A Father’s Day Gift… barely.

A Father’s Day Gift… barely.

Sometimes it’s easy to come up with a gift for Father’s Day.

And sometimes it’s a bit more work.

Every show we give away a Dave Kelly Live Award. The Award was alway supposed to be a fun/ funny moment where we recognized an unsung hero who was making Calgary or Canada a better place. Even the name of the Award for the first few was a bit ridiculous:
The Dave Kelly Live Memorial Invitational Award Recognizing Strength, Merit and Focus in Making Calgary A Better Place by Giving Others A Chance.”

(Our Tech genius Matt added the “memorial” bit. Wishful thinking Matt)

Andrew Min won the award for DKL 6 – a young man doing amazing work for new Canadians at Youth Central.

Since DKL 6 was a Father’s Day special, featuring my Dad, we wanted to give it away to a Dad. So we had an online contest for a great Dad. And even though we had lots of entries from people who’s fathers were either no longer with us, or lived far away, we kind of wanted it to be someone in Calgary so we could actually present it to them that night. We had lots to choose from.

But then two days before the show, Amy, our production manager from the show, happened to mention that one of the people coming to this DKL was a woman named Jennifer who was a guest of a friend of a friend of Amy’s. Jennifer’s husband Matthew was an amazing Dad to their two kids, played guitar with them (like my Dad) was a kind, devoted man… but (and this is where things got really interesting) he unfortunately wasn’t going to be at the show.

And why, you ask?

Because he was at a work camp outside Ft McMurray where he was a project manager for Syncrude.

And they live in Calgary?

No. No, they don’t. They live in Ft McMurray.

And how come she was in Calgary with the kids?

Because they lost their home in the fire

Exactly. Surely, he deserved the award.

Now remember, it’s the day before the show.

Jennifer’s friend was taking her to Dave Kelly Live as a break from the stress of living away from home, the home they lost. Jennifer had no idea what the show was about, no idea about the award.

So we said to ourselves, “I wonder if we could sneak Matthew down here for the show and surprise her with the award… and her husband.”

And it almost happened. Then it almost didn’t happen. Then it almost did. Then it almost didn’t. Then it did. This is how it went down.

By now it was 4 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon, the end of the work day, the day before the show. We had maybe an hour to get this figured out. I didn’t know anyone at Syncrude. But I knew someone at Suncor. So I called Arlene and she said, “Let me see what I can do.”

Half an hour later I got an email from Arlene, hooking me up with her counterpart Kara at Syncrude. I waited. Then an email from Kara.“This is an awesome idea, but it’s a bit last minute. Let me see what I can do. I’ll let you know by end of day.”

I crossed my fingers. And toes.

I waited by my phone till 5:30 p.m. I had to get home for our kids’ soccer game. (“Soccer” is another word for “How much watermelon can one kid actually eat during the snack break?”)

Finally, I left. Nothing from anyone.

It was off.

Then, as I was biking home, my phone rings. I pull over and answer it. Alain, from Syncrude in Edmonton said, “Everyone up here is working so hard to get back on track – but we love this idea. If he was only in for the evening and back the next morning, would that work?”

I said, “Absolutely.”

He said, “Okay. We’re on it. I’ve spoken to his manager. He knows it’s a secret. We’re going to see if we can make it happen. I’ll let you know this evening”

It was on. Sort of.

I don’t usually answer my phone at soccer. But this time, it rang, and I made an exception.

Alain was calling back. “He’s in, we’re just trying to get flight arrangements.

I asked him how confident he was. “Well, it’s pretty last minute, but we’ll see what I can do.”

It was on. Or at least more on.

Later that night, I got a call from Tara at Syncrude.  “We’re just calling to confirm we booked the flight, he’ll be in Calgary by supper.”


And then we realized we needed something for him for the Award. We had Flames tickets and tickets to Best of Calgary but for what he has gone through as a Dad, we wanted something more. So Mike, the show’s executive producer, did some detective work.

And he found out Matthew lost his guitars in the fire.

We needed to get him a guitar. How were we going to do that? It was 10 p.m.

So I called Russ Broom. You remember him. He was on the show with Michael Bernard Fitzgerald and was instrumental (no pun intended) on getting me to play the bass and convince Jann Arden to do a duet with me.

