By Jaymie L. White
Special to the Appalachian
KIPPENS – For the last four years, the Kippens Volunteer Fire Department has held a boot drive fundraiser in aid of the Bay St. George Sick Children’s Foundation, on the last Saturday before Christmas. This year, it fell on Saturday Dec. 18 between 10:00 a.m. and 2:15 p.m.
Deidre Dunn explained why the drive is so important to the department's firefighters.
“The reason we chose the Bay St. George Sick Children’s Foundation is, two of our own firefighters, a husband-and-wife duo, were actually going through an experience themselves where they required the support of the Janeway and numerous trips to St. John’s, and we felt like we really wanted to support that cause. That’s really what triggered it."
Dunn said that there were only three members unable to attend, and 16 members took part.
“Everyone that was available, all hands were on deck because it’s something we feel strongly about. Everybody enjoys doing this fundraiser and everybody stepped up for it. It was fantastic."
Bob Miller, the foundation's treasurer, said they are extremely appreciative, especially with what they’ve faced during COVID.
“Our main fundraiser – we only do one fundraiser a year, and that’s the telethon. Because of COVID, it got shut down in 2020. We didn’t do as much planning in 2021. We did some planning, and we were shut down again. So we had no telethons the last two years,” said Miller. “The Kippens Volunteer Fire Department raised $8,830 in four hours. They are becoming our largest contributor. It’s amazing. We certainly can’t say thank you enough, not only to the volunteer fire department, but to the people who contributed.”
The Bay St. George Sick Children’s Foundation has seven volunteers who keep costs at a minimum to maximize each dollar raised for the children.
“We don’t have an office. I’m the treasurer so I have the phone, fax, computers. It’s all in my home. We keep our expenses at a minimum. All the money goes to the families here. It doesn’t go toward someone’s $100,000 a year salary. It’s being spent on the families,” said Miller. “What makes us different than all other organizations is that we only assist the families of the working person, which makes us unique. There’s no other organization in Atlantic Canada like us. If you’re on some sort of government assistance, if you have your status, there is help out there for you, but if you’re working, there’s nothing. Zero. We target the working person.”
Dunn said it makes everyone involved happy to witness the community's generosity every year.
“It’s so heartwarming. It was a fabulous experience. People were giving so freely and had such kind things to say,” said Dunn. “It really puts people in the spirit of giving and it’s a very warm and fuzzy kind of day all around, even though it wasn’t warm and fuzzy outside. The sense of pride and the feeling that we got from that day was absolutely fantastic. It’s so nice to be able to do something for the community.”
Dunn said the department may temporarily take over the street, but the intention isn’t to pressure anybody, just to give people the opportunity to contribute.
“People have given over $33,000 over the last four years, so I think we can call that a success, and people are definitely in the spirit of giving prior to Christmas,” said Dunn. “We get people on a day, the Saturday before Christmas, where most everyone is travelling to town to do something related to Christmas, so we catch people in motion at the busiest time of the year.”
Dunn said that unlike other types fundraisers, COVID wasn’t a hindrance for this drive.
“We were dealing with COVID last year and that was actually our best year,” said Dunn. “We raised over $11,000 last year, so I don’t think COVID negatively impacts our fundraiser. If anything it makes it more successful because people can finally contribute and donate to something. We’re outdoors, we wear our masks, and so it’s a safe situation for the drivers and us on the side of the road.”
But COVID has had a huge impact on the sick kids and their families.
“Unfortunately, COVID has cancelled a lot of appointments for kids who need to see the doctor. Even though we had over 300 nights of accommodation during COVID, how many kids didn’t get to doctors' appointments because appointments got cancelled? It’s only the more urgent ones who are actually going and that’s sad,” said Miller. “Every night last year we had somebody in the hospital, every single night and a few more. The need is there.”
Since Apr. 1, 2021, the Foundation has already paid for 213 nights of accommodations with three and a half months left to go in their fiscal year, and they have an average expenditure of $62,757 annually. It simply wouldn't be possible without the continued community support admitted Dunn.
“It’s absolutely fantastic that people reach deep into their pockets,” said Dunn. “The first year we really expected that we would get a couple hundred of dollars. We figured people would throw change from their coffee money into the boot, and we were astounded when the dollar bills were coming into the boots. We never anticipated it and we never expected it. We are just in awe.”