Concert fundraiser set for Pemberton fire victim 

Papa Josh to play a show for longtime resident who lost everything in a New Year's Eve blaze

click to enlarge PHOTO SUBMITTED - songs of support Papa Josh will perform at a fundraiser Jan. 12 in Pemberton.
  • photo submitted
  • songs of support Papa Josh will perform at a fundraiser Jan. 12 in Pemberton.

When longtime Pemberton resident Nick Antonelli's home and most of its contents were destroyed in a fire on New Year's Eve, the tight-knit community sprang into action.

The local grocery store offered him its top floor unit, the Rona hardware store donated supplies to help sort through the rubble and constructed a rack on which he could dry salvaged photographs and The Pony coffee shop brought volunteers sandwiches and coffee. "He's such a fantastic guy," says Antonelli's niece, Ty Yorke. "For this to happen to him is terrible."

Local musician Papa Josh, who was Antonelli's neighbour years ago, felt the same way. When he heard about the fire, he decided to turn his Jan. 12 concert at The Pony into a fundraiser and gathering to show support.

"I know a lot of people in Pemberton feel strongly towards him and a lot of people know him better than I do. I'm opening up an avenue for everybody to... show love and support to him. When you lose that much it's not too bad to have some financial help as well," Josh says.

To that end, there will be a silent auction at the show to help raise funds. The Pony will also donate $1 from every drink and the servers are offering up 50 per cent of their tips.

Antonelli is currently staying with friends, Yorke explains. "I think he's overwhelmed by the generosity shown by our community," she says. "Everyone wants to help, so (the concert) is a great way people can come show their support, whether they donate or not."

On Dec. 31, Antonelli was out splitting firewood on his property when he returned to his home and noticed an orange glow. At first he thought it was vehicle lights shining through a window but as he got closer he realized it was flames. The house was engulfed in the blaze and two dogs inside perished. "We're hoping Rupert the cat is maybe cruising somewhere," Yorke says. "Nick is pretty sure he was inside."

Making the sad story even more gut-wrenching: one of the dogs belonged to Antonelli's late son. "I'm pretty sure Nick wouldn't have cared about anything else if the dogs had survived. It's been really shattering," Yorke says.

Papa Josh hopes to lift the mood at the benefit concert with a set list of "mostly cover songs," he says. "I might throw in a couple of hidden funked-up country classics to provide something a little more along the lines of what Nick's into. For me, no matter what I'm doing, I want to find a way to play music I really enjoy and also connect with the people who are there."

The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. For more information check out the Facebook group at Raise the Roof for Nick.

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