Briar’s Movie Night in the Park all set for a sequel

ELORA – Briar Gemmell knows a little something about what the Children’s Foundation of Guelph and Wellington does to fight student hunger.

Two years ago, when Gemmell was still in sixth grade, the Elora Public School student worked to organize a fundraising event that brought in $5,500 for the organization’s Food and Friends program.

And now, she’s getting set to do it again.

“I haven’t really thought about a goal, but I definitely want to raise more than two years ago,” said Gemmell.

Much like last time, Gemmell has planned an outdoor movie night with a by-donation admission, and once again, it will be more than just a chance to take in a flick under the stars.

“This year, I want it to feel like a festival kind of atmosphere,” she said.

Briar’s Movie Night in the Park – the sequel – takes place at the Elora Centre for the Arts on June 14, starting at 7pm. The film won’t start rolling until closer to 9pm, when it gets dark.

If it rains, the event moves indoors to the Jefferson Elora Community Centre.

There will be lots to entertain folks while they’re waiting for The Super Mario Bros. movie to start.

There will be an outdoor volley ball net – a no-brainer for a student who excels at the sport – as well as cornhole, the homegrown Waddies, a selection of food trucks, a bake table, facepainting and a raffle.

The Elora Mill, Riverfest, Hillside Festival, and Ayrshire House have all donated prizes for the raffle, and local realtor Erica Voisin is sponsoring the movie, covering the cost of the screen and rights to show the film.

“Our community is very involved with everything, and they just want to help,” said Gemmell.

The support means money donated by movie goers will go directly to the cause.

Reading stats from her cell phone screen, Gemmell says the Children’s Foundation helped 6,580 students through student nutrition programs between September and March, which amounts to 766,267 meals.

“That’s just in Wellington County,” added her mother, Kelly Gemmell.

Briar was inspired to organize the first fundraiser after hearing a story about a child who ate only one bite of a sandwich each day for lunch to make it last a week.

It was a reminder there are kids going hungry close to home.

“That didn’t sit right with me, and I kept thinking about it, and I knew that I wanted to do something for my community to help with that,” said Briar.

During the pandemic, her family watched movies outdoors in their backyard, and that inspired the “movie night in the park” idea, she added.

“We had a whole list of things we could have done, but we picked movies.” 

Bobbi Turner is the student nutrition program manager for Food and Friends in Centre and North Wellington and north Guelph. She says the Children’s Foundation has seen an increase in demand for the program this year.

“Since the pandemic, that need is creeping up year after year, as many families are struggling to make ends meet,” Turner stated in an email to the Advertiser.

Not only is the number of students needing the program increasing, but there have also been more students who need more than just one snack or meal per day, Turner explained.

“Many are needing something to eat when they arrive at school and throughout the day to sustain them through their day of learning,” she said.

Fundraisers like Briar’s are appreciated as “every little bit helps us to ensure that our local children and youth are attending school well-nourished and ready to learn,” said Turner. 

“We are immensely grateful and so proud of Briar, our young youth philanthropist, for all the work that she does to make this event happen.”

Briar said her philanthropy is inspired by the Students Create Change club at her school, noting fellow club members have volunteered to help out on the night of the event.

She added her older sister and some of her high school friends have offered to help out, too, and her parents also chip in.

Her mother said she doesn’t mind at all.

“I think it’s great that both of my girls are very socially minded helpers who care about their community,” said Kelly.