At the public launch of Ladies Night 2020, Camp Erin was designated the beneficiary of this year’s fundraising effort. The organizing committee consists of (from the left) Josee Nugent, Sarah Dupont, Judy McFaul, Lynne Rochon and Michelle St. Pierre. Van Dusen photo

RUSSELL – For the past 17 years, Judy McFaul has been organizing Ladies Night in Russell. For the past 16 years, Lynne Rochon has been right there beside her. Together, along with dozens of volunteers, the women have raised $400,000 for a wide variety of charitable causes, most of them healthcare related.

Along with members of the Russell Agricultural Society Ladies Night committee, McFaul and Rochon are back at it, with the 2020 edition of Ladies Night set for May 8 at the Russell Arena. Although it seems like an odd fit, the high-fashion Ladies Night has always been sponsored by the agricultural society.

Correction: traditionally high fashion. This year’s theme, “Camp Ladies Night,” will take it down a notch, with organizers calling for an anticipated 500 guests to wear their best outdoor togs. That’s in sympatico with this year’s recipient Camp Erin, which is operated every June at Rideau Hill Camp, Kemptville.

The music will match the theme, with country band Rainwater Whiskey providing the tunes. The women-only event will also include full dinner, live auction and prize draws. In the past, the party for many used to move on to the old Russell House Pub and later to the Russell Legion but times and tastes have changed.

Camp Erin is a national bereavement program for children aged 6 to 17 grieving the death of a parent, sibling or other significant person. Participants get a camp experience which combines grief education and emotional support with traditional activities. Since there’s no timeline on grief, there’s no restriction as to when a grieving young person can attend the camp, said Finch farmer Lianne Acres Hanna, regional coordinator for the program.

Camp Erin has partnered with registered charity Carefor Health & Community Services as its sponsoring body. Carefor provides a variety of services for families, from nursing, to assisted living, to end-of-life care.

It’s a perfect fit for Ladies Night, McFaul said, adding organizers are keen to use their fundraising machine to help Camp Erin continue doing its valuable work in Eastern Ontario. What with $55 tickets, sponsors and donors, average yearly proceeds for Ladies Night are about $20,000. The take was closer to $25,000 before Scotiabank ended its matching funds program three years ago.

Having experienced her own personal loss, Richon said the grieving never really stops and it’s a good fit for Ladies Night to help with that process.

Coinciding with International Women’s day on Sunday, the 2020 Ladies Night was launched Fri., March 6 at Bay Street Salon & Spa in Embrun, an event partner.