Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Behind the Scenes With Kerry Gibson - Elevate and Celebrate Life!

I no longer remember the first time I met Kerry Gibson - it's just a blank. We suddenly began to run into each other at events and had the "hug-and-a-brief-chat-event-buddy" thing going on. Two things made her instantly recognizable no matter where we met - she was usually the only person in a wheelchair and she literally exploded with positive energy and joy. The second is what hands down drew you to her and made her memorable. It wasn't long before you found yourself smiling and laughing in response.

When I heard about her event coming up this Sunday to fund the cost of renovations to make Hycroft Manor wheelchair accessible - Elevate and Celebrate - I couldn't have imagined a better title. It could double as a great title for a book on the way she approaches life. She is also a powerhouse when it comes to making it happen. Sharing life journeys is my passion, so today I want to offer Gibson's. Turn off that horrible scripted "Reality TV", relax and enjoy. Then take it a step further. Support Elevate and Celebrate by joining everyone for an amazing, celebratory day of fashion, food, music and more, or by making a donation to support this worthy cause (option at the ticket link) - no amount is too small.

Where were you born? Where did you grow up?

I was born in cowboy country, in Williams Lake, BC. However my childhood was well-travelled as Mum is a kiwi [from New Zealand] and Dad a Brit. My teachers didn't mind my sister and I missing class for adventures abroad as Mum home-schooled us and we would bring back stories of our travels to our classmates who perhaps weren't as fortunate as we were.



What were you like as a child - as a teen?

As a child I was rather cerebral, devoured books and enjoyed quiet time riding around the Cariboo on my pony Tinkerbell. We were always out doing things. I really had no toys per se, as all my activities involved creativity or practical learning. When we were taught pottery, for instance, we were given a shovel and taken to the creek to dig our own clay. When I was given my pony I was also given a shovel. I was silently competitive, in soccer, in music (we had the Provincial Music Festival held in Williams Lake every year) and in academics.

In my teens I became far more vocal. I was fiercely independent, having been given many tools to be by parents who made sure I could use power tools or cook a roast dins with Yorkshires. I played the sax and piano, and at fifteen was playing in various orchestras and bands, including the UBC jazz band. All while playing soccer, going mountain climbing, camping on glaciers, working at the local Boston Pizza, teaching music, and gallivanting about with my friends. By this time I was living in Maple Ridge, BC, as we had moved there from Williams Lake for my grade 11 year. 



Can you share something of your journey to needing to use a wheelchair?

As much as I joke about having held up an octogenarian for their wheels, unfortunately my change in view came about as result of a car accident. There was a young lady who had a lot of unknown issues and I happened to be driving with her. Don't drink and drive kids.

What is your current job?

I am the President of EcoCentury Technologies Inc., which is a small clean tech company. We know industry will continue, so EcoCentury tries to provide alternatives to progress in a smarter way that have less impact on our environments. I also do small business development and event planning on the side, it seems many solutions for small businesses are often event-based so they go hand in hand. 
 


Share some of the difficulties in access you have personally encountered?

Bathrooms and curbcuts. It astonishes me that many streets still lack curbcuts. However the city budget for replacement and repair is so small that apparently it will take 320 years to complete them all (that number from the City Streets and Electrical's office). Completely absurd. Bathrooms are just plain silly, half the time if they flipped the door so it opened outward rather than in the bathroom in question could be accessible. There are often very simple and inexpensive "fixes" to accomplish wheelchair accessibility, and if anyone would like me to consult on such, free of charge, I would be happy to do so. (I should mention I have a background in construction, dating as far back as my father putting me to work on the jobsite when I was naughty).

Elevate and Celebrate sounds like an amazing fundraiser. Talk about the journey that led you to create this event.

Frustration and opportunity were the two triggers to this particular event. My lovely friend, fashion designer Maryam Asgari, wished me to plan her a fashion show at Hycroft. The University Women's Club meanwhile had brought me onto their Access Committee where a group of dedicated nurses, Occupational Therapists, and Physical Therapists had been trying to rectify the problem of inaccessibility of Hycroft for years. They had been turned down for most grants except for a small one recently that gifted them $40K from the Minister of State for Seniors to upgrade existing ramps and such. I thought that while we were waiting to apply for more grants that may never come, we should move ahead and raise the funds in the best way. Through celebration. As I never do anything by half measures I thought I would give Maryam the biggest fashion show I could, and Hycroft the most amazing fundraiser.


What amazing experiences can we expect at Event and Celebrate?

