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Kelowna mother who lost son in crane collapse organizes fundraiser for memorial

A Kelowna, B.C., woman whose son died in the crane collapse in the city’s downtown is organizing a benefit concert, with all proceeds going toward a memorial that will honour all five of the victims.

“We’re very, very close to reaching our goal,” said Danielle Pritchett, the mother of Cailen Vilness.

“This fundraiser is meant to put us over our goal and into years to come for maintenance.”

So far, over $200,000 has already been raised through a United Way BC campaign in support of erecting a memorial site at Knowles Heritage Park in Kelowna. Pritchett’s fundraising concert, which was set up to help the already existing campaign get over the finish line of its $225,000 goal, will feature a well-known Canadian country artist.

“My cousin, Aaron Pritchett, has agreed to play at the concert to help us achieve our goal,” Pritchett said.

“Aaron and I grew up like brother and sister, so he’s more like ‘Uncle Aaron to my kids. He was adored by my son, so for him to do this for not just myself but the other families is spectacular.”

The opening act of the evening is Jason Parkes, a close family friend of the Pritchetts and West Kelowna businessman. He says he and his bandmates from Proper Man are looking forward to being a small part of what will be a big night.

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“Talking to Aaron, we want people to celebrate this,” Parkes said.

“We want people to have positive energy for something that is very beautiful — for the families, and for everyone that it affected in the community.”

The musical acts are set to hit the stage on May 19 at the Revelry Food and Music Hub in Kelowna. Out of the kindness of the owner’s heart, he agreed to offer up the venue free of charge.

“Instantly it felt right — our location to downtown and when it (the crane collapse) happened, we were around, and it just felt like the perfect home for it,” Revelry booking and talent team member Kris Hargrave said.

“It was a pretty easy yes for us when Jason brought this to us.”

For Pritchett, it’s been nearly three years since her son Cailen’s sudden and tragic death. She told Global News that it’s been hard on her not having a place to reflect, grieve and honour her son, but says she feels at peace just knowing that she and the rest of the victim’s families will soon have a proper place to heal.

“I just think it’s amazing that we can honour all of those men in the way of building this memorial,” Pritchett said.

Several ticket packages are being offered for the show, from general admission to VIP packages that will get you backstage for a meet and greet with the artists. A silent auction will also be held, featuring a variety of prizes including a private backyard BBQ with Aaron Pritchett. You can purchase tickets online here.

Meanwhile, work is set to begin on the memorial site in May, and is expected to be completed by July 12 — the three-year anniversary of the tragedy.

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