Suzanne gives Hope

Observer writer

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

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Emotions ran high at Hope In The Hills benefit concert on Sunday as patrons gathered at Strawberry Hill in St Andrew to support the Hope Institute of Jamaica.

While British singer Joss Stone was the headliner, Suzanne Couch and her band captivated the audience in a stirring performance, lasting almost two hours. Couch, the show's conceptualiser, is battling stage four triple-negative inflammatory breast cancer.

“This experience has been very emotional for me,” she told the Jamaica Observer. “I've been wanting to do this show for two years, we had some issues getting sponsorship. Even though there were challenges I knew that I had to keep pushing because I am sick. It's incurable and it's spreading; I'm in a lot of pain and I'm taking a lot of drugs right now. The next stage after this is treatment.”

Despite her health challenges, Couch powered through her set in song and dance, performing So Wonderful, Water Wash Over Me, Smile and What Tomorrow Brings. She also performed tracks from her days in the group F.O.U.R, including At the Drop of A Heart and A Little More Love. Guests rushed to the stage, dancing and singing along. Some even joined the singer on stage.

One of them was surprise guest Toots Hibbert, who thrilled attendees with the classics Bam Bam and 54-46 Was My Number. Stone was also invited on stage as they closed the show.

Earlier, Stone gave a scintillating set built around Sensimilla and Big Ol' Game. The Billboard Magazine 2015 Reggae Artiste of The Year, she also did Barrington's Levy's Here I Come and Inner Circle's Bad Boy. She is currently on her Total World Tour, and announced that Jamaica is the 150th country in which she has performed.

Sarah Couch, Suzanne's daughter, also pleased guests with a soothing performance with New York musicians Paul Pesco and Bashiri Johnson.

Hope In The Hills's executive producer Laura Marley said their target of $500,000 was met.

“We know for sure we have raised $500,000 for the Hope Institute ''cause that was what we had set out initially with our first set of tickets, so based on new numbers we will calculate and see, but fingers crossed we are hoping close to a million dollars, which would be pretty good for a show this size,” Marley told the Jamaica Observer.

She said 400 persons were at the show.

Senior Medical Officer at the Hope Institute of Jamaica Dr Dingle Spence said funds are needed to develop IT infrastructure and expand the facility.

“We have a lot of land, that's not the problem. We want to increase the amount of offices we have. One of the things we've been looking at in particular is putting retrofitted containers on our land so we can move the more administrative services into those and use the offices being used by them now for what we call clinical space...right now people are 'cotching' on the edge of people's beds cause they are running out of space,” she said.

Dr Spence, Dr Jennifer Alexander and Dr Alexandra Shields head the Jamaica Cancer Care and Research Institute which was founded two years ago.

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