A gift from Harry Connick Jr.

By - Castanet Story

One very special balloon delivery made the day of a bunch of young Kelowna actors as the card attached was signed by Harry Connick Jr.

The group of young thespians, from Kindergarten to Grade 6, at Studio 9 School of Arts received the surprise gift from the actor, writer, producer and Grammy Award-winning musician after their performance of The Happy Elf – written by Connick Jr.

Studio 9 CEO Mike Guzzi says they have been working for awhile to get the rights for The Happy Elf.

“We loved the show. It was sort of akin to the Charlie Brown Christmas in that it is not the typical Rudolph and Jingle Bells and those sorts of songs – it's jazz,” explains Guzzi.

They got licensing in the summer and worked hard practising the show. One week before they were all ready to hit the stage, Guzzi got a surprising call.

“My office manager gets the call and tells me it is Harry Connick Jr.'s people and I was like “What?!”,” explains Guzzi with a laugh. “I said “Ya, right. Ya, right”, but she is like 'No really it is.'”

The woman on the phone told Guzzi Connick Jr. wanted to send something to the show.

Guzzi says he was still in shock that Connick Jr.'s camp called. He asked to have the package delivered to his personal home so he could surprise all the kids at the same time.

“My wife called and told me I had a problem as I wouldn't be able to deliver it in my vehicle,” explains Guzzi. “It was an 11-foot high balloon bouquet. It had Santa in it and Christmas stuff and a couple musical balloons, a lollipop-shaped balloon and a card from Harry Connick Jr.”

Guzzi says this is the first time in 14 years of their organization producing licensed shows the writer has contacted the school and said thanks.

“It is kind of amazing, no one has ever sent us anything from a show,” says Guzzi, adding he was surprised when the Harry Connick, Jr. Camp told them they actually know where all The Happy Elf shows are being produced.

As seen in the video above, Guzzi brought out the bouquet at the end of show and had the host read the attached card.

“It blew everybody away, actually,” says Guzzi. “The kids didn't believe it, they thought it was a joke. I had to say it was serious. It was kind of neat.”

Guzzi says this particular group of young actors did a spectacular job on the show and it was great to see their hard work recognized.

“It sort of verified what they do and how hard they work. It was neat,” says Guzzi. “We've had shows written from other people and never heard boo, so it was pretty amazing.”

Guzzi thinks Connick Jr. may have given this show special attention as one of his professional projects is to bring jazz music to kids.

“He is passionate about the power and the need for jazz and he wrote the show to do that I think,” says Guzzi.

“It is a good show, it moves along well and it talks about Christmas spirit and the good things about Christmas, but also has some amazing music in it.”

Guzzi says Studio 9 will be writing Harry Connick Jr. a thank you letter for the gift and for writing the show.

“The bouquet is still sitting at the front desk here. The kids still come up and look at it,” says Guzzi. “It is really, really neat.”

The local production of The Happy Elf sold out both the Saturday matinee and evening performances.

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ChangeUP Awards Top Social Innovations in the Valley

http://okanaganchangemakers.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/1-e1443818865983.pngKELOWNA, BC -- Okanagan Changemakers is pleased to announce the top social enterprises in the Okanagan Valley as voted by the audience at ChangeUP. ChangeUP, presented by Valley First, a division of First West Credit Union, is a pitch competition for organizations that are making a social or environmental impact through their services or products. The six organizations pitching ranged from nonprofits to charities and for-profits business.

First prize was awarded to Soil Mate, an app that connects consumers with local farmers and dining options across North America. Soil Mate founder and CEO Matt Gomez says he was driven to create the app because he’s scared of what he would feed his children. Not only is it difficult to find and buy local products, but the average age of our farmers is 55. Soil Mate aims to change this problem by making it easy for people to find local food and drink options while helping farmers increase their sales, encouraging a younger generation of farmers to enter the market. “It’s nice to be recognized,” says Gomez, upon winning the $2,000 cash prize and $5,000 in in-kind services from KPMG. “This allows us to keep going. We are small team and we’re not doing this for the money.”

Drew Geldart, Marketing Business Partner at Valley First, was quick to commend the participants and the event. “Tonight, ChangeUP shone a bright light on the incredible calibre of the Okanagan’s entrepreneurial social sector”, says Geldart. “Every one of the 400-strong crowd was filled with pride and inspiration as they witnessed our future community leaders demonstrate positive social change in action.”

Clubhouse Childcare won second place for its Clubhouse Farm, which provides education and child care on a farm designed for kids. Enactus took third place. The student-led venture empowers students to create positive community change through entrepreneurial programs that meet the needs of the Okangan. In total, the evening saw more than $15,000 in cash and in-kind services awarded.

Media Contact:

Daylin Mantyka
Okanagan Changemakers event co-ordinator
250.859.6711
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Contest Winner contact info:

Matt Gomez
Soil Mate founder and CEO
250.801.8197
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About ChangeUP
ChangeUP: Innovating for Social Change is the second audience-voting pitch competition brought to you by Okanagan Changemakers. On Thursday, December 3rd a select number of organizations will have the opportunity to pitch live at the Kelowna Community Theatre in hopes of winning cash and in-kind services. The evening will recognize the best social impact initiatives in the Okanagan Valley and participants will benefit from interacting with a diverse and engaged audience. This year, we are pleased to have entrepreneur Mickey McLeod as our keynote speaker. Mickey is the Co-Founder, President and CEO of Salt Spring Coffee.

