Kelowna singer wants to give back
Drew Gowing-Hand wants to use her voice to give the same helping hand to someone else that she received from the Kelowna Rotary Club.
She will be standing by The Sails on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m., as a street busker, singing without any background music or musician support.
As well, Gowing-Hand has been invited to perform a song on stage for the Parks Alive summer concert Saturday night at Kerry Park, starting at 7 p.m,
Her goal is to raise $750, the amount of a scholarship she received through the Kelowna Rotary Club's Strive Scholarships program.
“I’m known as a very outgoing person so I’m definitely not shy about doing this,” said Gowing-Hand, about the idea of singing on her own without any musical backup.
“I know in my heart what I am doing is for a great cause, and that makes the nerves go away.”
Gary Bennett, president of the Kelowna Rotary Club Foundation, said when he first heard about the 19-year-old’s desire to give back, he was impressed.
“This is an unbelievable thing for a young person to do. You hear so much these days about bad things that teenagers are doing, but then you hear of a story like this and it just makes your heart feel good.”
Bennett said he and his wife plan to come listen to Gowing-Hand and encourages others to do so as well for a cause that is near and dear to the Rotary Club’s heart.
The Strive Scholarships initiative was started in 2007 as a joint venture between the Kelowna Rotary Club and its Kelowna Rotary Club Foundation.
Bennett said while scholarships are awarded to students who excel at high levels in school academics or sports, those opportunities are fewer for young people struggling to get a high school education because of difficult family or social issues they face.
“We felt that if we could intervene in a positive way to help kids in these situations to help further their education, it would enable them to become positive contributors to society rather than a social cost.”
Since that time, 91 scholarships totalling $50,000 have been awarded, with the individual scholarship award raised from $500 to $750 this year.
Bennett said the Rotarians approach local school counsellors about students who would be eligible for the award.
“It is incredible to read through the applications each year…it can be heartbreaking to see what some of these kids have been through,” Bennett said.
“Some are dealing with problems at home such as deadbeat dads or moms that are gone a lot of the time. Some face learning disability issues. So if these kids are able to turn their act around, get their work habits and the marks necessary to graduate, we want to be able to help them through our scholarships to attend a post-secondary institution.”
Gowing-Hand applied for the grant earlier this year while studying to achieve her graduation at Central School, which helps students unable to fit in the school mainstream an opportunity to achieve their graduation credits.
“I was aware of the scholarships program and submitted an application, but then I kind of forgot about it,” said Gowing-Hand, who had already enrolled in courses at Okanagan College while attempting to achieve her graduation credits.
“When I heard my name read out as a scholarship winner at our graduation ceremony I was in shock. I had no idea that was coming.”
The scholarship, she says, will enable her to cover her school costs this fall.
As part of that grad ceremony, Gowing-Hand sang her version of the Myley Cyrus hit The Climb.
“I sang that song because it is a song with a message, but it was hard to stay composed because everyone in the audience was crying,” she recalled.
Based on the reaction to her performance, she was invited to sing the song again at the year end meeting of the school district administrative staff, principals and vice-principals.
“After hearing my story and listening to the words of the song, people again were crying,” she said.
Ryan Donn, program coordinator for Festivals Kelowna, said he was blown away by Gowing-Hand’s singing voice after she approached him about the buskers programs.
Donn said the busking program is an entry level opportunity for performers to start their careers.
“We have people who want to come to our city and get the chance to perform through the busking program, have a video done of them performing and posted on YouTube so that others can see what they have to offer,” Donn said.
He noted several of the Parks Alive concert performers this summer were initially spotted in the buskers program.
“There is an ever increasing number of folks in Kelowna who are starting to express themselves because there are opportunities to do so,” he noted.
Following her busking gig on Saturday, Gowing-Hand plans to sing an a cappella version of the hit song Walking In Memphis.
While her singing and the cause she wants to support from it are bringing her attention, Gowing-Hand says her goal is to continue her education and become a lawyer.
“My focus is on my education. If someone was to offer me a contract to be the next Brittney Spears I would take it, but I really want to be a lawyer.
“I’m not singing for me, I’m doing this for the pure entertainment of it and to give something back that I already have received to help someone else.”
For more information about the Kelowna Rotary Club’s Strive Scholarship program or to make a donation, go to the website www.rckfdn.com and look for the ‘How to Donate’ section.