An upcoming Comedy Night at the Imperial Theatre is set to bring a lot of laughs for a good cause.
“The more money we make, the more people we can help,” said John Tidball, who’s helping organize the Jan. 9 event, a fundraiser for the Sarnia Professional Firefighters Association (SPFFA) Community Benefit Fund.
“But sometimes we’re strapped for cash, so we try to hold different fundraisers to help out.”
The event features headliner Travis Howze, an internationally touring comedian and motivational speaker who spent 14 years in the military and emergency services as a U.S. Marine, police officer and firefighter.
In 2007, Howze was involved in a South Carolina warehouse fire that claimed the lives of nine of his fellow firefighters, and he was assigned to the team that went inside to recover his fallen brothers.
He eventually became so overcome with survivors’ guilt, major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder that it cost him his career in the service, and he found a new calling.
“I contacted him and told him what we were doing and where all the funds were going, and he jumped right on board,” said Tidball. “This is actually going to be his first time in Canada for his show, so he’s really excited about coming up.”
Opening for Howze is local improv group The Fidgets.
The SPFFA Community Benefit Fund was launched in 2000 to support non-profit groups and organizations in Sarnia-Lambton, and has since raised more than $100,000.
“We see a lot of people who need help,” said Tidball. “Like a family with a sick child, driving back and forth to London for cancer treatments. We’ll go out and buy some gas cards, or help any way we can.”
The committee also sponsors local sports teams, and a number of charities like Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Sarnia-Lambton, the Alzheimer’s Society, Pathways Health Centre for Children and others.
A $1,000 donation was recently handed to the Inn of the Good Shepherd, to help support victims of the Kenwick apartment fire.
“Sometimes it’s not just monetary — we try to help with our manpower whenever we can,” he added. “Last week, we took one of the Salvation Army kettles for the day and had ten guys at Walmart collecting money.”
And it’s all volunteer work. In fact, members have donated more than 3,000 hours to various causes over the past few years.
“When you see us out, wearing our yellow shirts, we’re not getting paid — we’re volunteering,” Tidball said. “We’re serving the community on and off the job.”
The firefighters’ association has also developed an informal partnership with Goodwill Industries – Essex, Kent, Lambton, which used its connections and contacts to help organize the comedy event.
WHAT: Sarnia Professional Firefighters Association presents “Comedy Night”
WHEN: Jan. 9, 2016. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Imperial Theatre
DETAILS: Headliner Travis Howze, with opening act The Fidgets. Get tickets, $30, by contacting John Tidball at 519-312-9511, Goodwill Industries at 519-332-0440 or the Imperial Theatre at 519-344-7469. Proceeds to the SPFFA Community Benefit Fund.