An evening of fashion, fun and cocktails will take place in Nanaimo this weekend as a first-ever Island production to raise funds and awareness for mental health and addiction.
Dean Thullner, event organizer and executive producer for Volume Studio, said Volume has championed for diversity, inclusion and acceptance through arts communities since 2011.
“We’ve been doing Shine in Vancouver for the past decade and we’ve raised $5 million for at-risk youths, mental health, addiction, HIV and AIDS,” he said. “And when [my husband and I] moved to the Island, I was a little saddened and shocked at how many youths were on the streets of Nanaimo. And how many of them were displaced through mental health, or came from homes that didn’t accept them for being LGBTQ.”
Previous Shine events, Thullner said, focused predominantly on high fashion. But for this year, he reached out to local dance and theatre groups to expand the event’s artistic horizons.
”Everybody just rallied together and have been super supportive, and it’s been an absolute success,” he said.
Shine 2022 will showcase more than 150 performers, including actors, models, singers, musicians, dancers, drag queens and kings, circus performers, magicians and comedians.
The event will start with a cocktail hour, followed by speeches, a live auction hosted by local drag queen legends Conni and Vikki Smudge, the two-hour performance show, and finally a dance party.
Thullner said he’s always envisioned the Shine events as a platform for artists to give back to the community on their own terms. As for him, the desire to give back stems from personal experience.
“When I was 29 years old I was diagnosed as HIV positive and I was given literally days to live,” he said. “And I’m here because of science, but I’m also here because I watched hundreds of people stand up and say, ‘these boys that are dying – they deserve resources, they deserve funding, they deserve research, and we have to do something about this’ … And [Shine] started out as a gift for giving back to the community that was there that saved my life, and was also there for all the boys that died of HIV and AIDS … But as the project grew, I realized that while we might be out of the epidemic of HIV, we’re certainly not out of the [crisis] of drug overdoses and mental health [illnesses].”
AVI Health and Community Services, an Island organization that supports people affected by HIV, HCV and substance use through education and services, is the main donor recipient of Shine 2022 and will receive 90 per cent of the money raised.
In addition, the event’s ‘Shine Bright’ recipient, which will receive 10 per cent of the raised funds, is the Family Learning Opportunity and Wellness program, a Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district program that helps teens who are attending mental health counselling through community agencies.
When asked why he wanted to support the FLOW program, Thullner said that, ideally, he would like to see similar programs in every high school on the Island within the next 10 years.
“I’ve had a lot of young people work for me that have been LGBTQ, or who are neurodivergent. And I’ve seen the challenges they can struggle with and have had when trying to get on their feet … The importance of nurturing youths and being able to provide a platform for them to learn and be safe is really close to my heart,” he said.
Shine will be held at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre on Sept. 17, starting at 6:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online through www.togetherweshine.ca.