Oaklawn hosts second Oaklawn’s Got Talent fundraiser

Published: May. 13, 2023 at 12:41 AM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

ELKHART, Ind. (WNDU) - If you’re looking for talent, you don’t need to go all the way to Hollywood; you can find it right here in Michiana at the second annual Oaklawn’s Got Talent fundraiser and talent show.

Happening at the Lerner Theatre in Elkhart, Oaklawn’s Got Talent is Oaklawn’s biggest fundraiser of the year, with money raised going to support local health and addiction treatment.

Following a dinner for donors, the audience took their seats to see local talent in what could be best described as a talent show meets variety show.

“What can we do that celebrates mental health and bring attention to our organization and the work,” says Kari Tarman, Executive Director of the Oaklawn Foundation and founder of Oaklawn’s Got Talent. “So, last year, we launched Oaklawn’s Got Talent; it’s a fundraiser where we’re asking people to support us, but we have four acts, and they’re going to perform for the audience tonight, donors and community members, and they get to choose who wins.”

Judges auditioned almost 30 local acts and selected the top four, but it was the audience who had the final say on who took home the grand prize.

The top four acts were aerialist duo The Sisters Maggie and Audrey Zielinski, modern a cappella group Luminos, psychological illusionist Jon Wayes, and singer-songwriter Isabelle Pouya.

Isabelle Pouya earned fourth place, Jon Wayes got third place, The Sisters received second place, and the grand prize winner was Luminos.

“And they walk away with a prize. So, first place is going to walk away with $5,000, second place $3,000, third place $2,000, and fourth place $1,000. And it’s just a celebration of the work that we do and bringing the community together to celebrate.”

Catching up with The Sisters, Maggie and Audrey tell 16 News Now how much work goes into this process.

“We started it like writing an essay, so, we plan it out, we plan out when we’re going to do certain things, and then we come up with the moves and put it all together, match it to the music, and go from there,” says aerialist Maggie Zielinski.

“And it’s really nice because she likes the hoop and choreographing, and I really like silk, and we can put our differences together to really make a pretty routine,” says aerialist Audrey Zielinski.

Jon Wayes explained how he got started in performing.

“I got a magic kit at age 8,” says psychological illusionist Jon Wayes. I was a social introvert, I couldn’t talk to anyone, especially women, so I just stayed in my room (practicing) card tricks, and then realized that card tricks were a gateway to connecting with people, making friendships, and eventually into relationships. Now, oh my lord, I’m getting paid to do it, and I’m actually inspiring and motivating people like my younger self to chase their own dreams, so why not keep doing what my inner child wants to do and help other people and also pay my bills.”

He also shared his plans for what he will do with the prize money.

“We want to take a hefty portion of that prize money, invest it back in the company, and give us enough freedom financially to actually branch out and begin consulting aspiring young artists to help them see how they can quickly and efficiently achieve their dreams far quicker than I ever did,” Wayes said. It took me ten years just to get this far; I want to help them get there in 6 to 12 months.”

Oaklawn has four campuses in St. Joseph County that provide mental health and addiction treatment to tens of thousands of children, teens, and adults.

Oaklawn is the community mental health center for Elkhart and St. Joseph counties,” Tarman said. “We provide mental health and substance use services for 25,000 people in those two counties. After the pandemic, I think everyone experienced anxiety, depression, and substance use at some point, and it’s our job to make sure they have a place to go, a place to get answers, and a place to get help. I’ve been doing this for ten years now, and it’s a blessing to serve people in our community that are reaching out.”

During intermissions, Oaklawn explained their services and heard from former clients who are peer recovery coaches who now help people that are experiencing similar struggles.

Judges included Zach Miller, co-host of the B100 Morning Show, Ashley Martin, Executive Vice President of NIBCO INC., and Kari Tarman, Executive Director of the Foundation for Oaklawn and founder of Oaklawn’s Got Talent.

Last year’s winners, Marketo Michel and Marcus Clingaman (who perform under the name Marcus and Marketo), also had a performance during an intermission.

There were around 70 applicants, and nearly 30 auditions, all to narrow it down to 4 final contestants.

Auditions were open to anyone who lives in Elkhart or St. Joseph counties (Oaklawn’s service area).

Oaklawn says that they are already preparing for the third Oaklawn’s Got Talent, with auditions beginning in November.