The best kinds of events are the ones that give back to the community, and That Night in Sarnia was ahead by a century. When Tragically Hip lead signer Gord Downie was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour in May of 2016, the band organized a final tour in support of their latest album, Man Machine Poem. As die-hard Tragically Hip fans, Aaron Zimmer, Rob Jenkins, and John Hockin knew that they wanted to do something special for the occasion. They originally came up with the idea of watching the final concert, live from Kingston, on a projector in John’s backyard. But the interest they garnered among their friends was more widespread than they expected, and soon they had hundreds of people interested in watching the concert on big screens together. They learned that the City was considering an event as well, and they quickly teamed up with staff from the City and together they brought That Night in Sarnia to life.
Zimmer and his cohort organized the projectors and screens, the food and drinks, while the staff from the City helped with the permits and the noise bylaw. The event was sponsored by Blackburn Radio, The Station Music Hall and Apex IT Solutions. They received both cash donations and offers to volunteer for the event. The organizers decided to give back to two charities. The idea was always that any proceeds raised would go to charity. “We wanted to keep some of the donations local, so Bluewater Health Foundation was an obvious choice, but it was also important that some of the funds go to the Gord Downie Fund for Cancer Research,” Zimmer explains. They even created t-shirts for the event. “People started emailing us asking if they could get the t-shirts in time for the London and Toronto Tragically Hip concerts.” All the proceeds from shirt sales went to their chosen charities.