He may not have been born here, but Trevor McDonald has certainly made Chilliwack his home. And as such, has made it his life’s mission to enhance the community through entertainment and involvement.
The youngest of 10 children, McDonald’s family moved from Ontario to Chilliwack in 1977, when he was nine-years-old. “This is my home and always will be my home. I’ve never had any desire to leave Chilliwack. Look at what we have,” said McDonald as he scanned a sunny Salish Park from Prestons, where he plays every Wednesday evening from 7 til 10 p.m.
Starting with night club management, McDonald says he’s spent decades creating his personal brand within the region. From the club scene he moved into sales, which he gave up to start a music career almost 30 years ago that had him “playing 300 shows a year for many years.”
Through that, McDonald says he was able to create a large network within the community that’s enabled him to focus on a few of things that were most important to him, such as creating a supportive community within the city of Chilliwack.
“My niche is bringing people together,” said McDonald, who won the City of Chilliwack’s Stan Rogers Legacy Award in 2016 for doing just that.
“What I’ve done is tried to create a cyclical entertainment (stream) that feeds each other. I have a great radio show … that allows me to talk about my community projects, which in turn allows me to talk about my music projects.
“How lucky am I that everything I’ve ever loved to do in life I get to do for a career?” he asked rhetorically.
In addition to his solo music projects, McDonald is heavily involved with booking talent across the Fraser Valley, and is a key organizer for many of Chilliwack’s community events, like Party in the Park, which he emcees.
|The band Stiletto rocks out in Party in the Park on July 13, which had more than 6,000 in attendance.(Submitted by Darren McDonald)|
“I’m a champion of Chilliwack’s downtown: I’m its biggest flag-waver,” McDonald declared. And Party in the Park is a way to illuminate what downtown has to offer, garner exposure for local talent, and entice people from the city’s southern areas to venture across the bridge.
However, McDonald says one of the best parts about organizing so many community events and having access to large crowds of people is how much good can come out of it.
“I want to see the money spent right here in Chilliwack … so I often ask, ‘How can we turn this into something useful (for the community or a local charity)?’”
With that in mind, McDonald took to social media ahead of the last two Party in the Park events to ask the community to bring non-perishable food to the event to donate.
“The Salvation Army’s food bank is in dire need, so we’re going to have hampers out where people can donate food,” he said.
And when he’s not busy organizing city-wide events, McDonald can be found strumming his guitar or tickling the ivories for delighted audiences around town: on Tuesdays he plays the Cultus Lakeside Beach Club, and on Thursdays he plays piano and sings at the Wellington Local House.
“I’m so excited for the piano show, I literally just started playing live about four months ago and it’s been really well received.”
Yet even when he’s playing solo, McDonald is thinking about the greater good of the community.
“I never accept tips (when I’m playing),” said McDonald. “(But) I made an announcement at (a recent show) … that I’d take tips, but we’ll take them and put them towards the Salvation Army’s food bank because they’re in need right now. And they filled my guitar case—there was a boatload of money in my guitar case because people lined up for an hour after the show to give me money.”
McDonald did the same thing last year and raised more than $2,000 to help feed livestock displaced across the province by the devastating fires. And already this year he’s donated six shows for charitable Chilliwack causes.
“This is a community like no other,” said McDonald. “I wish the people who hear about Chilliwack at a national level in a bad light could come here for one weekend and experience the positive side of Chilliwack and its people who are always stepping forward to make a difference.”