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Tristan's Wish: Sudbury musicians tackle autism cuts with Dec. 10 benefit concert

Rob Murphy and Ashley Woodruff raising funds for Child and Community Resources

After years of acting as the entertainment for various charity events, two local artists have decided to take on the role of hosts in support of a cause they feel is in critical need of community support. 

Ashley Woodruff and performance partner Rob Murphy are hosting a fundraiser called Tristan's Wish: Concert for Autism Awareness Dec. 10 in support of Child and Community Resources. 

The event will not only benefit those with autism in the Greater Sudbury community but share the wish of a loved one who persevered despite a lack of community resources. 

In addition to a special 90-minute performance by the pair, a first in Woodruff's blossoming career, the evening will include prizes, giveaways, snacks and refreshments. It will end with Murphy revealing the secret wish of his nephew Tristan. 

Murphy's nephew Tristan has Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism spectrum disorder, that affects an individual's social and verbal skills, among other things. 

With this diagnosis, his nephew was told he could never live without the support and supervision of a guardian, said Murphy, but he has never allowed this prediction to hold him back. His nephew is now 19 years old, has a job, and is living alone in his very own apartment. 

This success was achieved despite his nephew being eligible for only one year of community resources, said Murphy. Leading the artist to wonder how much easier his nephew's life would have been had he been raised with what Murphy considers the superior autism services available in other provinces.

Improving the availability and quality of autism support services is a mission close to Woodruff's heart as well, and motivation behind her decision to enter the Developmental Services Worker diploma program at Cambrian College, she said. 

When the pair learned that these services would be reduced further through changes to Ontario's Autism Funding Plan, they decided this would be the focus of their fundraising moving forward. 

In just two short weeks, the musicians rallied the support of 32 Chelmsford businesses for what he said will be an event by the community for the community.  But Woodruff said the event wouldn't have been the same without including the young man who inspired their activism. 

Murphy asked his nephew to make a wish, with no exception apart from that it couldn't be a request for something extravagant such as a trip to Disney World. 

This wish, which even Woodruff has not been made privy to, is what will be revealed at the end of the evening on Dec. 10. 

Woodruff and Murphy met over Facebook three and a half years ago and been performing together ever since, in a partnership they said, has improved their performance styles greatly. 

There is a significant age gap between the two, but Murphy said this may be the pairing's greatest strength - as it causes them to constantly challenge, learn and grow from each other's influence. 

Finding a love of music at the age of eight, Woodruff has dedicated her young life to developing her talent, including seven years of classical singing training in addition to completing a vocal major at Sudbury Secondary School. 

She released his first single on iTunes in 2016 and self-titled debut album a year later, followed by a Christmas EP in 2018 and three singles this year. 

Murphy, on the other hand, has been performing in front of crowds since he was 15 and been a full-time musician since the age of 28. He spent a large portion of his life travelling with various bands, such as David Wilcox and Chubby Checker. 

Child and Community Resources offers a wide range of services for a variety of age groups, to support the inclusion, integration and well-being of children and youth. Find more information on their programming here.  

Tristan's Wish: A Concert for Autism Awareness will take place Dec. 10 at Chelmsford Public School, with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. Admission is a $2 minimum, with additional donations graciously accepted. 

Find more information on Tristan's Wish: Concert for Autism Awareness by visiting the event's Facebook page.

Keira Ferguson, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

About the Author: Keira Ferguson, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

A graduate of both Laurentian University and Cambrian College, Keira Ferguson is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter, funded by the Government of Canada, at
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