TeleMiracle announces nearly 80 Sask. performers, including 16-year-old amputee

Dillon Gazandlare is one of almost 80 Saskatchewan performers for TeleMiracle 44, which is taking place in Regina Mar. 7 to 8. (Dillon Gazandlare/Facebook)

“I want to inspire others to do what they think they might believe is impossible.”

Dillon Gazandlare didn’t think he’d ever be able to play guitar, let alone further his musical passion on the TeleMiracle stage.

The 16-year-old, who was raised in Wollaston Lake and now lives in Prince Albert, was born without his left forearm.

About a year ago, Gazandlare started experimenting with paper and duct tape to make a homemade device for his stump. After attaching a guitar pick to the end, he could strum for hours without it throbbing in pain.

Although he’s only been playing guitar for a year, he’s been singing since he was seven years old.

Gazandlare said he didn’t know what to expect when he auditioned in November to perform for TeleMiracle. Unsure if he would even make the pre-show, the young musician was humbly surprised when he was informed he’d gotten his largest gig ever.

“Three years ago, I never thought I would get here,” he said.

“Playing on such a big stage and in front of such a large audience seems kind of nerve wracking and overwhelming, but it also feels like a great opportunity. It makes me feel happy and excited.”

Nearly 80 Saskatchewan performers will be hitting the Conexus Arts Centre stage in Regina on Mar. 7 to 8. That’s not including TeleMiracle’s national cast, which includes the returning Beverly Mahood and Saskatchewan’s own, Brad Johner and Jeffery Straker.

Gazandlare plans to bring his own style to Crossfire by Stevie Ray Vaughan.

“I feel more confident and more present when I play this song on stage,” he said, which he’ll also be singing.

“When I first started playing guitar, it was slow and kind of ’80s songs, kind of strumming chords,” he explained.

The thought of playing more upbeat rock tunes was daunting, but Gazandlare was up to the challenge. He’s looking forward to putting his own twist to Vaughan’s song, whose music continuously motivates him.

“In a way I feel emotionally attached to that kind of music because you have to put a lot of feel into how you play to make it sound like…how I would perceive that music.”

Ultimately, as Gazandlare said, he hopes to inspire the millions watching him defeat the odds.

“(I want) to let them know that if I can do it, what’s stopping them from doing it?” he questioned.

“Somebody who’s got this disability like me—who you’d think wouldn’t be able to play guitar or an instrument or it would be very difficult for them to do so—I’m playing difficult guitar solos and just playing and singing to different songs all the way from Metallica to shuffle blues to slow blues.”

“I want to inspire others to do what they think they might believe is impossible.”

The 20-hour telethon is hosted by Kinsmen and Kinnettes in the province to raise money for people in need of specialized medical and mobility equipment, as well as assistance with medical travel. Last year, Telemiracle raised $5,619,214.

“It’s another year of going and helping the province in raising money for an amazing cause,” said Prince Albert Kinsmen President Jon Fraser, adding that the funds go to wheelchairs, vans and even ramps for homes.

On average, the Prince Albert Kinsmen Club raises over $10,000 through local events. These include a pancake breakfast and a cabaret night.

“We always try to raise the most money that we can for our community,” added Fraser.

“What the people in the community can give is what we can give to TeleMiracle.”

Telemiracle 44 Chair Jesse Shkuratoff said the Kinsmen Foundation expects to receive over 1,000 applications for assistance.

“From the biggest cities to the smallest towns, Telemiracle brings the province together to help our friends and neighbours to improve their independence and quality of life,” he said in a news release.

“Every year, Saskatchewan gives to Telemiracle from its heart and this year we need Saskatchewan’s help more than ever.”

Nutrien is matching all money raised by the Saskatchewan performers up to a total of $150,000.

Entertainment begins with the province’s talent on Countdown to Telemiracle, which will be streamed live on the TeleMiracle YouTube channel starting at 6:15 p.m. on Mar. 7.

The telethon broadcast on CTV starts at 9 p.m. that night and ends at 5 p.m. on Mar. 8.