First and foremost, Gone Country is a cancer fundraiser.
Secondly, it’s a day-long summer country music concert that a pair of Langley men put on for 6,000 of their friends.
One of those “very special friends” who will be in attendance is Aldergrove’s Matt Reisig, who faced his own harrowing near-death experience since helping out with, and attending, his first Gone Country back in July 2018.
Reisig was hospitalized back on March 1, after a typical bout with the flu turned ugly. He suffered almost complete paralysis, losing most of his motor skills, except slight head, shoulder, and face movements.
He was diagnosed with a neurological condition called Gullain-Barre syndrome, and had to be intubated in order to breathe because of lost pulmonary function.
The once fit and active man spent the next 13 weeks on life-support.
Thankfully, he’s now on the mend. Off a ventilator that doctor’s once feared would be permanent, he is recovering well – making huge strides in regaining his mobility, shared his wife, Ashley.
Not able to yet lift his arms over his head, he won’t be back at work painting houses any time soon, she joked. But he was moved to intense rehabilitation at Laurel Place in Surrey at the end of June, and is projected to go home (continuing rehab as an out-patient) as early as next Tuesday, July 23.
Ahead of that, however, the 32-year-old father is being “broken out” of the care facility for a few hours this coming weekend, to attend Gone Country – Here for the Cure.
It’s happening this Saturday at the Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre in Cloverdale, and it will be the first official outing from hospital (except a brief visit home last weekend) for Reisig since initially being hospitalized.
To say he’s looking forward to this adventure – albeit from the confines of a wheelchair – is an understatement, said Ashley.
“He’s really happy. He’s really excited,” she said, explaining how Gone Country and its organizers have become important to them in recent years.
About four years back, the couple was looking to sell a home and a friend hooked them up with realtors Chris and Jamie Ruscheinski, who happened to be the Gone Country co-founders. Since then, the Reisigs and Ruscheinski have worked together a few times. But moreover, Chris said, a friendship developed.
When the twins mentioned their Gone Country endeavour, Reisig asked about getting involved and helping with the charity. He soon found himself volunteering.
In fact, last year he and his wife took it a step further and donated supplies, built, and painted a series of chalkboards that are a centrepiece to the music event – boards where guests write a direct message to “cancer.”
On the heels of that undertaking, the Reisigs thought they should attend one of these Gone Country concert – to see first hand what it was all about and how their boards would be used.
They did. Attending in 2018, they had a “blast,” Ashley said. “We loved it. We had so much fun. We said, ‘we’re definitely going next year’.”
Then, Reisig was hit with his own medical issues, and any hope of attending Gone Country 2019 – let alone ever moving again – seemed unachievable.
Thankfully, about a month ago now, Reisig started to regain significant movement, and two weeks ago he was able to pick up his young daughter and hold her in his arms – a first in almost half a year and something he once feared might never be possible again.
Since then, he’s been pushing himself – his wife and their 18-month-old daughter Ayla being his primary motivators to getting better.
“He’s recovery since then has been non-stop,” Ashley said, still shocked and impressed by his progress.
Before he even graduated to rehab, Reisig had been adamant he wanted to be at Gone Country 2019, Ashley said. She tried to calmly quell his expectations.
Turns out that while they’re not sure he’ll last for the entire day – given his current stamina levels and chronic fatigue – Reisig is getting his way.
He’s been cleared by doctors to attend.
“Gone Country is very important to him, and we’re so excited they’re going to be there,” Chris said.
“It gets me choked up just to talk about him, and what he’s gone through.”
Sold out weeks ago
Much to the delight of the local Gone Country organizers, this year’s outdoor music festival is sold out.
All the tickets were gone more than a month and a half ahead of the July 20 date, and Chris is optimistic the growing demand to be part of this event will translate to increased money for the cause – namely the battle against cancer.
Gone Country runs from 2 until 11 p.m. and the concert headliners former Langleyite and Canadian country star Aaron Pritchett, as well as superstar George Canyon. The entertainment lineup will also feature Langley’s own Karen Lee Batten (credited with helping start Gone Country), and well as Me and Mae, plus Dan Davidson, Dave Hartney, and Tanner Olsen Band.