Grammy Award-winning musician Dwight Yoakam teamed up with Worldwide Music Ventures (WWMV) and Long and McQuade this past March to raise awareness and funds for Canadian non-profit program, Guitars for Vets Canada.
“Steve Gillis is our Alberta Guitars for VETS Canada Team lead, and he works with the company that books Dwight Yoakam’s tours. Steve was telling Dwight about the program, and he loved it and wanted to help any way he could,” said Jim Lowther, founder, and CEO of VETS Canada.
Developed by Veterans Emergency Transition Services Canada (VETS Canada), Guitars for Vets Canada matches Veterans and still-serving members of the CAF or RCMP living with PTSD or other service-related disabilities, with a guitar and online/volunteer-instructed lessons where available. The program aims to put the healing power of music into the hands of heroes and help them find another way to deal with their PTSD or other disabilities.
“The feedback we are getting is unbelievable and so positive. Many state something as simple as trying to play the guitar saved them,” said Lowther.
Lowther said he started the program because he too suffers from PTSD through his military service and found playing guitar saved his life. In the process of developing the program, he came across other veterans also in need of some help.
The Guitars for Vets awareness campaign ran over the course of Yoakam’s sold out concerts in Canadian cities from Kamloops to Calgary and touched the hearts of thousands of others across the country through social and traditional media. Information booths were held during each concert where pamphlets, Guitars for Vets logo guitar picks and contact cards were given out.
Since the concerts, Guitars for Vets has seen a significant increase in Veteran-student applications.
“At the time we really started pushing the program there were many soldier/veterans suicides, and we had to try something to slow it down even if we only helped some,” said Lowther. “Well, some turned into over 1000 with another 500 ready to go.”
Long and McQuade/Yorkville Sound graciously donated five Epiphone Casino Burst Guitars signed by Dwight Yoakam that were auctioned off at each performance. Being the highlight of each show, the guitars helped to raise over $15,000 for Guitars for Vets, with an infinite amount of awareness.
Yoakam will be touring again, and Lowther said Yoakam wants to stay involved in the charity. Another major artist who got wind of Guitars for VETS Canada. John Mayer donated nearly $50,000 with the percentage of his ticket sales.
“We asked his people why he picked us, and they told us he looked up what the best veteran’s charity in Canada was and we came up, he checked us out and loved our work with homeless and in crisis veterans,” said Lowther.
While Lowther is excited about the support they’ve already received, he would like to see more Canadian artists hop on board and give their support.