Maples for Vimy Fundraising Gala – A Salute to the Juno’s 2019.

London Ontario residents, Paul & Barbara Gagnon, were not just hosts of the Maples for Vimy Fundraiser March 17th, 2019, but were instrumental in creating the Maples For Vimy Living Memorials of Honour Canadian Legacy Program© that saw 500 Canadian Maple trees planted in recognition of the 100th Anniversary of Vimy Ridge on April 9th, 2017, by 100 Canadian volunteers consisting of the 1st Nations youth, Barb Robinson and her Girl Guides troop, Larry Fleet and his Canadian Scouts and Cadets.  The varieties of maple were selected foremost to be long lived and able to thrive in the warmer France climate, and to represent our diverse society and culture here in Canada. The red maples (Acer Rubrum ‘Fairview Flame’) and silver maples (Acer Saccharinum ‘pyramidale‘) representing the original trees and peoples of Canada. The Regal Petticoat® maple (Acer Pseudoplatanus ‘tunpetti‘), a Canadian native cultivar of the Sycamore maple whose ancestry from hundreds of years ago lies in Europe and Asia, representing those who came to Canada and created something new.

Paul Gagnon- Host of Gala who was instrumental in creating the Maples For Vimy Living Memorials of Honour Canadian Legacy Program©

They planted these maples along with their French counterparts in 17 Northern France communities that were heavily trooped by Canadian and French soldiers. These majestic trees will stand as Living Memorials to the 100,000 bravely trained Canadian troops that went to battle and of those 14,000 who were wounded or died in heroic action in “The Great War” –during World War I. Maples for Vimy Canadian Legacy Program began in 2011 and has raised over $140,000.00 thanks to contributions by the Canadian and France Governments, City of London, Boy Scouts, Girl Guides, Veteran and Military organizations with the help of private donors as well

PAUL GAGNON interviewed on youtube

This was their 1st annual fundraising style gala for Maples for Vimy held on St. Patrick’s Day inside Cowboys Ranch in London, Ontario.  Hundreds in attendance enjoyed the sea of green surrounded by many displays ranging from a pair of original Vimy soldier boots to The RCAF Association display with Rene (brother to Catherine McKinnon) and the ‘Sopwith Camel’ which was a single seat biplane and 1 of the best-known fighter aircraft during WWI.  Additional displays were from the Royal Canadian Regiment RCR, the First Hussars H1, and Canadian Legendary entertainment photographer John Robert Rowlands (seen below with performer, singer, songwriter Esther Widmann). http://

Quality entertainment fueled us all afternoon starting off with the retired Michael Flatley’s Riverdance superstar Nora Corrigan and her Corrigan Dance Association’s traditional Irish dancers who perfected the art and culture of Irish, set, step and Ceili dance. 

Followed by a unique entity, The Universe Featuring Ray (Ray Stern) who is an internationally recognized multi-award nominee and colorful ball of kinetic energy.  I thoroughly enjoyed her original songs especially, Give It Up, and that she did with sincere conviction.  Stay in tune at

Rock Royalty was in the house with a 50-year music veteran, award-winning producer, singer, songwriter and guitarist, the extraordinary Dale Russell (you may remember him with his notable 17-year stint as the lead guitarist of The Guess Who from 1983 until 2000).  Dale collaborated with Artemis Chartier, a lovely female flute player, singer-songwriter, and session musician, who co-founded with Dale, the School Alliance of Student Songwriters or (SASS) based in Oshawa since 2003.  They co-write & perform together their Spirit of Song as the OM “Original Music” duo, sharing their magic was a refreshing creative spark, especially on Dale’s original like Every Now and Then.  Stay tuned at

Irish spirit oozed from the talented and humorous percussionist and MC, Julian Leeke from his shamrock suit to his displays on the hand drum Bodhran.  Julian put on a fantastic showcase featuring Sigmund (Sig) Martin on fiddle, displaying traditional Irish Jigs and Reels. Buffet dinner was a mess hall style flavoured delight of beans, pulled pork, fruit, veggies and an array of scrumptious deserts

As dinner reared down, the stellar country boy from Brussels Ontario, mounted the stage with his warm caramelized vocal sound from his acoustic set of stellar covers and originals like Dirt Road, from his EP Welcome to Cousins Country, you will want to visit his site for release date

Veteran, lifetime achievement and Hollywood Walk of Famer, Mr. Motown himself Gary Martin, known as one of the Funk Brothers and one of the 1st to provide Berry Gordy with the Motown sound, was accompanied by Juno nominated guitarist Oliver Whitehead on their robust set.  They delivered a marvellous showcase touching on that Mississippi Delta electrified Blues flare blended in with some funk fusion along with that 60s flavour stealing the hearts of many ladies in the house.  Engaging the audience with a few of the most well-known Motown tunes of the 60s featuring their mesmerizing cover versions of The Four Tops- I Can’t Help Myself and The Temptation’s- My Girl.  They truly knew how to get the all aged audience united as they sang along together loud and proud.

Local LIFC the London Irish Folk Club celebrated St Patrick’s day with a Ceili filled with traditional Gaelic folk songs and storytelling culture.  A Canadian treasure, internationally acclaimed singer, actress & 2-time RPM Award (pre Juno) winner Catherine McKinnon kept the audience enthused with her stories of how she entertained the troops, even gifting us with her vocal magic with several acapella -traditional Irish tunes,

The next artist, Canadian singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Esther Widmann all the way from Alberta, brought a rich flavour to the festivities with her intriguing, mystical and mind-blowing poise, you could have heard a pin drop in the audience as she hypnotised while projecting her outstanding version of the 1918’s Soprano AriaO Mio Babbino Caro from the opera Gianni Schicchi by Giacomo Puccini to a libretto by Giovacchino Forzano.   This was an emotional performance for Esther as she wore her heart on her sleeve dedicating her original Let It Go to her mom who passed on a few years ago.  In the zone, she expressed her Dumb Me Down hit with great applause.  Stay in tune with Esther as she will be releasing both those hits and so much more on her future EP.  Facebook, Youtube, Reverbnation are great ways to keep up to speed with this stimulating entity as she just released an industrial electronic original, Problematic

Last to perform was award winning singer/songwriter and Maples For Vimy team member  Laura Gagnon and Mister E band which featured her dad/Gala host Paul Gagnon on guitar, mom Barbara Ann on keyboards, also featuring Dale Russell and Artemis Chartier.  They had the dance floor just a pumping with cover hits like Cindy Lauper’s Girls-Just Want to Have Fun and many more memorable pieces. and

Between the silent auction and event fundraising, this cause honourably raised $4,500 to add to its 6-year grand total of over $140,000.00 that goes towards new maple trees being cultivated, shipped, planted and maintained in Northern France to commemorate the WWI fallen heroes of Vimy Ridge. Special thanks go out to the owners of Cowboy Ranch who donated the delicious meal and the largest club in London Ontario for this prestigious all aged event that raised funds for Maples for Vimy. All in all this event was invigorating, motivating, inspiring and left me in the rock n roll state of mind.

Memento Ad HonorereLest We Forget: They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Written by 6 year volunteer photojournalist Deb Draper