For two siblings who have geographically placed themselves more than a few hours apart, twins Chris and Jamie Rucheinski are as close as ever, even if, at times, they donâ€™t want to be.
All year, they plan their annual cancer fundraiser, Gone Country. And they do it living as if in a tale of two cities: Chris in Victoria, where he markets for well-known energy-drink company, Red Bull, and Jamie in Langley, running his real estate business The Property Twins.
â€œThereâ€™s a lot less fist fights now,â€ Jamie said about his brother, whoâ€™s been living on Vancouver Island for the past three years.
â€œNow we just hang up on each other,â€ Chris said with a laugh. â€œWeâ€™re still brothers. It doesnâ€™t get to fists anymore, but weâ€™re still definitely brothers.â€
When the Rucheinskisâ€™ mom was diagnosed with breast cancer around 2000, the boys decided to do something about it by hosting a raffle and a fundraiser in the form of a backyard barbecue.
The result? Three-hundred people in the Rucheinskiâ€™s backyard, more than a few hangovers and a whopping $20,000 to prove that it happened.
â€œWhat weâ€™ve done in the past is started out doing little fundraisers at nightclubs with friends of ours and then that grew into backyard barbecues, and that grew into having 300 people in my dadâ€™s backyard, so we decided to change venues,â€ Chris said of the event, which saw more than 3,000 people last year at the Cloverdaleâ€™s Millennium Amphitheatre (since renamed Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre).
â€œThis year, weâ€™re selling 6,000 tickets, so it went from a little backyard barbecue to this giant event where it takes us about nine months to get to the actual event.â€
While this year will only be the second year of the event known as Gone Country, Jamie attested that the fundraisers have been around for 13 years.
â€œWe started this when our mom passed away, about 12 or 13 years ago now, just raising money. We started throwing parties and raising money, and then weâ€™ve grown since,â€ he explained.
â€œThen we lost our best friend Shaun G [cancer victim Shaun Gauthier], and one of the last things he said to us was, â€˜Weâ€™re going to throw one hell of a fundraiser this year,â€™ and unfortunately he didnâ€™t survive cancer.â€
Now, money raised from the annual event goes to help charities like the BC Cancer Agency, Canadian Cancer Society, Canuck Place Childrenâ€™s Hospice, Easter Seals centres and also contributes to a scholarship program for students at UBC studying oncology.
â€œWeâ€™re getting a little more polished at this, too. Originally we showed up at the Canadian Cancer Society with a shoebox of $22,000 cash,â€ Chris said with a chuckle.
Far from collecting cash in a shoebox, now the Rucheinskis gather sponsorship from local country radio station JRfm, Whistler Brewing Co., Sammy J Pepperâ€™s, Promosa, and Vancouver Urban Winery â€“ just to name a few.
Fundraising and beer drinking aside, where does country music step in? Well, growing up in Cloverdale, youâ€™d be hard-pressed to find someone who didnâ€™t like country, and among the hordes of Merle Haggard and JRfm fans alike was the Rucheinskisâ€™ mom.
â€œ[Chris] never wanted to do country, heâ€™s a Victoria hipster,â€ Jamie said, poking fun at his brother, â€œbut I do and weâ€™ve always kind of listened to country growing up â€“ it caters to all audiences. We wanted to cover something that would be enjoyable for anyone over 19 to my 87-year-old grandma who will be there drinking wine.â€
â€œOur mom loved country,â€ Chris said emphatically. â€œI guess Iâ€™ve got my finger on the pulse with [the music] world, when it came to country music, though, it was a bit of a switch up for me so I had to learn the country music scene â€” letâ€™s put it that way. Iâ€™ve bought a few albums, thatâ€™s for sure.â€
From booze sponsors, to designers, to the clean-up crew, everything surrounding Gone Country and its efforts are volunteer-run. Jamieâ€™s fiancÃ©, Angela Waterberg of Blush Photography, signed on to do photography for the duo when she met the twins.
â€œSheâ€™s volunteered for life, now,â€ Jamie teased.
â€œThere isnâ€™t one thing that you see at any of our events that we havenâ€™t haggled to get down to almost nothing. People know now that if they pick up the phone and itâ€™s one of us calling, theyâ€™re like, â€˜Oh, here it comes,â€™â€ Chris added.
â€œOur volunteers are really what keeps us motivated to do this. They show up every year, they work their ass off, they never complain, they generally have a good time and without them, none of this would happen. So thatâ€™s definitely the biggest motivating factor.â€
Gone Country takes on at least 60 volunteers, and thatâ€™s not including the mandatory security guards, police officers, and first-aid attendants.
This yearâ€™s Gone Country features performances by Langleyâ€™s own Chad Brownlee and Karen Lee Batten, as well as Brett Kissell, the Washboard Union, and more.
It takes place July 26 at Cloverdaleâ€™s Bill Reid Millennium Amphitheatre. Doors open at 2 p.m. Tickets are $35 and can be bought at Twinscancerfundraising.com. The event is for people 19 years or older.
– â€¢â€¢ is a reporter with Glacier Media’s Surrey Now.