Christmas Wish Breakfast collects 24 tonnes of toys

Fred Lee also features the Canucks Autism network and the Disabled Skiers Association of B.C. (photos)

TOY MOUNTAIN: The Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau’s 30th annual Christmas Wish Breakfast was the largest to date. The event initially attracted 25 guests back in 1987, but it’s grown exponentially and now attracts thousands. British Columbians from near and far convened at the Pan Pacific Hotel armed with toys and cash to make spirits brighter for children and their families. Generosity was in full display as volunteers did their best to keep up with the outpouring of love. In three short hours, the mountain of toys grew and, at its conclusion, more than 24 tonnes of toys were collected, including 650 bikes and $25,000 in cash and gift cards. A $65,000 cheque from the Vancouver Firefighters Charitable Society, London Drugs and Lloyd and Elise Campbell Foundation capped off the memorable morning for the non-profit organization, which is dedicated to taking care of thousands of families who wouldn't otherwise be able to enjoy and celebrate Christmas. “This is our biggest event of the year,” said an elated Chris Bayliss, executive director of the Lower Mainland Christmas Bureau.

BUILDING TEAM: The Canucks Autism Network’s (CAN) mission is to provide sporting and recreational programs for individuals on the autism spectrum and the Vancouver Orcas is the only team in Vancouver that provides children aged eight to 18 with autism the opportunity to play hockey. With support from CAN, coaches, staff and volunteers, the 20-member team has ice time to learn, practice and play the game. “It’s been transformative for us as a family,” says Dave Lodewyk, whose 14-year-old son Kai plays for the Orcas. “When our kids hit the ice they are welcomed, valued and supported.” Hoping to play with other teams around the province, the Orcas recently held its annual fundraiser at Mahony and Sons. Proceeds go towards the team’s wish to participate in an adapted hockey tournament in Kelowna next spring with seven other teams from across B.C. Organizers Jo Spears, Tina Ciao, and other hockey moms and dads, looked to raise $16,000 to cover the costs of travel, accommodations and fees.

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ADAPTIVE SPIRIT: In 1973, two physiotherapists set out to change conventional rehabilitation practices. Susan Hamilton and Julie Ferguson realized the benefits and potential for healing and connection within the North Shore Mountains. Their efforts led to the creation of the Disabled Skiers Association of B.C., now more commonly known as B.C. Adaptive Snowsports. Dedicated to enhance the quality of life for children, youth and adults with physical and cognitive disabilities by providing opportunities to experience the health and wellness benefits of adaptive snow sports, the organization hosted its annual Black Diamond Gala at the Westin Bayshore. Led by committee members Jade Hume, Johnny Lyall, Kasey Nishimura, Tim Orr, Alex Orr and Donovan Tildesley, the event attracted 300 supporters and snow enthusiasts to the dinner and auction. Radio personality “Bro” Jake Edwards assumed the emcee duties while yours truly orchestrated the auction. An avalanche of support came in, resulting in more than $100,000 raised for the registered charity. In addition to the night of fundraising, the gala also paid tribute to Dick Taylor, one of the pioneers of the adaptive sport movement. An avid skier, the Kamloops native decided back in 2007 to make Sun Peaks Mountain Resort accessible for all. It would spark other ski resorts around B.C. to establish similar programs.

Hear Fred Mondays 8:20am on CBC Radio’s The Early Edition AM690 and 88.1FM; Email: yvrflee@hotmail.com; Twitter: @FredAboutTown

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