‘We haven’t forgotten them’: Concert launched to support flood victims

Singers from across Canada, including local country singer Karen Lee Batten, are banding together to raise funds for BC's disaster victims.

By Grace Kennedy | February 24, 2022 |5:00 am

When floodwaters poured through Abbotsford last November, Karen Lee Batten wanted to do something—anything—to help residents who were being evacuated from their homes. The Langley-based country singer was raised in Abbotsford, and she watched as the childhood homes of her schoolyard friends were immersed in Nooksack floodwaters. She watched her mother’s home off Whatcom Road escape the flooding, and her mother take in a family displaced by the water.

Batten, a former Canadian Idol contestant and Canadian country songwriter, wanted to use her talents as a musician to help the residents of her hometown. But in the first few days of the disaster, she was told there was nothing she could do—yet.

Then, weeks later, she got a message from Kenny Hess, the founder of the Rockin’ River Music Fest in Merritt.

“You’re still kind of sitting there thinking, ‘Man, it would be so nice to do something musical’ and all of a sudden out of nowhere, Kenny messaged me,” Batten remembered. Hess had an idea for a concert to raise money for BC residents affected by 2021’s floods and wildfires.

“He’s always somebody who just kind of jumps at first notice when somebody needs some help and obviously, with his history with Rockin’ River, he’s got the right people to call,” Batten said.

And so Hell or High Water was born. It has since grown to include an in-person concert and a 12-hour telethon featuring more than 40 artists, many of whom have a connection to BC. The telethon and concert are both taking place on March 13. The telethon will air virtually starting at 10am, and feature live and recorded performances from local and Canadian artists. The in-person concert will be held at the Clarke Foundation Theatre in Mission and feature Batten, Hess, and a host of well-known musicians, including Aaron Pritchett, George Canyon, and Lisa Brokop, who will be flying in from Nashville to support her home province.

“I feel like it’s kind of six degrees of separation,” Batten said about the concert. “Everybody just kind of puts in what they can put in and it’s exciting for me to just kind of watch it all come together.”

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(Batten has also been working with the Abbotsford Canucks to create a “country night” on Feb. 25 that will promote the concert and raise money for the Hell or High Water fundraiser.)

Although figures haven’t been released,, Batten said the event has already raised “a lot”—in part thanks to contests offering signed guitars, Vancouver Canucks tickets, and more. All proceeds from the event will be given to Rotary Merritt, which will then distribute the money to nonprofits in affected communities.

“I know that we’ve raised a lot already and it hasn’t even happened yet, which is amazing. It’s wonderful that we know that this is going to get in the hands of the people who need it,” Batten said. “But I think even more, it’s to allow these areas like Abbotsford, and Chilliwack, and Merritt, and all these different areas that have been hit so hard, know that we have not forgotten them.

“They’re still in this. A lot of them are still displaced, and they’ve lost things that have meant so much to them… And I think for me, that’s my focus,” she continued. “My real focus was to just kind of yell in any way that I can out to them, for them to know that I still hear them and no one’s forgotten them. We haven’t forgotten them.”

Hell or High Water tickets are available online. The telethon will be streamed free on March 13 starting at 10am, although donations can be made through the event’s website. Contests are ongoing.

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Grace Kennedy

Reporter at Fraser Valley Current

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