Exciting. Stimulating. Joyous. More than a trifle hedonistic. We have back to back musical performances from Bad Bad Monkey (an amalgamation of Parlour Steps plus a few), Suzanne Kingston the world class opera singer, the fantastically energizing Carnival Band, and local singer/songwriter Blake Havard. We have three main fashion designers (Maryam Fashion, Maggie Fu, and Crow and Gate Clothing) who are styled using Xixo Apparel, Smitten Designs, Sayuri Designs, and the Optical Boutique. The show will be non-traditional, Betsy Johnson plus. 

We have three local artists of diverse aesthetic, Hajni Yosifov, Drew Ferneyhough, and the team of Yves Decary and Natalia Krioutchkova who will auction off their masterpieces upon completion at the event. There will be treats from the Gramercy Grill, Oxtale, Silk Dinner Lounge, Vit Vit Vegan, and Cookies of Course with plenty of libations to wash it down including Original 16 beerRustico wines and Cocos Pure Coconut Water. There is a spectacular array of desirables for the silent auction, some of which were specially crafted for the event. One can purchase beautiful garments from the designers showing plus Kjaer Pederson (K-O Me) and 10% will be contributed to the event. 

Miss Canada 2013, the vivacious Cäsar Jacobson, is smooching for the cause, samba dancers shaking their feathers, and handsome gents to assist anyone who wishes to fondle a bicep whilst climbing up and down the many stairs, and the effervescent Vegas Van Cartier manning the door. Those who have curiosities regarding the history of Hycroft can venture off on a guided ghostly mini-tour through the upstairs of the manor. The attendees look to be the most interesting range of personalities, a salon of sorts with politicians, celebrities, artists and musicians, CEOs, dancers, writers, doctors, Olympians, and TED speakers. Every one of them is a wonderful caring individual who is there in support of Hycroft, wheelchair accessibility, and me.



Where can we get tickets and, if unable to attend, how can we contribute to the goal of making Hycroft Manor accessible to everyone?

Tickets can be purchased via Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/elevate-and-celebrate-tickets-10599065089.  We would love if anyone who cannot attend for whatever reason could support us nonetheless, we have been already getting international support but have a long way to go! Under the Eventbrite link, when one clicks on Buy Tickets, you are given three choices. General Admission, VIP, and the third is Donations in Absentia which is where anyone can contribute as much as they like. Whether you would like to give $5 or $500, we adore your generosity! After the event, cheques can be mailed to the University Women's Club of Vancouver earmarked for Access. The address is 1489 McRae Ave. , Vancouver, BC V6H 1V1

What future events to you have coming up to continue this fundraising effort?

I have three events in total planned. Assuming I meet my financial goals with each event, I will have the funds to build a lift from the main level to the ballroom where all the large events like Christmas at Hycroft, educational opportunities, and charity fundraisers are held. 



The next one will be on June 22 and will feature an Imperial Indian theme... boasting a plated gourmet lunch by Siddharthas Choudhary of Siddhartha's Kitchen on 2066 Commercial Drive, a live auction of picnic baskets for two by celebrity chefs, a wine tasting on the back verandah, live statues scattered throughout the house and garden styled in east meets west fashion and Oculto millinery, an opera singer, pianist, and other musicians will perform on the verandah whilst everyone dines al fresco on blankets and café tables in the gardens. Charming ladies in colourful sari will hostess, and the silent auction will feature adventures and experiences.

The third event will be September 28th and we wind up with a Gatsby-styled afternoon dance party (which is entirely appropriate given the vintage of the house!)...the juxtaposition of the nine piece band Queer as Funk, costumes, bubbly, and macarons to the rafters! 

You are probably one of the most joyous, friendly and positive people I know. In just a sentence or 2 can you give me your philosophy on living life to it's fullest?

The short answer is I'm quite pleased to not be dead. I have been far too close too many times, and many dear, dear friends and family have left me far too early. Life is relative.

To purchase TIX or donate to this great cause go to - Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/elevate-and-celebrate-tickets-10599065089.
FB event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/288231011329597/

4 comments:

  1. You are most eloquent and such a trooper when it comes to life! So positive!

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  2. What a great interview! I appreciate being far more knowledgeable of my neighbor Kerry Gibson's background after reading this. What a life you've had Kerry!!

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  3. I love you Kerry. You are a very interesting woman.
    I like your energy and personality.
    Hugs and kisses. Luis

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  4. Hey my cousin, surfing the net to find you and wow just got totally blown away!!!! Nikki from NZ here been thinking about you over last little while. I have spent the last 7 months in and out of my chair and was up on crutches today, far out woman you are an inspiration. I would love to hear from you, can you contact me on nikki.sturrock @yahoo.com

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