A fundraiser later this week has Nelson Bell written all over it.
The Orillia teen, who died in a car crash last summer, was passionate about music and helping other local youth. He also loved pizza, lasagna and chocolate cake.
All of the above will be incorporated into an event Friday night at St. Paul’s Centre. It will feature music from Lance Anderson, Quisha Wint and Russ Boswell, as well as a three-course meal prepared by local chef Melanie Robinson.
Money raised during the show will go toward the Orillia Youth Centre’s efforts to create the Valis Sound Studio in Bell’s honour, but also toward a new bursary for youth who are on the autism spectrum. (Bell had Asperger’s syndrome.)
“He liked helping his friends and other people, so this is a way to do that for years to come,” said youth centre director Kevin Gangloff, adding the bursary and sound studio will be fitting legacies for Bell, who was 16 when he died.
“We’re trying to make something positive out of such a bad tragedy.”
When Gangloff approached Robinson about catering the fundraiser, Robsinson asked him to find out from Bell’s parents what the teen’s favourite foods were. When Gangloff told her pizza, lasagna and chocolate cake were at the top of Bell’s list, she knew she had a challenge ahead of her.
“My job is to take those favourites and make it a little grown up and elevated,” Robinson said.
She’s up for the challenge. After all, creativity is what won her the title of Chopped Canada champion in 2015.
The first course will be a pizza-inspired soup, like a roasted tomato and red pepper bisque. Next up will be a deconstructed lasagna with braised beef and mushroom.
For dessert, Robsinson is making a stout cake with chocolate mousse, meringue and coulis.
There will also be a vegetarian option.
“I really want to do this justice and give the guests a great experience. The two most important people in that room will be (Bell’s) parents, and I hope they’ll appreciate it,” said Robinson, owner of Eclectic Café, which will soon open in a new location in downtown Orillia.
When Robinson was asked to help out at the event, she didn’t hesitate.
“Anything that the youth centre puts on is a quality event, and it’s for a great cause. I’m a lead-by-example person and I put my money where my mouth is,” she said.
“The loss of any life is devastating, but to lose a kid is absolutely devastating. As a mom, I can't imagine going through that.”
Students from the culinary program at Twin Lakes Secondary School, which Bell attended, will also be helping out at the dinner.
The event is a true community effort, Gangloff said.
“Without Steve Orr, this event wouldn’t happen,” he said of the Dapper Depot Menswear owner. “He has been so supportive behind the scenes for the sound studio and now the bursary.”
It was Orr who approached Anderson, an award-winning local musician, about performing.
“The music will be out of this world,” Gangloff said. “It puts the event over the edge.”
The dinner and show will take place Friday, starting at 6 p.m.
Tickets cost $150 and can be purchased at Alleycats Music and Art. (Cash only.) They can also be purchased with cash or credit card at the youth centre, and by credit card on the youth centre’s website.
St. Paul’s Centre is a licensed venue.