On Friday, April 26, guests joined us Underneath the Stars at the 2019 YESS Gala for Youth!
Guests arrived at the Edmonton Convention Centre and entered The Stars Align Foyer, a curated gallery full of youth art in a collaboration between YESS, iHuman Youth Society, and the Trinity Youth Project. There were installations, demonstrations where guests could create their own artwork, and there was a game with our own Trauma Care Team. Bethany and Marcia shared their expertise to teach guests how trauma affects the brain and body, and how the trauma-informed care model at YESS is helping youth heal.
The hall was transformed into a galaxy of stars, an awesome sight for everyone to behold as they entered. Thank you so much to our event planners at Foundry Conferences & Events and Invert 720 for the cosmic magic they created.
There were two raffle prizes available for guests to go starry-eyed over: 100 bottles of wine generously provided by Sherlock Holmes Hospitality Group, or a wellness package with items from Ballet Edmonton, the Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, MC College, Prana Yoga Studio, SVPT Fitness + Athletics, Simons, and Too Fit Fitness.
We were excited to welcome back Ryan Jespersen as our gala emcee. As Ryan invited guests to put on their 3D glasses, the lights went out and the screen displayed an amazing animation of Earth and its place in the cosmos, to the narration of Carl Sagan’s “Pale Blue Dot.”
“It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”Carl Sagan
Then Ballet Edmonton took the stage in a special performance to Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise.” Under the direction of celebrated Canadian choreographer Wen Wei Wang, Ballet Edmonton has been the resident contemporary ballet company since 2012. The company pushes the boundaties of the traditional ballet aesthetic to allow for new, exciting physical vocabulary to emerge. Ballet Edmonton is a not-for-profit organization that is committed to artistic collaboration in the dance and arts communities.
After the ballet company, a single dancer took the stage. Mataya is a young Cree person from Calling Lake First Nation. She is currently attending Grade 12 at McNally High School and is a resident at Graham’s Place, on of YESS’ transitional residences. Mataya performed the Jingle Dress Dance, a traditional healing dance of many Indigenous peoples. Women and girls who perform the Jingle Dress Dance often pray for healing of loved ones. This dance gives people strength through emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual struggles. Mataya started dancing when she was 7 years old and she is looking to continue practicing powwow and travel across Turtle Island sharing her healing dance with other.
“Mataya feels as though there is yet a lot of healing to be done, not only in her personal life, but also healing of her family members and of our whole community altogether. When she hears the beat of the drum, it makes her heart beat faster—it makes her happies and takes the heaviness off her shoulders, like the rain washing away the pain.”
After these performances, Ryan welcomed Mayor Don Iveson to the stage. He shared a message of hope and gratitude to all organizations that are walking beside youth and the community that supports them. “Things are getting better for kids thanks to you and thanks to staff and thanks to people who make events like tonight possible… Making sure we uplift every Edmontonian, making sure no one gets left behind.”
After dinner was served, YESS President & CEO Margo Long took the stage to share with guests what has been happening this past year at YESS.
“A sense of community cannot occur when we view traumatized youth as “them.” They are not “them,” they are us. It requires every one of us to empathize and walk beside those who are in pain. Play a part in the power of connection and healing.
“Our youth are kind, they are brilliant, they are creative, they are hilarious, and they are tough as hell, and they’ve been hurt so very badly let’s invest in a future that is rich with their contribution and their voices.”Margo Long, YESS President & CEO
Margo also shared information on the return on investment our supporters are part of when they donate to YESS. It costs $6000 to support one youth at YESS for a year and last year we saw over 800 youth in our programs—including shelter, trauma-informed care, access to counselling, life skills resources, and more. It costs $112,000 to support an adult entrenched in homelessness and addiction. Programs for youth trauma and homelessness are truly an integral part of diverting people out of homelessness at a crucial time in their lives and create a community where everyone can feel safe and supported and heal together.
Three-time world champion spoken word artist Buddy Wakefield took the stage to share a series of poems about honesty, forgiveness, and healing. Buddy is not concerned with what poetry is or is not and delivers raw, rounded, disarming performances of humour and heart. “Forgiveness is for anyone who needs safe passage…” Many guests were deeply touched by Buddy’s words and gave him a standing ovation.
In the grand finale, international stars and local talent The Melisizwe Brothers took the stage. Their charisma was undeniable, and there is something so special about youth supporting youth. This talented group of brothers has been featured on The Ellen Degeneres Show, New Year’s Eve at New York Times Square in front of over 1 million people, America’s Got Talent, and provided lead vocals on the Netflix series Motown Magic.
After an exciting live auction with incredible packages from Blind Enthusiasm Brewing Company, Central Mountain Air and The Cloutier Family, Impark and the Edmonton International Airport, Giselle Denis Fine Artist, WestJet and Suzanne & Michael Dudey, and Workshop Eatery, Knight Group Real Estate, and Paul Woida, the starry evening came to a close. Guests were invited to join us at the gala afterparty at Revel Bistro & Bar!
Thank you so much to all of the guests, sponsors, donors, performers, and volunteers who joined us Underneath the Stars at the 2019 YESS Gala for Youth! We hope you all experienced a sense of connection and community!
We are so excited to share that this year’s event raised $260,355 in support of YESS programs and services for youth who have experienced trauma!
We are so grateful for your support as we walk beside youth on their journeys towards healing and appropriate community integration.
A special thank you to our sponsors who made this event possible: