Getting creative
From left, Phil Quinton, Claudette Longpre, Jodi Jaffray and Karen Spinney prepared for Art in the Dark at Russell High School on Oct. 20.      Sawyer Helmer photo

Kalynn Sawyer Helmer
Villager Staff
RUSSELL – On Sat., Oct. 20, 88 guests were welcomed to Russell High School for the second annual Art in the Dark fundraiser for DeafBlind Ontario Services. The evening began with a fantastic meal prepared by Winchelsea Events, along with a silent auction and raffle tickets.

Janice Stewart, president of the Lions Club of Russell, spoke to the importance of supporting such services. The Lions Club played a big part in the evening as the presenting sponsor. Stewart explained, it was Helen Keller who challenged Lions International to “be the knights of the blind. To take up this cause as a focus in our work of serving others. We accepted that challenge then, and it remains a primary focus to this day. As Lions we serve those in our communities and the world. The DeafBlind, their families, intervenors and caregivers, live, work and play, among us. They are our neighbours, acquaintances and friends. Thank you to all of you here this evening, for not only helping to raise awareness of DeafBlind Ontario Services and the special needs of their clients, but to raise funds needed to continue the programs they offer to the DeafBlind in our community.”

Before the art began, guests watched a short video showing Embrun’s own DeafBlind client and the services which have helped make her life happy and fulfilling. The motto of intervenors, the client’s sensory caregivers, is to “do with, not for”. This means each client is helped to become as independent, in their lives, as possible. Many programs are offered to the clients to enrich their lives and further their independence.

Art in the Dark, eastern Ontario development coordinator, Marlene Quinton explained the fundraiser: “is a spinoff of our sensory exploration arts program that we do with our clients. They have a themed experience and then they produce an artwork. We thought it could be fun to give people an opportunity to understand a little bit more about DeafBlindness by putting them under simulation with earplugs and blindfolds. It throws your senses off a little bit and gives you a chance to use your other senses to explore your environment.”

This year, the experience for guests involved creating a colourful wood mosaic art piece using wooden tiles and glue. Without any sight and limited sound, guests had to use their sense of touch to create their masterpieces. While the fun experience causes many giggles and interesting artworks, it reminded those in attendance to be thankful for their abilities. For clients of DeafBlind Ontario Services, they do not get to take off a blindfold at the end of the activity. This glimpse into the lives of the clients is what is so important to the fundraiser.

Russell Township Mayor Pierre Leroux was one in attendance who spoke to the importance of taking care of all community members. “Russell Township, as everybody knows, was voted third best place to live in Canada. Even though that was based on a set of criteria that the magazine put out, the reality is that if they were to consider the people in Russell Township, I’m sure we would have been first. In the last year this community has given almost $1-million for different organizations. It’s important to see how Russell Township can come together and build our community up. That is in great part thanks to the people/organizations like the Lions Club. I’ve heard an expression that the easiest way to judge a community is to look at how well they treat their most vulnerable. That’s why we are here tonight.”

All of the funds raised from the evening support DeafBlind Ontario Services’ programs and community initiatives. While the total was not available at press time, guests were eager to help throughout the evening and generously gave to the silent and live auctions as well as the raffle. ­