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Timmins miners perform on Canada Sings

They may not win any Grammys for their singing but the glee team from Dumas Mining in Timmins put tremendous heart and soul into their performance on Global TV’s Canada Sings in early June.

The emotional effort paid off.

“I was really happy that we won,” said team captain Terry Rickard. “That part was exciting for me and I would do it again.”

The winning performance each week means the charity of the team’s choice receives $25,000. The Dumas team chose CNIB’s Lake Joe Family Camp located near Mactier in Muskoka.

For Rickard, the camp holds special significance since he lost his sight at 23, only to gain it back 18 years later.

When the team first got together and was told it had to pick a charity, a few ideas were tossed around.

“Nobody had any real idea of what charity to agree to but one day we sat down with the production company and my friend told them that I had an interesting story,” he said. “I said the CNIB would be a good choice and then after I told my story, everyone agreed.”

The team also consists of Heather Demers, Patrick Despres, Chad Girard, Natasha Lefebvre, Jessica Martin, Katie Nunno, Paul Remillard, Dennis Schwehr, Nicholas Schwehr, Pino Spigarelli, Andrew Tulloch and Corey Whitehead.

After losing his sight following a fall, Rickard had to learn how to navigate with a white cane and learned Braille. He had about 25 per cent of his vision left but it was only peripheral.

“It was difficult to get around and I had no detail. I could just see bold shapes and the colours were all mixed up,” he said.

He decided not to wallow in self-pity after meeting a young blind girl in Toronto while undergoing independent-living training. She was able to walk quickly with her white cane and he asked her how she became so adept.

“She said it was easy and then I asked how long she had been without sight. She told me she never had it. I figured if she could be so upbeat and positive then I can too. I never looked back and just moved on,” Rickard said.

His sight took about a year to come back and he began to notice things he hadn’t seen before. With his vision now close to 20/20, he went through three pairs of glasses with each pair becoming weaker.

“The downfall is that being 45 years old, I was told that I will have to wear bifocals. But I will take them,” he said.

The team had a week to spend with choreographer Kelly Konno and vocal coach Scott Henderson. Video footage of the practices, which aired during the show, showed there was a steep learning curve ahead.

“They worked us hard and then after that it was up to us to keep going until the taping two weeks later. It was hard, especially since we really couldn’t dance or sing.”

But the team pulled it off and the three judges – Jann Arden, Vanilla Ice and Laurieann Gibson – gave them accolades for participating.

“It’s all I could do but to burst into tears,” Arden said. “You made me happy and you have passion for your cause.”

The team had to keep the final result a secret until the show aired. About 500 people, including all the team members, attended a screening at the McIntyre Arena where their win was celebrated. The screening included about 50 CNIB people who travelled from Barrie, Parry Sound and Sudbury.

The team, which consists of underground miners and above ground support staff, has been asked to perform its routine in August at St. Joe’s for a family event.

“We forgot the dance steps but I am sure we can improvise,” Rickard said.

He also won’t quit his day job to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.

“My horoscope said I should get into film, the arts and dance. After I saw the performance, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I had my 15 minutes of fame and now it’s back to work.”

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