This year’s iBelieve event takes place from 3 to 5:45 p.m. Sunday, April 30, at the Palace Theatre, 2384 James St., Syracuse. Pictured are the featured speakers. From left to right, back row: Bryan Morgan, Ann Marie Stonecypher, Gwen Webber-McLeod, Dr. Kaushal Nanavati; front row: Sue Bertrand, Hally Krolik and Tim Conners. (Submitted photo)
By Ashley M. Casey
The Baldwinsville-based Maureen’s Hope Foundation is bringing its inspirational iBelieve event back to the Palace Theatre for a second year April 30. Featuring seven local motivational speakers, iBelieve offers attendees a chance to recharge their emotional batteries while helping raise money to support the mission Maureen’s Hope, which offers support to families facing cancer and other serious illnesses.
“Everyone has some type of adversity, challenges, doubt in their life,” said Susan Bertrand, founder of Maureen’s Hope. “This is a chance to take some time for yourself.”
While the proceeds from iBelieve go to benefit Maureen’s Hope, Bertrand said the event is all about fostering positivity and compassion for oneself and others.
“It’s a fundraiser for Maureen’s Hope Foundation, but I also look at it as something we need to bring our community together, to spread compassion, to help make us more resilient,” she said.
This year’s iBelieve will be a little more amped up than the inaugural event. Bertrand said the addition of live music, dancing, meditation and an ice cream social will “awaken all of your senses.” The performances offer attendees a break from some of the deeper topics speakers will address.
“Some of the topics reach down and touch the core of people’s emotions,” Bertrand said. “We want people to leave feeling positive and optimistic.”
While the addition of music and dance brings something new to iBelieve, attendees will see some familiar faces as well. Returning to the roster of speakers are Gwen Webber-McLeod, a well-known speaker on leadership development who served as the 2016 keynote speaker, and Bryan Morgan of Dynamic Health & Fitness. Morgan will get the audience moving with his presentation of “Motion Creates Emotion.”
Bertrand said she met with the speakers a few weeks ago to prep for the event.
“You could just feel the energy, the understanding, the compassion in the room,” she said. “Together, we’re perfect.”
This year’s keynote speaker is Dr. Kaushal Nanavati, medical director of integrative therapy at Upstate Cancer Center. Dr. Nanavati will speak on the topics of love, relationships and self-care.
“He is such a kind, gentle, compassionate and knowledgeable man,” Bertrand said of Dr. Nanavati.
Self-care is a main theme at iBelieve, and it ties into some of the programs at Maureen’s Hope. Each year, the organization holds a spa day for mothers of children with cancer.
“These women are taking care of sick children and their families,” Bertrand said. “They leave there and they have filled their vessel. … They can go home and feel a little recharged and rejuvenated and hopefully be able to do a little better.”
Similarly, iBelieve encourages people, especially caretakers, to prioritize their own needs.
“You have to take care of yourself so you’re strong enough to take care of others,” Bertrand said. “It’s not just a gift for yourself — it’s a gift for your family.”
Bertrand strives to make iBelieve accessible to all audiences. She said the lineup of speakers — who represent a variety of ages and walks of life — will appeal to both women and men, young and old.
“Who does not need positivity in their life?” she said. “Happiness is a choice. You don’t just wake up and be happy; you have to work to be happy.”
Another important aspect of that accessibility is the price of admission. Tickets to iBelieve cost $25, a fraction of the price of similar speaking engagements.
“A lot of these types of events are too expensive for the average person to go to,” she said. “We make it very affordable so we can open it up to lots of people.”
Bertrand said the idea of an affordable, inspirational event arose from a conversation with Webber-McLeod.
“I remember talking to her and saying, ‘Most of the people who need to hear the message at these can’t afford to go,’” Bertrand told Eagle Newspapers last year. “That’s when I decided I needed to have an event like this but at a much lower price.”
Bertrand said she is willing to assist those who would like to attend iBelieve but may not have the means to pay for a ticket. Potential attendees may email her at email@example.com for an opportunity for complimentary tickets.
“If the ticket price is out of someone’s budget, they can contact me and we’ll make sure they’re there,” Bertrand said.
iBelieve takes place from 3 to 5:45 p.m. Sunday, April 30, at the Palace Theatre, 2384 James St., Syracuse. To purchase tickets, which are $25 each, visit maureenshope.org.
Ashley M. Casey is a reporter for The Baldwinsville Messenger and The Eagle Star-Review. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 and previously worked for the Scotsman Press.