowboys in attendance. Known for belting out Gordon Bamford’s “The Good Life,” on repeat around the house, he’s taken a spirited approach to a scary segment in a boy’s life. This stunning tenacity caught the ear of the Senyks and eventually, Bamford himself.

The artist behind the feel-good salute played a special, intimate rendition for the Claypool family at the event, which Craig calls the highlight of the evening. Along with the track, Bamford signed and presented a guitar to the family.

When asked about what one feels following the show, Craig did not shy away: “Bringing friends and family together, introducing them to country music, while helping a great charity – there is no better feeling in the world,” he says.

Wright says that the Senyks’ country-western theme was a smash, and applauded the generous spirit that seemed to capture the room. “I believe the intimacy of the evening allowed participants to feel more connected to the cause. After all, it’s the cowboy way to help others,” she says.

Cuerrier also applauded the concert. “The Alberta Cancer Foundation is so fortunate to partner with outstanding individuals and companies in the community. We are always open to new events and concepts. We couldn’t make investments into cancer care without the community, donors, events and partnerships,” she says. “I wish them nothing but success with future events,” she adds.

The Senyks hope to continue the Jamboree every year. And although the next Jamboree is not until next summer, the couple has already held their next charity event. On July 11 the Senyks held an outdoor rooftop party, aptly called the Cabaret, featuring the talents of yet another hot Canadian act, Tim Hicks. The Juno Award nominee performed in hopes of raising funds for Theatre Calgary’s education program called interACTive.

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