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'Music in the Park' girls' retreat benefit returning to Emo

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Musicians from across the district are slated to perform at the sixth-annual “Music in the Park" to help raise money to send a group of girls to the "I Am Awesome! (And I know it)” retreat in the fall.

They will take the stage at Emo's spray park this coming Tuesday (Aug. 14) from 4-7 p.m., and their performances will run in conjunction with face-painting, rock painting, a scavenger hunt, games, and raffles.

“There's something for everybody,” noted event organizer Renée Martin-Brown.

“You'll hear a bit of rock music, some country, folk, and some contemporary pop from the younger group,” she remarked.

“There's always a great mix.”

This year's performers include Piper Lidkea, Brittany Strachan, Alasha Perrault, Ken Brown, Anna Schwartz, Katelyn Bruyere, Joelle Bruyere, and many more.

The event first started in 2013 and Martin-Brown said there's always been strong community support.

“We've always had a really great crowd and all ages come down and watch,” she recalled.

“It's always well-received, we have a great time, we sell out of our food, and we get a lot of positive feedback from the community.”

The event is set up so everybody can attend, regardless of their physical capacity.

The park has a large slope on the way down so Tompkins Hardware in Emo once again has donated a Utility Task Vehicle (UTV) to help transport the elderly or those with mobility issues.

“We really appreciate Tompkins donating that vehicle for our event each year so that we can get everyone, regardless of accessibility, into the park,” Martin-Brown lauded.

The event will be facilitated by the girls who are attending the retreat this fall. They will assist in running activities as well as working the barbecue.

The retreat, set for Sept. 20-23 at Sunny Cove Camp, welcomes females aged 11-16 from across the district and surrounding areas for four days of fun.

“It's a self-esteem based program that is all about building leadership skills and confidence,” Martin-Brown enthused.

“The content is delivered through arts-based workshops like yoga, the visual arts, drama, and music.”

The retreat also features a cooking component.

“The idea of the program is providing girls with an outlet for their expression,” Martin-Brown explained.

“The hope is that they're going to find a positive way to express themselves instead of perhaps turning to drugs, alcohol, or promiscuity,” she said.

“We just want them to know they're valued and have a gift within themselves to offer to the world.”

The program is highly sought after, accepting only 65 girls each year on a first-come, first-served basis.

“It's all full with a waiting list," Martin-Brown noted. "Out of our girls that apply, we have about a 50 percent alumni return rate.”

Instead of accepting a totally new group of girls each year, the "I Am Awesome (And I Know it) retreat welcomes back alumni to help gauge the success of the program.

“I feel like having our alumni girls come back helps us to see whether or not our program is having an impact,” Martin-Brown reasoned.

Those behind the retreat want to see if the girls who attended are in a better place when they return, as well as to see if they're making good decisions and becoming great leaders in their communities, she explained.

Martin-Brown, meanwhile, is hoping for a great level of community participation at Tuesday's event.

“The 'I Am Awesome' initiative has been really well-received by our district,” she remarked.

“I think that people recognize the need for the program and the impact that the program is having on our youth.”

Martin-Brown is encouraging everyone in the district to make their way to Emo's spray park on Aug. 14 for a fun-filled evening of live entertainment.

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