Justin Hines looks out the window as the colourful patches of the Prairies blur from yellow to brown to green.
On the road in a wheelchair accessible RV, the singer-songwriter is about halfway from where he started near his hometown of Toronto, driving through Kindersley, Sask. on Highway 7, which parallels the Trans Canada in the southern part of the province.
Hines’ wife Savannah is at the wheel, while his bandmates, Ash and Bloom (James Bloemendal and Matt McKenna), and his manager kick back in the spacious home on wheels.
This is how Hines has been “flying” as of late as he takes his Vehicle of Change Tour across the country.
This is week six of the tour, which saw the RV’s occupants refresh recently in their home province of Ontario for a small break. They are about to arrive in Vernon for two concerts: a family performance at Polson Park as well as a dinner show at the Prestige Hotel.
Both happen Labour Day, Monday.
In Vernon last year, this is Hines’ way of giving back to his fans by helping to contribute to a local charity in each city and town he performs in, with 100 percent of the funds raised from the show going back to the organization.
“I wanted to do something different and meaningful,” said Hines.“This is not a traditional music tour. It is inclusive with as many people as possible, incorporating different charities. It has been a combination of charities reaching out to us and us reaching out to them. We’ve done our homework on their impact on the community. This is more about awareness than just raising money.”
Hines’ charity of choice in the North Okanagan is a fitting one.
Small in stature, however big in voice and heart, Hines has a rare genetic joint condition called Larsen’s syndrome, which has him using a wheelchair for mobility. He is bringing awareness to those with developmental and other disabilities by supporting the non-profit Kindale Developmental Association.
“I had a memorable time the last time I was in Vernon (which was also in support of Kindale), and it was a natural fit to be able to help them again,” he said.
The Vehicle of Change Tour, which is also in support of Hines’ new album, How We Fly, has been made even more memorable due to the vehicle Hines and his entourage have been provided to complete it.
The RV came as a total surprise when it was generously donated by Stewart and Lily Jean of Brockville, Ont., who had never met Hines before.
“They pulled a fast one. They said they were going to rent it to us and when we went to pick it up, they gave it to us for free. The only thing they asked is that we pass it on to the next family when we are done with it,” said Hines. “This is an accessible RV, which are really hard to find. We would have had to soup it up and it would have cost a fortune.”
The generosity and faith of humanity is not lost on Hines, who has overcome challenges to do what he loves — make music.
His career has literally soared since he first approached a microphone to sing the national anthem at a Toronto Raptors’ game and has seen him through four albums and numerous tours, taking him across North America and from China to the Middle East.
And he has a ton of fans to show for it. Case in point: The Vehicle of Change Tour became a reality through the contributions of Hines’ fans through his Pledgemusic campaign.
“I am grateful to my fans and my family who see beyond the challenges. I am surrounded by people who think outside the box, and they see how I am obsessed with this journey,” he said. “I think it’s now important in my career to spread that message, that we don’t have to live in a dog-eat-dog world. I don’t know how else to convey that message of community through any other means. To me, it has always been through music.”
Hines is keeping that in mind as he tours along the long highways and byways of this great nation, visiting towns and cities, reaching out wherever he stops.
The unofficial wrap-up of the tour will take place in Ottawa in mid-October.
“I look at a place like Outlook, Sask. and see the power and generosity of a small community where they put us up and fed us breakfast. For us, it’s a thrill to play to an intimate crowd and venue and to get to know people and learn their names. It’s as fulfilling as playing a large venue.”
Hines, featuring Ash and Bloom, visits Vernon’s Polson Park for a free family concert from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday. Opening will be local artists Jayme McKillop (Ginger and Rose), Camryn Sproule and Adrenaline Rush.
The second concert, Dinner with Justin, takes place at the Prestige Inn Monday. Doors open at 6 p.m. and tickets ($50, includes dinner and concert) are available at Bourbon Street Bar and Grill, East Side Liquor Store or by phone: (250) 503-7974.