Rich Paxton met his wife-to-be, Lauren, when he was playing a show in London, England and had to stay in a different hostel than the rest of his band, due to a booking mix-up. Lauren was staying in the same room and they started hanging out.

By coincidence she was going to Edinburgh, Scotland, Rich’s hometown, the next week. Three months later they moved in together.

“The rest was history,” Lauren laughed.

The pair married in Thailand in 2010 and moved to Calgary in 2013. Rich says that one of the first things he did when he arrived was apply to volunteer at Distress Centre on our crisis lines.

“I applied pretty much as soon as I got here,” Rich said. “It was something that I felt I really wanted to do and I was so happy when I was accepted.”

He began volunteering in November 2013. Rich is a survivor of suicide loss. His mother died by suicide and his brother attempted suicide a year later but survived. Rich wanted to volunteer to help people like his mum and brother. What he didn’t anticipate was that it would also help him in his own grieving.

“It’s made me understand things a bit better, like the thinking of people in that situation and why they do that,” he said. “People who commit suicide, it has nothing to do with anyone else in their family, it’s a personal thing for them. They probably think they’re doing everyone a favour, which I didn’t really understand when it first happened.”

Soon after volunteering Rich decided he wanted to do more for Distress Centre. He discussed this with Lauren while they were having dinner in a pub and that night they laid out the foundations for Listen Up! Calgary, an annual concert that features local bands and raises funds for Distress Centre through ticket sales and other fundraising activities.

Rich said he wanted to create an opportunity to inform younger people – who might think they’re too cool to call a crisis line, or that it’s not meant for them, or who aren’t aware of Distress Centre and the services we provide – that Distress Centre is a service for anyone facing any problem.

The first event took place on August 23rd, 2014 and raised over $4000 for Distress Centre’s crisis services. Since the inaugural event the fundraiser has only grown. X92.9 sponsored the 2015 and 2016 events with DJ Matt Berry emceeing the evening.

Listen Up! Calgary 2016 occurred on October 15th, 2016 and had much-loved Calgary rock band, Bad Animal, headline the night.

“Every year it seems to be getting bigger,” Lauren said. “I had a couple people come up and go, ‘We’ve been waiting for this since last year!’ it’s starting to become an event that people look forward to.”

Time Boy performing at Listen Up! Calgary on October 15th, 2016. Photo by Paige Woodbury Photography.

The Paxtons take the event on as a team. Lauren says she loves planning events and helps to organize the night and secure silent auction items. Rich uses his contacts in the local music scene (he’s the lead singer of Calgary rock band, Free the Cynics) to secure bands for the evening.

At the event, Lauren oversees the silent auction and other fundraising initiatives while Rich ensures the music lineup stays on schedule.

Lauren said that she initially wanted to get involved to support her husband, but became personally invested as she learned more about Distress Centre.

“It takes so much pressure off,” Rich said, of having Lauren there to help. “Especially because I’m not the most organized person and Lauren is really good at that.”

This year, they said they felt the evening went off smoother than ever. They set a goal of $8000 and despite a tough economy, they were able to exceed that goal.

“The first year [we held the event], people seemed to reach into their pockets more because people had money,” Lauren said. “The last two years people have been hurting, so it felt very, very good to hit the target this year.”

Rich and Lauren say they’re also grateful to Dickens Pub, who have hosted every Listen Up! so far, as well as the volunteers and bands who donate their time and talent to make each event a success. They’re also thankful to those who donated items to the silent auction, or donated by buying tickets, supporting the fundraising initiatives or making an online donation to support the event.

Listen Up! Calgary has raised over $18,000 for Distress Centre and has informed hundreds of Calgarians about Distress Centre’s services.

The Paxtons already have their sights set on the 2017 event which they promise will be even bigger. Stay tuned!