Jane Machum speaking at the 2014 Laing house Masquerade Ball, A Night in Espana.
Jane Machum has been a volunteer with Laing House for over seven years, and has been Chair of the Masquerade Ball Committee since 2009. We sat down with Jane to talk about the upcoming Laing House Masquerade Ball, A Night in Vegas and why she loves to volunteer.
How did you originally get involved with the Laing House Masquerade Ball?
A friend who was co-chair at the time asked me to join the committee– she thought it would be a great volunteer fit for me. I also have a personal connection to Laing through my extended family. This young woman was a Laing House member and the organization did so much for her life. Unfortunately she didn’t make it through her struggle, but her parents continue to actively support Laing House.
Why do you continue support Laing House?
Laing House strives to assist members become active and productive members of the community. There are so many youth living with mental illness – more than we’ll ever hear about, and it’s more than worth my time to find ways to support them. Too many people fall out of the system, or end up not making it, or just end up in a very bad place. Laing House is there to support them so they can get to a better place, and live a full, happy life and I want to be a part of that. Supporting Laing House is one of the best ways I can give back to my community.
What do you think makes the Masquerade Ball a unique event?
The Masquerade Ball had its beginnings as a grassroots, community oriented event, with the premise of “unmasking” mental illness. There continues to be so much stigma attached to this subject and people are still so afraid of talking about mental illness. The Ball is THE event for the House, where we want to open up the conversation and celebrate its success.
Our event is unique - we theme it after an exciting and interesting city or country each year. The décor, the food, the atmosphere - it’s all tied into the theme location. Our guests, dressed in black tie and masks, hit the dance floor to celebrate with their friends and Laing House members. It’s really the best party in Halifax, and it’s all in celebration of Laing House.
What can guests look forward to when they attend 'A Night in Vegas'?
Vegas is going to be a fabulous year! We're adding some elements that we haven’t done before, a few little surprises - its going to be BIG! We take pride in what we do to help our guests feel truly immersed in the destination. This year, expect to get that Vegas feeling even before you walk through the doors!
What does the Masquerade Ball mean to Laing House?
It’s two-fold. The funding for sure; the ball represents 20-25% of the overall House budget. It’s an important amount of money that we’re raising. In just 8 years, we have already raised over a million dollars for Laing House. Our event is 100% volunteer driven. All of the profits from the evening go directly to Laing House programming.
We are not just fundraising though... we’re friend-raising. We want people to be aware of youth living with mental illness, what Laing House means to this community and to Nova Scotia. and how people can play a part in its success.
Why are so many people interested in volunteering?
My committee members come from all areas of the community and we all have something in common...a personal connection to mental illness and/or Laing House. We so fortunate to have wonderful support from the community, and often our sponsors or local community businesses will send volunteers our way. Sometimes people call Laing House and ask how they can help. We’re really open to those individuals, the people who come to us, come to us for very personal reasons.
What do you look forward to at the Masquerade Ball each year?
There are so many things! I have a lot of fun volunteering. Each year I work with a great group of people and we have a lot of laughs over what we’re planning, what we can do, what we can’t do and what we wish we could do if we had an unlimited budget. I always look forward to the planning stages, but I really look forward to the couple of weeks before the Ball. The committee is excited, I’m excited, the staff is excited the members are excited! It’s so amazing to see all of the things we’ve been talking about for the past 10 months come together in this big surprise package.
Why do you think it’s important for people to support the Masquerade Ball?
Funding. Provincial government funding is ending for Laing House, so now more than ever, we need your support. By attending the Ball , you can help to ensure that our youth living with mental illness continue to benefit from the life-changing support found at Laing House.
See you in Vegas!