Disability-Led Opera Company Raises Their Voice For At-Risk Chronic Illness Community During COVID-19

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Disability-Led Opera Company Raises Their Voice For At-Risk Chronic Illness Community During COVID-19

Canada's only disability-led, disability-run opera company is raising their voice in a new way for an at-risk community. Throughout the month of May, Vancouver's Opera Mariposa is running their first-ever online Benefit + Awareness campaign, a charity fundraiser in support of the ME|FM Society of BC. The digital event honours the International Awareness Month for chronic neuroimmune diseases, specifically ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis) and FM (fibromyalgia). In the midst of a pandemic, it also advocates for a community that is uniquely at risk.

Opera Mariposa has held a Benefit + Awareness Show for ME & FM every year since the company's inception, and was working on their eighth annual charity concert when COVID-19 halted the show. "One day, we were in the middle of planning rehearsals," says Mariposa general manager Stephanie Ko, who has suffered from ME since age eight. "Then COVID-19 happened, and it rapidly became clear there was no way for us to responsibly proceed with the production."

In such challenging times, though, the Mariposa team wanted to support the chronically ill community more than ever. "People with ME and FM are incredibly vulnerable right now," says Ko. "Statistics Canada shows that these patients already have the highest poverty levels and greatest unmet healthcare needs of any patient group in Canada. What's worse, is illnesses like ME are known to have a post-viral onset. There have been documented cases triggered by other coronaviruses, and based on previous studies, some researchers are warning that up to 10% of recovering COVID-19 patients could go on to develop ME."

To support the cause, Opera Mariposa decided to adapt their charity initiative into an online fundraiser. With the backing of many community partners - including many other arts organizations whose programming has been affected by COVID-19, including Bard on the Beach, the Vancouver Bach Choir, Heroic Opera and D2 Dance Studio - Opera Mariposa assembled a collection of prizes that includes everything from show tickets to gift certificates to opera memorabilia. The prize giveaway runs throughout the month, and members of the public don't even need to donate to enter: "We realize not everyone is in the position to contribute financially right now," says Ko, "so folks can still support the cause - and enter to win over $2,500 in prizes - just by sharing the campaign online!"

Opera Mariposa's Benefit + Awareness campaign can be found at https://operamariposa.rallyup.com/may2020benefit or by texting MARIPOSABENEFIT to 855-202-2100. It runs until June 1st, with the prize draw occurring on June 2nd. 100% of proceeds benefit the ME|FM Society of BC.

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