It began with a 17th century poem – and ended with mass aid for the Toronto homeless in the late ‘80s.
Now, a retelling of that story continues annually with The Huron Carole, a musical benefit concert about life on the streets and the gift of giving. And it’s coming to the Vic Juba Community Theatre Dec. 5.
The focus of the show is on creator Tom Jackson’s life on the streets in Toronto and his decision to help a person who was worse off than he was; a decision that had an unexpected affect not only in his life, but in the lives of countless other homeless.
“For reasons unknown to me, I decided to help this man. It woke me up. It gave me life,” said Jackson. “And it drove me to do what we continue to do today, which in fact, is to raise money for organizations that do hands-on work with homeless people here in this country.”
Now, Jackson is a celebrated actor, singer and philanthropist, and continues to tell his story of “the gift of giving,” through The Huron Carole. Driven by a strong faith in humanity, he and his team have raised well over $200 million in cash and food services since the musical’s inception in 1987.
“What I’ve discovered over the last quarter of a century is that people want – people need to help others. And they don’t always have a vehicle, particularly at this time of year,” he said. “We all feel the need and are conscious and are sensitive (of it).”
With that need to help others, he found an organization called Toronto Council Fire, a soup kitchen and emergency referral centre. The year before he arrived, the centre had been shy 500 hampers and he decided he would do whatever he could to help. So he volunteered at the organization and suggested putting on a fundraising concert. That was the first Huron Carole show.
“I admittedly wasn’t the top-of-the-line promoter in the day and the show itself? Not much success,” said Jackson.
They had the show in a little bar that raised no money on Dec. 17, 1987. But talk show host Dini Petty stepped in to offer the benefit concert coverage and the following day people were lining up down the street to donate.
“She caught the spirit of this whole thing and she ignited that spark into a flame, into a fire, into an inferno,” Jackson said.
Years later, The Huron Carole lets countless people across the country do what Jackson did.
“It provides a way for you to become part of a large mindset, but it also gives you something to take home with you,” said Jackson. “A memory of what the spirit of Christmas is all about, through music.”
All proceeds of every $48 seat sold at Vic Juba this Dec. 5 will go to The Salvation Army and the local food bank. While everyone who purchases a seat will experience the musical that continues to make a change in people’s lives at Christmas time each year, Jackson said that the real gift is in the feeling you’ll get by giving that money to a good cause.
To order tickets, visit the Vic Juba box office, order online at vicjubatheatre.ca or call 780-872-7400.