By Perry Lefko

Ron Beer has been entertaining international audiences with his songs and singing for 40 years and now the multi-talented businessman is using his talents to pay it forward with a unique initiative to help individuals with mental health issues.

Beer, whose multi-talented skills include music, martial arts and animation, has been volunteering at the Canadian Mental Health Association for 10 years. The first five years he performed in the mental health unit at the Markham Stouffville Hospital and the last five years at the outpatient program called “The Living Room”.

Last May he raffled off compacts discs and books he has produced and used the proceeds for The Living Room buying a coffee machine that uses singular packets and purchased a couple of cases.

He then developed the idea to do accelerate his community-wide performing schedule from monthly to weekly and is asking to be paid in singular coffee packets so there will always be a supply for The Living Room. He is calling it “K Cup Concerts For Mental Health” and plans to do it for an entire year.

“Now that I’ve been doing (work with mental health) for 10 years, I see people around town and at these CMHA events and eventually some of them will pull me aside and say something to me about a show I did,” he said. “One fellow told me ‘I hadn’t spoken to my family in two months, I hadn’t smiled, and my dad was there that day you were playing at the hospital and you started doing your songs, jokes and stories. We started singing together and by the end I was talking to my father and I wanted to thank you for that.’ It was jaw dropping.

“It’s 10 years of doing this now and there’s a lot of really, really touching stories that make me realize how lucky I am.”

He is hoping this story will help provide publicity for his initiative.

“That’s how I give back to my community here,” he said. “I started my own martial arts school, Family Self Defense Centre in Markham, in 1978. My parents gave me $5,000 to start my own thing and I’ve been here ever since.”

Fraser Hoban, peer support leisure coach at CMHA, praised Beer for his continued volunteer work.

“Ron brings joy with his personality, and through his music he often reminds the members of emotions and parts of themselves that they’ve forgotten with time,” Hoban told Simcoe Review. “He brings unique joyous effect that lingers among us after he leaves.”

Beer is an international recording artist who is popular in the Southern Texas market. He has been booked to do a small tour in January as part of the Barnabas Connection for flood relief in Wimberley, Texas. He did that in 2015.

A graduate of songwriting Humber College music program, Beer has performed for 40 years and is the creator, author and star of the Boogie Boys Blues musical and graphic arts show aimed at young audiences. He also mentors amateur songwriters. He recently started an animation studio.