His charity efforts are soaring as high as his country music career.
The record $503,000 raised at Gord Bamford’s seventh annual golf tourney at the Lacombe Golf Club and a sold-out gala in Red Deer last month had the country star shaking his head in wonder.
“I was thinking about our first year when the concert was on the lawn at the golf course with a flat-deck trailer,” said Bamford. “I never thought it would get this big.”
He set up his charitable foundation in 2008 to “give back and make a difference in people’s lives” — and has done just that.
The 16-time Canadian Country Music Award-winning artist has raised nearly $2 million to help children’s hospitals across Canada, the Make a Wish Foundation, Ronald McDonald House, and Big Brothers and Big Sisters. There’s an emphasis on youth-oriented charities in his giving, because of Bamford’s family focus and his own experiences.
“It’s pretty awesome to see what it’s done and how it’s helped,” he said. “When I moved from Australia at the age of four, I had a Big Brother. We had complications with our youngest daughter, Memphis, and spent time at the Ronald McDonald House. I’ve had the opportunity to go to lots of children’s hospitals and try and make a difference that day for them. I grew up playing lots of sports, so multi-use facilities in small communities made sense.”
Pride in his rural roots is a theme in Bamford’s music, with hits like “Farm Girl Strong” and “We’re All Cowboys.”
“I grew up in a farming community, my grandpa was in rodeo, so there was a lot of that influence,” said Bamford, who still lives near Lacombe.
The 750 gala attendees were treated to a concert featuring Bamford and his Nashville songwriting friends, as well as other musicians like Jason Blaine, Aaron Pritchett, Beverly Mahood, Cowboy Troy and even legendary rock band Trooper. Auction items ranged from golfing with a celebrity to signed guitars and even a private house concert with Bamford.
Keeping his base in central Alberta gives him a current perspective as well, as evidenced in his latest release “Where a Farm Used To Be,” which laments the problem of urban encroachment on agricultural land.
“It’s sure happening. From Lacombe, all the way to Red Deer, in the next 10 or 15 years, it may just be lots of houses and industrial areas. That’s just what happens, but it’s definitely why the song was written.”
Bamford, a past 4-H member and ongoing supporter, aims for a rural audience, even as he makes a big push into the American market over the next year.
“It’s a whole debate right now in country music,” he remarked. “Is country music country anymore? Not really, but the country music fan base is massive. I seem to be one of the only guys catering to it. I like it — less competition there!”
Blaine was so inspired by Bamford’s fundraising success in Lacombe that he started a similar event to raise funds for the Boys and Girls Club and a new college in his hometown of Pembrooke, Ont.
“It’s nice to be able to use the gift of music to do stuff like this,” said Blaine. “I grew up around farms. We find that people who listen to country music don’t just listen, they live it. I grew up raised to not forget where you come from, so it’s good to be doing that in my hometown, and it’s good to be here supporting Gord.”