Current Problems

Call to Action # 18: Health (18-24)

U.S. singer Jelly Roll raising funds for Indigenous youth at Canadian debut in St. Catharines, Ont.

July 8, 2024

Monday’s show is a benefit for the Heather Winterstein Foundation

Musician Jelly Roll smiles and waves with both arms to a crowd from a stage
Jelly Roll, seen here at the 2024 CMA Fest, is making his Canadian debut at a benefit for the Heather Winterstein Foundation in St. Catharines, Ont., Monday. (Amy Harris/Invision/AP)

CBC News: When award-winning Nashville musician Jelly Roll makes his Canadian debut at a St. Catharines, Ont., concert Monday night, he’ll do so while supporting programming for local Indigenous youth.

The 7 p.m. show at the city’s Meridian Centre is raising money for the Heather Winterstein Foundation. 

The foundation was set up after Winterstein’s death in late 2021. The 24-year-old died less than 48 hours after she was sent home from hospital with Tylenol, complaining of back pain. 

An inquest examining the circumstances of Winterstein’s death was announced by the Ministry of the Solicitor General last month, though a date has not been set.

Francine Shimizu, Winterstein’s mother, told CBC Hamilton the foundation now advocates for marginalized Indigenous youth like her daughter. All proceeds from the sold-out show will go to the foundation, she said.

The foundation supports programming for Indigenous youth that addresses mental health and addictions, and protection against human trafficking. It also offers scholarships for health-care studies.

Shimizu, who is Indigenous with ties to Six Nations of the Grand River, says her daughter faced mental health issues, addiction and human trafficking before she died. Shimizu believes those issues may have stigmatized her daughter, and might have affected the health care she received before her death.

Heather Winterstein, pictured here in 2017, died on Dec. 10 at St. Catharines General Hospital.
Heather Winterstein, pictured here in 2017, died in December of 2021 at St. Catharines General Hospital. Winterstein’s mother says the foundation set up in her name tackles issues her daughter struggled with before her death. (Submitted by Rosemary Ripper)

Winterstein’s issues didn’t make her “any less of a person than anybody else,” Shimizu said. The Heather Winterstein Foundation, she said, is a way to help keep others from going through what her daughter went through.

Niagara Falls to be lit pink Monday in honour of foundation

Shimizu said the fundraiser was originally planned as a dinner, but through her sister Jill Lunn’s connections with a music promoter, they were able to turn it into a concert with a major headliner.

“If it weren’t for the strength of my sister, none of this would have happened,” Shimizu said, talking about the concert and foundation.

Shimizu said Jelly Roll’s own story mirrors her daughter’s, and she’s happy someone who’s overcome their own struggles to become a positive influence for youth will be performing in tribute to her daughter.

Before starting his music career, Jelly Roll struggled with the law and drugs, and earned his high school diploma in jail at the age of 23.

This year, now 39, he was nominated for Best New Artist at the Grammys, losing out to Victoria Monét. The rapper-turned-singer won best new artist at the Country Music Association (CMA) Awards in November. 

Lunn, Shimizu’s sister, said Jelly Roll’s performance will be a “celebration of Heather’s life and a celebration of song and a celebration of healing.”

“I know she’s going to be present in that concert,” she said of her niece.

Concertgoers are encouraged to wear pink in tribute to Winterstein. Niagara Falls and the Peace Bridge will also be lit pink that night in honour of Winterstein and the foundation’s cause.

Musicians Allie Colleen and Callie Twisselman will also be performing Monday night.


Ethan Lang, Reporter

Ethan Lang is a reporter for CBC Toronto. Ethan has also worked in Whitehorse, where he covered the Yukon Legislative Assembly, and Halifax, where he wrote on housing and forestry for the Halifax Examiner.

With files from CBC News