Planned Parenthood benefit show rallies community around a common cause

Raising funds and collecting donations for organizations devoted to women’s health and wellbeing


Photo by Lara Bockenstedt

Jerrika Mighelle closed the music portion of the event, singing her original songs and calling for something new.

A soft, acoustic tune beckoned from down the hall leading into a room bathed in pink light and tightly packed with clusters of chatting people.

Forage, a communal space in Banbury Place, served as the venue for the Planned Parenthood benefit show Friday night. According to its website, Forage is “a space to create, educate and celebrate,” which was exactly what organizer Lindsey Quinnies was looking for.

Quinnies, a 2012 graduate of UW-Eau Claire, said she had always loved the Eau Claire community and its focus on music and the arts. Following the Planned Parenthood rally over a week ago, Quinnies said the benefit show was another way she could support and inform her community about the importance of the organization.

“Taking away a resource like Planned Parenthood that so many people rely on and wouldn’t be able to get real health care without is the whole idea of defunding it from a national perspective,” Quinnies said. “Taking away any kind of emphasis from how important it is is scary.”

Quinnies said she thinks people today don’t fully understand what services Planned Parenthood offers apart from abortions, which are a small portion of what the organization does. She said Planned Parenthood also helps with general reproductive health, STD and STI testing and cancer screenings.

Despite the uncertainty people feel about the impact the current government administration will have on women’s health, Quinnies said she ultimately wanted people to focus on having a good time at the event and to take a break from the stress and pressure of it all.

The benefit featured four female musicians and four female comedians, who provided entertainment for the guests. Above their locally sourced stage hung a sign spelling out “Peace, Compassion, Love,” a message emulated by the performers.

Caitlin McGarvey, Lauren Anderson, Savannah Smith and Jerrika Mighelle filled the first half of the benefit with original works and covers of songs by Bob Dylan, Alicia Keys and more.

The second half of the event featured four female comedians who told jokes about a number of women’s issues, including dating horror stories, tampon shame and the sex taboo.  

Mackenzie Bublitz, who graduated from Eau Claire in December 2014, was one of the comedians who performed at the benefit. As a part of Clearwater Comedy, Bublitz said she appreciates Eau Claire’s dynamic art scene and sense of community.

Bublitz said she enjoys performing stand-up comedy because she’s able to talk about women’s issues and allow the women in the audience to feel like they belong. She said this sense of community and togetherness is especially important now, in such uncertain times.

Fellow comedian Abby Marose agreed that since more women are entering comedy, it creates a community of people who understand her perspective. The main message of her routine, Marose said, was to tell women to “be dope,” do whatever they wanted and support causes they believed in.

All proceeds will go to Planned Parenthood, Quinnies said, amid threats to defund the organization. Attendees were able to purchase food and drink at the benefit, as well as $10 raffle tickets to win prizes from local businesses.

In addition, the $5 admission cost was waived for those who brought two donation items for the Bolton Refuge House, an organization in Eau Claire serving as a safe space for those impacted by domestic violence or sexual assault. Quinnies said collecting items for Bolton Refuge House aids another vital organization in the community. 

Many people, students and community members alike, came to show their support for affordable care for women. Victoria Larson, a senior Spanish and liberal studies student at Eau Claire, said she had fears that the current administration was not taking women’s health seriously and shutting women out of the conversation.

However, she said the like-minded and passionate people at the event gave her hope change was possible.

“It was nice to finally be a direct positive impact,” Larson said. “What we did that night made a difference, and I hope that there are more events like it in the future.”