About Okanagan Changemakers
Okanagan Changemakers is a Kelowna-based organization that develops, fosters, and supports innovative and sustainable solutions to social problems. We are a community of for and non-profit businesses, government agencies, and the general public. We believe that the power of business can be leveraged to drive social change and aim to see all businesses successfully embed social purpose in their operations. At Okanagan Changemakers, our mission is to educate and inspire, provide opportunities for networking and collaboration, and take a leadership role in sparking change.

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Kelowna's chief innovator

 
The Kelowna Innovation Society has a new face at the top.

Donnie Ungaro has been appointed the society's first executive director. He will assume his new role Dec. 1.

One of the key initiatives for KIS is the development and operation of 20,000 square feet of creative space in the new Okanagan Centre for Innovation, under construction next to the downtown Kelowna library.

“We are thrilled to welcome Donnie to the position.... He is well known and respected in the region as a community builder that has been successful through collaborative leadership, active engagement and entrepreneurial spirit – a perfect fit for this role,” said Jeff Keen, director and vice-president of the society.

Ungaro brings award-winning experience to KIS, having led the Okanagan Young Professionals initiative for the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission for the past three years. The program recently was named both the provincial and national Economic Development Program of the Year.

Ungaro is also a seasoned entrepreneur, having run his own company, Culinary Ink GastroVentures, for the past eight years.

“I am honoured for the opportunity to not only lead, but shape the direction of KIS in conjunction with the development and goals of the OCI," said Ungaro.

"The OCI is a monument to the movement of change occurring in Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley as we continue to build upon our thriving technology and knowledge-based economy. KIS will play a critical role in continuing this movement."

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Community Sift Selected to Attend C100 “48 Hours in the Silicon Valley”

Community Sift is pleased to have been selected as one of Canada’s top 20 startup companies invited to be a part of C100 “48 Hours in the Valley”. This semi-annual mentorship program offers unparalleled access to programming, mentorship and networking in the Silicon Valley.

The C100 is a non-profit, member driven association that supports Canadian technological companies through partnership, mentorship and investment. The C100 members are “some of the most influential minds in the ecosystem including some top VC's, investors and entrepreneurs who are passionate about leveraging their experience, expertise and relationships.” During this event, the C100 members will help connect, mentor and grow Canadian innovative companies. The goal is a more connected, informed and empowered Canadian startup community.

“The market has never been so keen on finding a solution for cyberbullying and online harassment and the Valley is the place to be”

“This event comes at a perfect time for us. The market has never been so keen on finding a solution for cyberbullying and online harassment and the Valley is the place to be,” says Community Sift’s CEO, Chris Priebe.

“We already have incredible traction and have made an impression but being able to be a part of this event should blow the top off of what we are doing. Coincidentally during this event, we will be launching our series A and adding $5M to help solve many online chat issues including that of Cyberbullying.”

The theme of the December 2015 event is “Business Development and Growth” where Community Sift, along with the other selected companies, will have the opportunity to:

  • Receive mentorship from the C100 members and partner networks
  • Meet with high profile VCs and other potential investors
  • Build our connection to the startup community in the Silicon Valley
  • Network with other Canadian startups in similar growth stages

About Community Sift: Community Sift provides the underlying engine that makes today's social sites thrive. Our SaaS-based moderation tool disrupts current industry practices by adding trust, context and sentiment to deeply enhance a company’s ability to grow their community and keep their users safe, happy and engaged. The Community Sift tool set combines machine learning with over a million human-reviewed markers, in 58 languages, to process billions of messages daily and in real-time.

For more information visit: www.communitysift.com

- Sana Ahmad, Digital Marketing Coordinator - Language and Culture Specialist

For Media Inquiries Please Contact:
Sana Ahmad
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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More Than Just Money! Financing and Support Resources for Okanagan Businesses

The Okanagan is fortunate to have a wealth of organizations that provide local businesses with a variety of resources and support that go well beyond simple financing.

This session will introduce you to some of the key organizations that exist to support your business, whether you are an established company looking to grow, or are an entrepreneur with an idea for The Next Big Thing.

Join us on November 25 to learn about the expertise here to help your business. Invited to present are:

  • Community Futures
  • Women’s Enterprise Centre
  • Business Development Bank of Canada
  • National Research Council – Industrial Research Assistance Program
  • Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust
  • Mitacs
  • Accelerate Okanagan
  • Futurpreneur
  • Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission

When:              Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Where:             Kelowna Yacht Club, 1370 Water Street

Time:               8:00am to noon (registration 8am; session begins at 8:30am)

Cost:                $15 plus GST. Refreshments included

Space is limited, so register early!

click here to register

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Community Futures Supports 2015 Changeup December 3

ChangeUP

Get Your Tickets to ChangeUP! A Social Dragon's Den Pitch Competition & More ChangeUP: Innovating for Social Change is the second audience-voting pitch competition brought to you by Okanagan Changemakers. On Thursday, December 3rd, a select number of organizations will have the opportunity to pitch live at the Kelowna Community Theatre in hopes of winning cash and in-kind services. The evening will recognize the best social impact initiatives in the Okanagan Valley and participants will benefit from interacting with a diverse and engaged audience. This year, we are pleased to have entrepreneur Mickey McLeod as our keynote speaker. Mickey is the co-founder, president and CEO of Saltspring Coffee. Tickets are on sale via Eventbrite: https://changeup2015.eventbrite.ca/ Interested in pitching? Check our our application process.

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