Each year during The Sundance Film Festival, Echoes of Hope has a benefit concert, Music for Hope, which took place on Saturday, January 24, at the Grand Ballroom of the Grand Summit Hotel at The Canyons Resort, in Park City, Utah. Founded by Luc and Stacia Robitatille, Echoes of Hope is a wonderful non-profit organization that provides support to emancipated foster youth, as well as other youth in need. This year, the concert included performances by Five for Fighting, Taylor Dayne, Matisyahu, Jessarae and R5. About two hundred people attended this fabulous night of music and entertainment.
Most of the performers, as well as many in the audience, also participated in the Luc Robitaille Celebrity Shootout benefit hockey game the following day. Many of the participants come every year, and there was the feeling of a family reunion as people chatted and got caught up on each other’s lives. Seen among those in attendance were former NHL players Ray Whitney and George Parros, US Olympic bronze medalist Allison Baver, television actors Steven R McQueen (son of the Robitailles), David Boreanaz, and Michael Rosenbaum. Rosenbaum, who hosted the event, is on the Board of Directors at Echoes of Hope.
Starting the evening off was Jevon Wilkes, who shared his story of growing up in foster care. He was the first youth assisted by Echoes of Hope and is now their Director of Communications. After his touching story, he shared a film about one of the programs the organization provides, which recently took some of their youths to a wolf refuge.
Then, Rosenbaum captured the crowd’s attention with a hilarious monologue that included the names of many of those in attendance. He followed this by introducing the first performer of the night, John Ondrasik.
Ondrasik, a huge fan of the LA Kings, goes by the stage name Five For Fighting, which is a hockey term for the five minute penalty issued for fighting. His first song was ‘What If’, a lyrical piece that includes the words, ‘What if I were you?’, an appropriate sentiment considering the aims of Echoes of Hope. Jessarae, who has performed with him before, joined him for ‘What Kind of World Do You Want?’, which continued the contemplative theme. For his final song in the set, Ondrasik performed one of his best known pieces, ‘100 Years’, including a pop-quiz for Kings fans using player’s numbers in place of ages, and waiting for the audience to provide the player before continuing the song.
Next up was the lovely Taylor Dayne, who got the crowd on its feet and dancing during ‘Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love’. For ‘Tell It To My Heart’, she was joined on stage by Rosenbaum, who provided her with a comedic living prop. Ending her set, Dayne sang the soulful ‘Love Will Lead You Back’.
There was a break from singing where Luc Robitaille auctioned off a trip to Hawaii, with the help of Rosenbaum. After several bids, the winners were Ray and Brijet Whitney. On January 21, Whitney announced his retirement from the NHL after 22 seasons, most recently with the Dallas Stars. In 1330 regular season games, he scored 1064 points.
After the intermission, the audience was treated to the easy Reggae sound of Matisyahu. He had a fairly long set with songs that included the strong Reggae rhythm of ‘Running Away’ and the softer ‘Let Go of What You Know’ and ‘One Day’. From his most recent album, ‘Akeda’, he also performed the inspirational ‘Champion’.
Following Matiyahu was Jessarae, the younger son of the Robitailles. This nineteen-year-old powerhouse is sure to become well-known in the near future. He started performing on stage at sixteen and over the last couple of years, his voice has matured and his music has taken on new sophistication. His first song was the soulful, almost spiritual, ‘Milk and Honey’, which came out four months ago. Next, he sang a ballad about looking for love titled, ‘Trying To Meet Her’. He surprised the audience with his last song, the unreleased ‘Nobody’s Human’.
Jessarae was a good lead-in to the final act of the evening, R5, for whom he has opened recently. R5 is a pop rock band comprised of four siblings, Rydel, Ross, Riker and Rocky Lynch, plus drummer Ellington Ratliff, who goes by Ratliff. They’ve been together for almost six years and signed their first record deal back in 2012. Quite popular with the teenage set, they are currently on the ‘R5 Live on Tour’. ‘Easy Love’, with a soft rock beat, led into the more rollicking ‘Things Are Looking Up’, complete with bongo drums. Their third song of the night was ‘Smile’, which has an easy, summery feel, that led comfortably into ‘I Can’t Forget About You’.
Overall, this fun-filled evening was a great success. It would not have been possible without the incredible stamina of founder Stacia Robitaille and the nonstop energy of Jevon Wilkes. They and their crew should be proud of this accomplishment.
If you’d like to find out more about Echoes of Hope and their programs, go to their website. Or, better yet, help provide textbooks, housing, educational guidance, wellness and health services, transportation assistance and advocacy by making a donation.
All photos by Ramona Ridgewell, Copyright © 2015 Ridgewell Services, LLC. All rights reserved