Natalie Ackerman has high hopes for Hope For More.
“We want to really pull the community together,” said Ackerman, the director of the event. “Change needs to happen within our community, and how do you start? Come together, join together and once we do come together we can strongly make a difference in this world.”
Hope For More is a non-profit group whose mission is to spread hope through its faith in Christianity. From Sept. 11 to 13, Hope For More will host its fourth annual festival at the Battle River Ranch Camp.
Over the course of the event, guests will have opportunities to take in personal stories from several speakers, including noted bull rider Rob Smets.
“Rob has a pretty powerful story actually, and he’ll share that, of how he found hope when he had gone through everything. His (story) went from a broken neck through working in the circuit, to drug addiction, alcohol, which was part of an active party life, and how he got out of that.”
Ackerman says that Smets’ story should strike a chord with many people. She says addiction has been a common issue in the Lloydminster region.
“That’s one topic that we always cover, it seems, is addiction. I just find our youth are more and more being faced with drugs, even through the government system marijuana’s being pushed as OK. We want to kind of fight back saying, ‘No, that’s not the answer.’ “
Ackerman adds that the festival isn’t a Lloydminster-specific event either. She says she hopes to see Hope For More develop connections with Christians from all over Alberta and Saskatchewan, and she selected a location suitable for hosting not just hundreds, but thousands of people.
“We want to pull communities that are closely linked and Battle River Ranch actually falls right in the middle and it’s a beautiful valley with a perfect location for an amphitheatre setting,” she said. “It’s just 20 minutes to travel out, and we actually want people to get out of the city, out of the rat race and into the calm, peace and beauty of this world that was created for joy.”
New to the festival this year, Hope For More is introducing an on-site fundraising initiative called the Tree of Life. Individuals can buy a leaf on the tree, on which Hope For More will engrave the buyer’s name to signify an everlasting connection to the group and to his or her community. The leaves will then remain on the tree in future years as it forms new branches.
“We want people to buy a leaf into this to literally buy into the foundation of this strong family community that we’re looking to join. The church, the marketplace and individuals all together,” said Ackerman.
The Hope For More festival, which covers parts of three days, includes other activities as well. Of note, the Hope For More community strongman contest symbolizes the significance of men that put family first and contribute to the community.
A full program and tickets are available online at hopeformore.ca. Early bird tickets are available for purchase until Sept. 4.