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I texted him, “Who can I call to get a guitar at the last minute. Like the last last minute?”

He said, “Talk to Paul Billo at Long and McQuade. Good guy.” And he gave me Paul Billo’s email.

So I sent him a note and lay in bed, hitting “refresh” on my email every 30 seconds or so. Nothing. Eventually I fell asleep.

And then I woke up. Checked my email. And there was a message from Paul, “Absolutely. I’m not actually in the store today, but I’ll set it up.”

The idea was barely twelve hours old, and in that time we had a surprise guest, flights booked, and now… a gift that would add a bit of light to a dark time. Amazing.

The morning was a busy morning. Dad was coming, the crew was working like mad on the show, and we had rehearsals all day.

How was I going to get out to pick up the guitar?

My brother Phil and his daughter Michelle had come all the way from Abbotsford to see Dad’s debut on the show. I asked them, “Hey would you mind going to Long and McQuade and picking up a guitar?”

No problem. They went down, and Deyonne and Ryan gave them the guitar, a case, picks and spare strings. Everything.

It was all going to happen.

By now it was 2:30 p.m. on show day and we were in the middle of rehearsals. Trying to get screens working, getting sounds checks, entrances, exits, video intros… and through it all Mike was texting with Matthew. “He just checked in.” he told me. Sweet.

And then … it got windy in Ft Mac. Like really windy. Like ground the planes windy.

Mike reads me Matt’s text. “We’re delayed.”

And then it got windier.

Mike reads the next text. “Delayed again.”

Then it got stupid windy.

Next text. “Flight cancelled.”

It was off. Now what?

Next text. “There’s one more flight out that would get me there just as the show is starting. We’re trying to get on it.”

Ok. Hope.

We came up with alternate plans. We’d move the award to later in the show in case he made it. If he didn’t, we’d still give the award to Jennifer, we’d present the guitar to her to give Matthew. Maybe we’d Facetime him from the show. Or something.

Next Text, “I’m on the plane. It’s still fairly windy. I’ll let you know if we’re going.”

Mike and I looked at each other. If he’s on the plane, that’s good, right? It’s a good sign.

It’s 5 p.m. Rehearsals are done. The show is in two hours. The guitar is ready. The certificate is ready. Other guests are starting to show up. Dad and I did our sound check, which was amazing.

Final text: “We’re going. See you soon.”

Ok. Ok.

By then it was the crazy time before the show. Getting changed. Last minute adjustments to the script. Getting Dad ready. Meeting Calgary Flame Joe Colbourne and his dad Paul, Geting Michelle Cameron Coulter ready for her Show and Tell segment, Talking to Steven Van Kampen about his song and his family, talking to Mandy Stobo, making sure we were on the same page. Laughing with Jim Button about… I don’t know. We just laugh.

And then I had 30 seconds to race downstairs to put on my show clothes before we started and Mike is by my dressing room and says, “Dave, I want you to meet Matthew.”

And there he was.

And I was onstage.

And then… halfway through, we announce the award.

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We introduce Jennifer in the audience, who had no idea that there’s anything big happening. I explain how her husband is in a work camp near Ft Mac and how so many people from Syncrude and others who are working hard to rebuild their jobs, and are looking forward to rebuilding their homes. And Matthew is in the middle of it all.  Then I bring her down to accept the award for her husband.

And then – I say, “It might be just as easy if you gave it to him….”

And he walks out.

She is completely surprised. Shocked.

She cries. They hug.

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It was awesome.

Then I present the guitar from Long and McQuade.

He’s blown away.

He can’t wait to play it with his kids.

Jennifer keeps saying how it was the best night of a rough month. Matthew is a grinning machine. They are so happy together.

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They have a lot of work to do, but it’s pretty clear they have each other, and that’s all they really want. Or need.

So maybe it was a bit more work to get Matthew his present for Father’s Day.

But we think it was worth it.


A dad, his kids, and a new guitar….

Thanks again Arlene, Thanks Kara. Thanks Patricia. And thanks especially everyone at Syncrude who are working so hard to keep jobs happening, and who took the time to get Matthew down here to pick up his award.

And thanks to Paul Billo and Deyonne and Ryan at Long and McQuade for your generosity.