My brother’s never-ending birthday party: Griffest still going strong three years and counting

Monday 20th, February 2017 / 11:20
By Jackie Klapak

Editor’s note: One of our most promising new contributors, one Jackie Klapak, gives an op-ed on Calgary’s best rock-a-thon-meets-fundraiser, Griffest. The event supports mental illness and arts initiatives open to all ages, with her brother Griffin playing the enigmatic star. Read on for her inside account of what’s become a philanthropic, family-oriented institution in the city. You can also read Jackie’s words on Napalmpom.

We revisit Griffest, three years later and stronger, with an inside view from contributor Jackie Klapak, an important part of Griffest itself.
Photo: Kailey Newel

CALGARY — What started off as a special 13th birthday party for a young music enthusiast with autism has become a yearly fundraiser show to benefit youth of all ages who experience mental illness. Despite the work involved to put it together each year, the day the event comes and the impact afterward make all efforts worthwhile.

For the past three years I’ve watched my dad and brother, Griffin, befriend musicians and gain connections with some of Calgary’s finest. Upon looking back, it all seems a bit surreal. Though sometimes surprised at how far Griffin’s name has excelled, along with the festival, I’m mainly just proud to be a part of a family doing rad things.

Originally the plan was to hold it once and give donations to The Behaviour Therapy and Learning Centre, as well as Griffin’s school program, which helps kids like him. It then grew into a yearly event, with proceeds again going to Behaviour Therapy Centre.

Starting last year, part of the proceeds went to Autism Aspergers Friendship Society (AAFS), who will also get full donations this year. With having a hard time making friends and connecting with others, it was decided we donate to an association dedicated to helping out kids around Griffin’s age group who are also going through the same struggles and stages of life as he is. The money donated to AAFS goes toward to the many music and art programs available, and the remainder is distributed among the rest of the programs.

“It helps with kids of all ages, and all angles of the spectrum,” says Dean Svoboda, executive director at AAFS. “Kids will see a value or learn passion. They’ll take part in things they might have not before, and learn something about themselves they didn’t know before.”

The music and arts programs given to these kids lets them express themselves in a creative and healthy way, getting them involved in much more. Growing up I’ve watched my brother go from isolation to being the one in the spotlight. Without opportunities for expression and self-realization we’re not sure where Griffin would be. It’s deeply important for kids to receive these opportunities and achieve their potential, just as we feel Griffin has.

After receiving a micro-grant from OutloudYYC last year, the bar has been set high for this Griffest. With rumoured acts (as of writing time, subject to change) to play such as Pretty Ugly, yearly returners Napalmpom, and No More Moments, alongside Griffin’s own band, Chained by Mind, the possibilities for the upcoming Griffest lineup are incredible. With a variety of bands of different ages and genres, Griffest will continue to rock and give back.

Griffest takes place early (2 p.m. doors) on March 5th at Broken City with all ages invited to attend. Announced acts so far include The Electric Revival, Double Fuzz, Miesha & The Spanks, No More Moments, Chained By Mind, and Mademoiselle. $10 donations for those over 12 years of age, $5 for those under, support AAFS and The Behaviour Therapy and Learning Centre of Calgary.

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