Photo by Chung Chow
What started out as an offer of a helping hand, has snowballed into an overwhelming display of community generosity the likes of which grandmother Luella Cook hasn’t seen before.
This story really started in 2015, when Diefenbaker Elementary School began saving for a new playground to replace the decades-old wooden one that’s withered and cracked and now poses a safety hazard for children.
After countless bake sales, movie nights, spring fairs and even a walkathon, the efforts have fallen short of the fundraising goal. Even a modest new playground costs tens of thousands of dollars.
Seeing the disappointed faces of so many moms and dads prompted the retired Cook, a self-admitted insomniac, to offer to organize a fundraiser for the school her grandchildren attend.
Working alongside Diefenbaker’s parent advisory committee, including co-chair Emi Dyck, and fueled by leads from the community, she simply reached out for donations through emails and phone calls, or visited businesses in person.
“They were unbelievably generous,” Cook said. “It’s overwhelming actually how supportive everybody’s been.”
But she was simply blown away by the incredible gesture by Rick Ilich from Townline Homes.
“He decided that he would match whatever was raised,” she said, adding that she confirmed that there’s no cap to the amount Ilich is willing to match.
That’s served as an amazing motivator for the Diefenbaker school community, she said.
“I’m humbled by the generosity by businesses and individuals and realtors and developers.”
With modern-day parents so busy, and spending so much time on social media and their smart phones, Cook was struck with inspiration about how to go about this fundraiser.
“I thought, let’s capitalize on this. Let’s do something different and novel,” Cook told The Richmond Sentinel.
She’s now organized an online auction through charity auction site eflea.ca (tinyurl.com/diefenbaker2017). It will feature more than 160 items when bidding begins at 10 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 6. To bid, participants first need to register on the website.
Donations can still be accepted until the day before the auction goes live. To make a donation, e-mail email@example.com
Donations of all sorts and sizes have come in so far, some items worth $15 and others over $1,000. Everything from hair cuts, newspaper advertising space, and vacation accommodations in Hawaii to green fees, fitness passes to the Richmond Olympic Oval, car detailing, restaurant gift cards and artwork.
Cook doesn’t know how much money will be raised.
But she is certain that this event has demonstrated how generous people are when it comes to the plight of schools with outdated equipment.
“The response has been blowing me out of the water,” Cook said. “Most people identify with children and playgrounds. They’ve had to do the fundraising themselves, and they also know there’s no money coming from the board.”