Free concert aims to show kids a better way

VERGENNES — Music, which is said to be the great communicator, will soon be a vehicle for social change in Vergennes.
The first-ever Youth Awareness fundraiser concert, organized by Ferrisburgh resident Jackie Rivers, will be held in the Vergennes Opera House on Aug. 19from 4 to 8 p.m.
Rivers said the goal is to encourage the local youth to make healthy choices. The free show for all ages show will bring five musical acts to the stage for a night of community education about the problems of bullying and abuse of substances, including drugs, alcohol and tobacco.
A certified artist developer, musician, mother and grandmother, Rivers hopes the show will inspire teenagers and their parents to become involved in the arts as a way to focus talents and discourage unhealthy behaviors.
Rivers believes music can send a powerful message.
“Music is something that people of all ages can relate to,” she said. “If kids and even adults can find something they’re passionate about and focus on that then maybe we can get them away from something they’re searching for before they get into drugs and alcohol.”
The concert will feature young singer-songwriters, aged 13 to 23, who promote Rivers’ message. Artists will include a young woman from the Rutland area who auditioned for “The Voice” and the African hip-hop band, A2VT. All of the performers were hand-selected by Rivers.
Rivers hopes that these artists will help start an important conversation. A longtime Addison County resident, Rivers’ children went through the Vergennes school system. Over the years, Rivers believes drug problems have increased in the area and worries about the future.
“Things were bad when my children were in school, but now it’s gotten even worse,” said Rivers. “I just fear for my grandkids when they grow up.”
With recent drug activity in the area, Rivers said that the whole community has decided there is a need to raise awareness in drug-related issues, and the fundraiser will provide a way for people to step up and help. She said that many, including Vergennes Police Chief George Merkel, have done an excellent job in bringing the community together.
In addition to the community support, Rivers turned her project into a family mission and recruited her sisters to help with the project. Despite their powerful message, organizers are encountering some fundraising problems. Rivers said generating enough donations to fund the event has been a huge challenge, due to the hard economic times. She said that many businesses and organizations do not have the money available at this time to support the event financially.
Rivers remains hopeful that the community will come through to help out the cause, no matter how small the donation.
“We’re still struggling, and we are hoping that the community steps up,” said Rivers. “It doesn’t matter if it’s $5 or $10. Anything helps. We really need to make this work because it’s really going to help the youth in this community.”

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