Every year, in early May, something incredible begins to happen in Red Deer.
This year, it’s even more incredible for several reasons, not the least being the amount of competition out there for charitable donations.
The failing economy and the H1N1 flu virus failed to deter hundreds of volunteers from participating in a variety of major fundraising events in the city on the weekend.
These events, which helped no less than five groups — Red Deer Hospice Society, SPCA, Medicine River Wildlife Centre, Kids Help Phone and Cancer Society — make this city and area not just another pretty place.
They are the heart and soul of a community. They allow citizens to find out they are capable of generosity, humanity and, in many cases, hope.
Thanks to the kindness of mostly ordinary people, the nonprofit groups benefited from a weekend of varied fundraising activities. Walk, run or ride events are as sure a sign of spring as those crocuses on sunny hillsides.
As we all get busy with spring and summer activities, fair weather weekends like Saturday and Sunday are precious. But there’s a large group of community volunteers who find the time and compassion to take a few hours to pay it forward.
They give something back, whether that be in the form of cash, gathering pledges for an event or helping to organize it.
This weekend I was acutely aware of fundraising in Red Deer for a special reason. For the past month, a dear friend has been a resident of the Red Deer Hospice. When she arrived there after doctors determined they could do no more for her battle with cancer, I had cause to visit the hospice.
It is a wonderful facility, a warm comfortable place not just for those who will spend their final days there, but for those who come to visit and bid farewell.
On Saturday, our friend passed away, peacefully, comfortably, surrounded by loved ones.
The next day, on Sunday, the second annual Hike for Hospice along the bright and sunny trails at Bower Ponds drew quite a few more participants than last year’s 70 people who raised $20,500. The amount raised is still being counted, but it’s sure to surpass last year. And just in case you’re thinking you’re too old to be a fundraiser participant, Sadie Lampard, 92, and Marion Hives, 79, walked in the Hike for Hospice.
As for other events on the weekend, the 12-hour indoor soccer marathon at the Collicutt was held in honour of a beloved soccer coach Dierk Rambali. Cancer took him last fall at age 41. This first-time event raised about $6,500 for the cancer society. Amidst all the other fundraisers, that’s impressive.
This year’s On The Wild Side fundraiser for the Medicine River Wildlife Centre featured CBC’s Peter Mansbridge on Saturday. The centre raised about $10,000, down from last year’s $50,000, attributed to our ailing economy. Still, it’s money in the bank. Carol Kelly, executive director for the centre, revealed to me that next year’s guest speaker is none other than the guy from Red Deer everyone knows, Hockey Night In Canada’s Ron MacLean. That’ll be a sellout for sure.
Fundraising for the new SPCA building being built as we speak is ongoing, and figures from the weekend’s silent auction aren’t in but the animal shelter still needs about another $830,000 to reach its $2.5-million target. They’ll get there.
The Kids Help phone event was as much an awareness campaign as a fundraiser on the weekend. It may be a surprise to some that Central Alberta children used the toll-free confidential help line 17,000 times last year. There was a good turnout at the event that included a family walk.
The weekend’s fundraisers are not only a sure sign of spring, they’re also a sure sign of a community with a whole lot of heart.
Mary-Ann Barr is Advocate assistant city editor. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 403-314-4332.