Community Stories

Turning a house into a home: Mara House transformation a wish come - true for at-risk youth

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Last spring, Tolko helped sponsor the North Okanagan Youth and Family Services Society’s (NOYFSS) Fitness for Families Hockey Challenge fundraiser. The two-day Vernon-based event included silent and live auctions and raised more than $38,000 to support programs and projects for at-risk children, youth and families in the North Okanagan. During the fun-filled hockey challenge, more than 100 young aspiring players – including eight children representing Tolko – had the chance to play hockey with current and former NHL stars.

When Dean Francks, director of business and fund development at NOYFSS approached Tolko again in the summer requesting a product donation for their Mara House project in Vernon, Tolko was happy to help. Originally constructed in 1939 as a church, the building needed extensive remodeling to allow for its transformation into an eight-bedroom residential facility for children ages 6 to16 with severe behavioural problems. The refurbishment began in February 2014 and moved along at a dizzying pace.

With only nine months between start and finish, the final touches were wrapped up just a few days before the grand opening celebration on Oct. 2, 2014. Tolko is proud to have helped make this house a home that helps children in our community.

Don Willson helps kids curl to new heights

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Don Willson, finishing end superintendent, loves helping kids reach their full potential. He volunteers his time coaching the juniors at the Merritt Curling Club every Monday. Don believes curling is a wonderful sport that allows kids from 8 to17 years old to participate in a team sport and learn new skills while still having fun. He has been coaching for the last three years and really enjoys getting out on the ice with the kids.

Helping celebrate Canada Day

Every year, as part of Kelowna’s Canada Day celebrations, Tolko’s Kelowna division donates the use of their barge for the fireworks show. Having the fireworks out on the water supports a great visual show and is safer for spectators.

Supporting pedestrian safety in our communities

From Dec. 8 to 15, Tolko, the Insurance Corporation of BC and local Coldstream B.C. super mom Cheryl Dowler partnered on a Pedestrian Safety campaign for school kids across Coldstream District. During the week, children at local areas elementary schools (Kalamalka Secondary, Lavington Elementary, Coldstream Elementary, and Kidston Elementary), were provided with information on pedestrian safety, reflectors, and a walk-safe presentation. In all, 2,500 reflectors were provided by Tolko for distribution to students in our community.

Tolko helps Easter Seals Camp Winfield get a million-dollar makeover

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In what was arguably one of the best-kept secrets of the year, people and organizations from across the Okanagan joined forces to surprise Easter Seals BC with an extreme makeover for Camp Winfield which is located in a peaceful wooded setting just outside Kelowna.

Bright and early on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2014, more than 275 volunteers dressed in bright yellow and orange T-shirts, marched down to the Easter Seals Camp Winfield in Lake Country. The camp, which has been in use for many years, was in desperate need of a little TLC. With hammers, saws and paint bushes in hand, volunteers were on a mission to repair and renovate as many of the camp’s structures and buildings as they could in a single day!

The planning for the extreme makeover had been in the works for more than a year, but was kept secret from the Easter Seals organization until the day of the event. Stephen Miller, President and CEO of Easter Seals BC and the Lions Society only learned of the project that Saturday morning.

“It was a complete surprise to me,” he says, laughing. “When they asked me to keep the weekend open, I didn’t realize why. I was totally blown away to see all of these people and sponsors come together like this to help support our camp.”

One of 135 companies that supplied product, materials and/or equipment for the makeover, Tolko donated lumber and plywood product which was used to build the amphitheatre and picnic tables, replace dilapidated wheel chair ramps, sheet the ceiling in the BBQ structure, and repair the walls of the cabins.

The army of volunteers included Tolko’s own Brett VanderHoek, HR advisor, Training and Development, Carmelo Scarpino, senior systems development analyst in IT (VO), and Darryl Sharp with Okanagan Woodlands.

For Brett, the most thrilling part was getting up early to ride the secret shuttle to join the other 275-or-so volunteers for the march down the hill and into the camp while the president of Easter Seals was flown overhead to witness their entrance. “There was so much excitement and anticipation in the air,” says Brett. “Seeing the Tolko logo on the back of each volunteer’s shirt and all that Tolko product sitting there was amazing. When the final secret project was revealed – a memorial garden for those young campers who won’t be returning next year – everyone pretty much lost it. It was truly a special day.”

Carmelo became involved in the event through his wife’s company, Sierra Landscaping. He says, “Before arriving at the staging area, I was unaware of just how many people were involved. It was wonderful to see so many volunteers working towards a common goal. It was absolutely inspiring.”

Darryl, an Extreme Makeover committee member, was astounded by the enthusiasm and support from everyone involved. “It was great to see how everybody jumped on board so quickly and how well the volunteers worked together,” he says. “It didn’t matter what the job was, everybody just wanted to help out. I feel so privileged to have been a part of the organizing committee and involved in this project.”
The event was the brainchild of Armstrong B.C. resident Rob Ellis, owner of Rellish Transport Services, who began planning the surprise event a year ago. “Thank you Tolko! Your donation of materials was way above and beyond, and honestly the majority of work that was completed included your materials,” he says. “You helped us fulfill the dreams of the thousands of kids who will visit this camp for a long timeto come.”

Stephen says, “We’re so grateful to Tolko for their very generous donation and support of Camp Winfield’s Extreme Makeover Day. Tolko truly demonstrates exemplary corporate giving and is a shining example of what a difference a community can make when they put their hearts and minds into making a difference. The real beneficiaries will be the children with physical and developmental disabilities who attend Camp Winfield every year.”

Camp Winfield is one of three Easter Seals Camps in BC. Each year, they provide summer camping experiences for more than 900 children and teens with mental and/or physical disabilities throughout the province. For more information on Easter Seals BC’s Camp Winfield, please visit the Easter Seals website.