By Ryan Paulsen, Daily Observer
For the second year in a row, the Pembroke Shores Golf Club was jam-packed with revellers looking for a good time in support of a great cause as the Robbie Dean Family Counselling Centre’s annual Unmask the Night party took a turn into country and western territory, a gear change from last year’s masquerade ball theme.
“The title is ‘unmask the night’,” explains Monique Yashinskie, the centre’s founding director, “because having mental health issues is like wearing a mask.”
Last year’s elaborate masks, feathered boas and formal wear were swapped out for the 2016 incarnation of the party in favour of Stetsons, six-shooters and shiny buckles in keeping with the “goes country” theme, for which organizers had roped in Canadian country music star Julian Austin to help the headlining Ghost Town Cryers keep the house rockin’ well into the night.
“I think every year we’re going to pick a different theme,” says Yashinskie. “We had an opportunity to have Julian Austin down, and it seemed to be a really good fit.”
A long-time supporter of the Canadian Forces, Austin himself is no stranger to lending his musical talents and star power to causes he feels strongly about. He’s performed for troops overseas and released several benefit singles for the cause as well. While he wasn’t previously familiar with the Robbie Dean Centre, having claimed the Ottawa Valley as a second home, Austin was thrilled to be able to sign up.
“I was really fascinated by [the Robbie Dean Centre], and they offered to bring me in to do this and be part of it, and do a show with The Ghost Town Cryers, and I love them, and I wanted to come here and learn all about what Monique was doing, her and her staff. They’re a great, great bunch, and it’s something I strongly stand behind.”
Austin is also no stranger to troubling mental health issues, and sees the work of the Robbie Dean Centre as vital to the community and any individuals who need to call upon them for help.
“I’ve been dealing with depression since a young age,” he says, “so I know what it’s like to go into those dark places for a long time, and I’m just glad that I’ve been able to get back to the light, you know? It’s great that they have an organization like this put in place for others that are needing help, so they know it’s there.”
Yashinskie herself was also a point of interest and admiration for Austin.
“Meeting Monique for the first time was very inspirational. For her to make it her personal mission to create this organization is amazing, and I hope she gets the funding she needs to continue her work and everything she’s working so hard to do with her staff. It’s a testament to human will.”
For her part, although the night is a monumental amount of work for Yashinskie (and her staff), the end result was worth all of it, with the centre raising more than $15,000.
“Overall the evening was a huge success,” she says. “We could not have pulled it off without the support of the planning team, Whitewater Marketing, Monica’s catering, the Pembroke Golf Club, Brandon Beaulieu our auctioneer, the Ghost Town Cryers, our guest of honor Julian Austin and the many people and businesses that so kindly donated money and auction items. “Because of [Saturday] night, we will be able to provide support to approximately 30 families. If you think about that, if an average family has four individuals and each one of these individuals connects with 50 people (friends, neighbours, extended family, school mates, co-workers) this 30 families translates into 6000 people.”
For more information about the Robbie Dean Family Counselling Centre, visit www.rdfcc.ca.