One of the great things about my job at Canada AM was the opportunity to travel across this great country many, many times. As you likely know, those journeys’ took me to all ten provinces and 3 territories over the course of my career at AM. And not just a visit here or there, but hundreds of remotes from all corners of this land. I really had a ‘one of a kind’ job, simply because no one then, or now for that matter, was doing what Canada AM did. I had the unique opportunity to put the ‘Canada’ in Canada AM by showing off this country and giving Canadians a chance to see how other Canadians live, work and play. But we know things change, and with today’s current monetary landscape in the broadcast world, and the way mornings are being reshaped, I doubt the kind of adventures I had will ever be repeated.
One of the perks of all that travelling was meeting great people and learning about new places and things which I otherwise would never had found out about. Another perk was being invited back of many of these places to help out in charity events, something I’ve always great grateful to be invited to and more than happy to help.
Saturday Decebmer 3rd marks the 53rd edition of the Christmas Daddies Telethon in the Maritimes, broadcast from CTV Halifax throughout the Maritimes and now a days, with the beauty of ‘time-shifting’, much of the country can tune in if they chose, and many Maritimers ‘living away’, certainly do just that. The goal has always been simple, to raise money to ensure everyone in the region has the best Christmas possible. Since it’s inception in 1964, they’ve raised 28.5 million dollars. The day is a real Maritime tradition.
My first experience with “Christmas Daddies” was in 1999 when I was asked to join in the Halifax presentation. While the current Halifax production comes from the CTV Halifax studios, back then it was telecast from the Rebecca Cohn Theatre at Dalhousie University. It was my first experience with any type of telethon, and I enjoyed my limited role while just absorbing and taking in the whole production.
For years, there was one ‘Daddies’ production done from Halifax and the people of Cape Breton had their own show originating from the CTV studios in Sydney. In 2000, I was invited to come and take part in the Sydney production, and that, my friends, was a revelation. I spent the next five straight years in Sydney and was greatful to be invited back each time.
It was like doing a show from your basement rec room with some of the greatest musical guests ever. In those five years, between 2000 and 2004, the likes of Gordie Sampson, Bruce Guthro, Natalie McMaster, Michelle Wright, Valdy, the Barra MacNeils, Matt Minglewood, J.P. Cormier, Jessie Cook, Damhnait Doyle and a host of spectacularily talented Sydney musicians led by award winning producer Fred Lavery made the Sydney show rock from start to finish. And the people of Cape Breton responded. It wouldn’t be uncommon for the Cape Breton portion to raise anywhere from 170 to 210 thousand dollars yearly in my time there. I was always knocked out by those numbers, because in the early 2000’s it wasn’t the easiest of times in the region. Unemployment numbers were high. But no one seemed to care. The spirit of sharing has always been alive and well in Cape Breton as I so quickly learned. It’s one of the things I love about the place.
My December 2000 visit to Sydney to do the telethon was my first ever visit to Cape Breton. I got off the plane when I arrived on the Saturday before the event, and it was cold and snowy and wet and miserable. I thought, ‘what have I gotten myself into’? I got to the hotel, and went to a reception being held for the crew that would run the television production the next day. I didn’t know anyone. Long story short, two hours later, we’re at Smooth Hermans, it’s a party, the music is blasting and we go who knows where after that. The live music scene was vibrant and great, and I immediately had about 20 new life long friends! We did the telethon the next day, and it was followed by a wrap party that featured all the musical guests from the show, playing at the party! By the end of my first visit to Sydney I was hoping to get snowed in so I could stay longer!
After 2004, and five straight years of the best time you can imagine with some of the greatest people you can imagine, life and other things always seemed to get in the way of a return. But in 2010, I made it back for my 6th appearance in Sydney, and well, as you can imagine, it was like I never left. Another great production and another outpouring of support from the good people of Cape Breton.
In 2011, the Sydney portion of the telethon was amalgamated with the Halifax show and went from being it’s own 7 hour production to one with several ‘cut-ins’ each hour. Oh, they still rocked in Sydney, but without their own show, the historical high numbers well over the 200 thousand range have been scaled back, but last year, the Sydney portion of the show accounted for over $92,000 of the $468,000 raised.
Last year, I was invited to join the gang at CTV Halifax for the telethon, and had a great time. I will say however, I felt like I was ‘cheating’ on my friends in Sydney, who sent me down a nice little Cape Breton ‘care package’ to wish me good luck.
But earlier this year, I got a call from Mary Murphy, who has run the Sydney show since I’ve been involved, and who clearly is one of those people that it’s impossible to say ‘no’ too! And I didn’t. So on Saturday, Dec. 3rd, exactly six months after signing off on Canada AM, I’m going to be back on TV as one of the hosts of the Sydney portion of the Christmas Daddies telethon. The show airs from 11am to 6pm Atlantic time and I not only hope you’ll tune in, but more importantly, if you can, help out with a pledge. That will make my day.
On Twitter: @jeffhutcheson
For details on my Scenic Canada River Cruise next November on the Mekong River, with airfare included and a free night in Hong Kong..check here.. https://www.scenic.ca/jeffvims
Representation: Dan Champagne