WESTLOCK — In the wake of the tragic death of a young woman named Jeanelle Lobsinger, the Soul Sisters Memorial Foundation was created in 2014 with the mission of raising awareness around mental illness and suicide.
The non-profit organization began putting on courses and making donations to organizations like Westlock Victim Services using the funds raised through Nelly’s Project, an annual dinner/concert/live and silent auction that borrowed Jeanelle’s nickname.
Nelly’s Project continued to be held every fall until the onset of the COVID pandemic in 2020, which ended up putting the event on hold for a couple of years. Even though many pandemic restrictions had been lifted by mid-2022, president Christine Vachon said she was afraid of having to cancel at the last minute.
“I was too nervous. They could totally still shut us down and I didn't want to be scrambling,” she said.
But now, after three long years, Nelly’s Project is making its grand comeback this Saturday, Sept. 23, at the Westlock and District Community Hall.
Doors open at 5 p.m., followed by a dinner at 6 p.m. Vachon noted they will have the usual menu along with some German dishes to go along with the event’s “Oktoberfest” theme.
Sea Change Brewing Co. will also be on hand to provide a selection of craft beers, and Vachon noted any guests that wish to do so are welcome to dress in costumes that match the Oktoberfest theme, as there will be some prizes for that.
There will also be a plethora of live and silent auction items up for bid, including some high-value items like a flyfishing trip to the Northwest Territories and tickets to upcoming NHL games.
Highly-experienced fundraising auctioneer Danny Hooper will be returning to co-ordinate bids and act as master of ceremonies, as he has since the first event.
After the dinner and auctions, the “Dirt Road Angels” will take the stage. This is the first time this female country group, which was formed back a decade ago, is appearing at the Nelly’s Project fundraiser.
"I’m excited for all of it,” said Vachon. “There isn’t one specific area of this event that brings me more excitement, because the whole evening is fantastic!”
Tickets for the Nelly’s Project fundraiser cost $100 each and can be purchased online at simplytickets.ca or by calling Vachon at (780) 349-1178.
The ticket price of $100 has remained the same since the event was first held back in 2014 despite inflation.
“I’m proud of that, but it means that at the end of the day there’s actually less money in our pocket, because everything else is more expensive. But we’re also really mindful of the community we live in and the support that we get,” Vachon said, adding she also recognizes that many people struggle with financial pressures post-pandemic.
Those interested in the ongoing activities of the Soul Sisters Memorial Foundation can visit their website (https://soulsistersmemorialfoundation.com) or follow them on Facebook.