Heartland’s Amber Marshall visits Chicks for Charity

As it has for the previous two years, 8 a.m. came with a flurry of dresses as the ladies attending the Chicks for Charity third annual

Sarah Olson (left)

Sarah Olson (left)

As it has for the previous two years, 8 a.m. came with a flurry of dresses as the ladies attending the Chicks for Charity third annual champagne breakfast descended upon the Stagecoach Saloon, June 29.

Chicks for Charity is donating the breakfast’s proceeds to the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelter, Big Brothers Big Sisters and to the maternity ward of the Ponoka Hospital and Care Centre.

At the Chicks for Charity inaugural breakfast $10,000 was raised and last year’s efforts were doubled to $20,000. “Hopefully this year we can surpass that, or match it,” said president Jane Weirzba.

During a short speech, Wierzba thanked Ponoka and surrounding communities — as there were many out of town diners — for their support.

“The Ponoka Stampede brings many people to our community each year and continues to support many worthwhile causes, including this one,” said Weirzba.

Acute care manager Lisa Barrett said the donations will enhance labour rooms at the hospital to provide more space for families and a tub for comfort. “During labour and delivery is a time we, as women, are vulnerable.”

According to Big Sister Francine Lefebvre, who attended the event for executive director Beth Reitz, the organization’s portion of the proceeds will fund the program and the interactions between mentors and mentees.

Last year, between Ponoka and Rimbey, more than 100 Big Brothers/Big Sisters matches were made.

Anna Robertshaw, the Central Alberta Women’s Emergency Shelters marketing and development coordinator, also attended the breakfast. “I have worked at a lot of events and I’ve never met a stronger more dynamic group of women,” she told the crowd.

In 2012 the shelter worked with 40 families from Ponoka. “We’d helped them take that grave step to leave an abusive relationship,” said Robertshaw.

Along with families, the shelter also works with teenage girls and their situations.

“Violence is alive in the teenage community and it’s gaining strength,” explained Robertshaw.

She says central Alberta has the highest domestic abuse rates across the country and one in four families will be victimized.

While the money raised at the breakfast stays in Ponoka and central Alberta the victims of Alberta’s massive floods were also on everybody’s minds.

“Today we also pray for our neighbours to the south,” said Chicks for Charity board member Deb Stevens.

The Chicks for Charity breakfast also included one of those neighbours: Amber Marshall, star of the hit CBC television series Heartland.

In late July Heartland is holding its own charity to raise flood relief funds. For the first time the public will have access to both the cast and set. “People will pay admission to come and see the cast,” said Marshall in an interview with Ponoka News.

“It’s always been a closed set until now but we thought this would be a really great way to raise some money,” she added.

The raging Highwood River flooded one of the show’s sets, Maggie’s Diner, to the roof. Marshall says cast and crew still doesn’t know the fate of the building, which sits in downtown High River. “High River has given us so much over the last seven years so we want to do everything we can.”

Marshall also visited the Rodeo Challenge later that day and took to the infield atop the Ponoka Stampede stagecoach.

At the Chicks for Charity breakfast, 260 women attended the sold out event, which included parfait type dishes in champagne flutes as well as the western staple of ham and eggs. “That’s a day’s work for a chicken and a lifetime commitment for a pig,” master of ceremonies Ash Cooper (CrAsh Cooper the rodeo clown) joked with the crowd.

Cooper, the only male in attendance besides the auctioneer, kept the ladies laughing throughout the breakfast with clever and borderline risqué jokes that could only have been made better by champagne that early in the morning.