By Mark McMillan
Thanks to all who helped put on, and to those who atttended, the Mike Puhallo Benefit Concert.
It was a sold out show on Friday, May 13th, and over 800 people enjoyed a pretty spectacular Cowboy Concert, and all for a great cause … with proceeds going to the Puhallo family and the Cancer Center for the Southern Interior (Kelowna).
Allen Christie came in from Alberta, and Bud Webb came up from Mission to spend about an hour singing for folks as they took their seats and waited for the 7 p.m. start.
Both Mike’s and Linda’s family members (and there’s lots of them) were present, and their daughter Sharlene was introduced by the evening MC, Hugh McLennan, to start the evening off with a thank you speech.
“I was going on 17 when my dad quit driving a steel truck for a living to follow his dream and be a full time cowboy poet. I remember coming home from school, feeling a slight amount of shock at hearing the news, but never doubting that he would find success and never take another job as a truck driver. That’s when my dad taught me the meaning of believing in yourself. I don’t have to tell you he found success. For the past dozen years, he’s been doing exactly what he loves doing and making a modest living at it.”
“Although he wasn’t able to attend, I think hearing about the full house at the Calvary Community Church for his benefit concert really moved him and gave him a tremendous feeling of pride as well as gratitude.”
“The news of my dad’s battle with cancer may have come recently to some of you. I can tell you that after sharing a quiet family Christmas in December, Mike was diagnosed with stage IV brain cancer in the first week of January; it wasn’t preceded by any headaches or other alerting warning signs. Since then, we’ve been adapting quickly as a family. And you can bet that Mike met this battle with his boots and spurs on.”
In the past five months my dad has taught me new meanings for the words optimistic and spirit. His battle with cancer has been a private one up until now, because that is what he wanted. He didn’t want pity and he didn’t want well wishes, because he truly believed he could ride this out.”
“He’s a cowboy not accustomed to asking for help, but the fundraising efforts of the BC Cowboy Heritage Society have been a blessing and have given my parents much needed relief during this challenging time. On behalf of my dad, my mom and our family, I would like to thank everyone who came to support the benefit. The feeling of community absolutely filled that church, so thank you for sharing in that night. Our family would like to thank all of the media and sponsors who were so incredibly generous. We’d also like to thank the amazing entertainers who came together for the benefit, because my dad counts them all as true friends and their support has been very uplifting for all of us. Finally, to the BC Cowboy Heritage Society – thank you for organizing and promoting the benefit. Mark and Kathy McMillan have been pillars of support and my dad couldn’t ask for better friends. Thank you all – what an incredible night!”
I followed with some special thanks to the sponsors; and the BC Cowboy Heritage Society presented a mounted canvas photo of Mike to his family (the same photo used for the concert poster, and probably the one that will be used for next year’s Kamloops Cowboy Festival poster).
In the first segment Hugh read some of Mike’s poems in between sets by the concert musicians which included Matt Johnston, Butch Falk, and Shirley Field. Cowboy poet Dave Longworth did a wonderful job of reading Mike’s poetry in his set.
During the intermission folks got to enjoy coffee and some goody trays that relatives put together to raise for some additional funds. Mike’s books of poetry were hot selling items at the “General Store” and the other performers also did well on product sales.
After the intermission Gary Fjellgaard did an outstanding 45 minute set, and Tim Hus, with his band, kept toes tappin’, or more likely feet stompin’ for another 45 minutes. Partway through his set Tim called Gary back out on stage and they sang “The Man With the Big Hat” as a duet. Riley Tubbs kept the beat with his big doghouse bass, and Billie MacInnis helped Tim out with some electric guitar and some great fiddle playing. They finally wrapped up the show at 10 p.m.
The BC Cowboy Heritage Society is still taking donations, and if you’d like to help please send a cheque made out to BCCHS, with Mike Puhallo in the memo line, to the BC Cowboy Heritage Society, Box 137, Kamloops, B.C., Canada, V2C 5K3. Please don’t write directly to Mike.