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Helping women through music

Twenty-two women get on stage at Dusty's to raise money on International Women's Day
Fundraising night A night of song by female musicians will raise money for women's programs in Whistler. It is hosted by Susan Holden. PHOTO submitted

Twenty-two women are taking to the stage at Dusty's to help other women.

The second annual Whistler Women's Centre International Women's Day Open Mic is a night to raise funds for the centre, which provides support and programming.

"There are two very important things that we are doing. It's a celebration, we're celebrating the women and the female musicians," says organizer and stage manager Susan Holden.

"The other important part is the fundraising for the women's centre."

The event takes place on March 8 at 7 p.m.

Performers include Holden, Rachel Thom, Jenna Mae and Lozen.

"I'm getting up to sing with Sheila Sherkat and support her, she's going to play piano for a Natalie Merchant song," Holden says.

"Many of us get a lot of time on stage, so we're willing to pare back if we get someone new onstage."

There will be a few men helping out, too, Holden says.

Each performer will play one to three songs, sometimes pairing up to perform.

In 2015, the fundraiser made $500 and had 20 performers. Holden wants to improve on this.

"It took place at Black's last year and we filled the room, so we needed a bigger venue. We'd like to raise between $2,500 and $5,000 this year, adding a zero if we can," Holden says.

"Last year was awesome. It was collaborative. I joined lots of people on their songs. There were a lot of original tunes. Such a supportive feel. A few people got up on stage who had never performed before and I expect it to be the same this year. There can be big surprises," she says.

"This year will be the same. We've got Lauren Nedalak introducing a new song and some of us singing backup. Dawn Walsh is also presenting a new song."

Admission is by donation at the door; there is also a 50-50 draw and a silent auction with about $4,000 in items donated.

All of this effort is going towards the Transition House program in Squamish (via the Howe Sound Women's Centre) that provides a home for women and children leaving domestic violence, and funds will also go to the Safe House in Pemberton and to fund frontline staff.

"It supports all of their programming, but a lot of the money raised will be going towards (the houses). Frontline staff and drop-in support are not funded by grants," Holden says.

Drop-in hours at the Whistler Women's Centre are noon until 5 p.m. from Monday to Wednesday and from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Thursdays.

"The funds raised will support these programs specifically," Holden says. "Women who come in can visit the clothing and toy exchanges, too. They're there to support any woman facing adversity."

It's a community effort to put on the show. WMN Studios in Function Junction is helping out with studio time for practicing. The Whistler Arts Council has donated the sound equipment and recommended the services of soundman Herve Russell.

Holden says she would be happy to accept donations for the event of either money or items for the silent auction. Interested performers can also get in touch. Contact her at