Behind the shades: Why this Vancouver woman collected 2,090 pairs of sunglasses

Vancouver author Lori-Ann Keenan hopes to set a new Guinness World Record for largest collection of sunglasses but there's more to it than that...

Lori-Ann Keenan currently has 2,090 pairs of sunglasses in her possession.

The unique collection, laid out on her West End balcony, would easily outdo that of a market vendor in Bali, Indonesia.

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Every style imaginable is there, from aviator, wayfarer, cat eye, clubmaster, rimless, Lennon-style round to oversized, novelty and sport... the list goes on.

She’s not a shopaholic. Nor does she have a love affair with stylish shades.

What Keenan does love is checking things off her extraordinary bucket list.

So far she has fulfilled 92 of her goals – her list is a combination of personal achievements, travel destinations, celebrity meet and greets, adventurous feats, caring pursuits and quirky encounters. 

“I have been making goal lists since I was young,” Keenan says. “The more you put your goals out to the universe the more things you will accomplish.”

It has already been a big year for the 52-year-old entrepreneur and author. She has crossed off meeting Richard Branson on his private island, shaking hands with Oprah and attending the glittering Oscars (not to mention the Elton John after-party.)

Richard Branson
Lori-Ann Keenan with Richard Branson and friends on his private island.

Others she has achieved over the years include flying a helicopter, floating in the Dead Sea, rappelling down a waterfall, meeting Bill Clinton, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and visiting more than 100 countries.

At the moment she is focussed on goal number 133 on her list, which is to "be in the Guinness World Book of Records." She hopes to do this by setting a new record for the world’s largest collection of sunglasses.

Keenan says she isn’t too sure where the urge to set a record came from.

“I have just wanted to do something like this my whole life and I thought, ‘Gosh, darn it, I’m going to do it,’” she told the Courier.

“I was looking through the book and I was thinking, “OK, well I can’t put 18 hotdogs in my mouth… but I could do the largest collection of sunglasses. And that’s when I started.”

Her bucket list challenge is also a feature in her new book, Things I Only Tell My Friends. The book focuses on all the lessons she has learnt in her life up until now, and encourages others to chase their dreams and take risks.

She strongly believes if you visualise your dreams enough, they will come true.

And on Saturday, June 29, her dream of setting a Guinness World Record will, hopefully, become a reality when four judges come to officiate the collection. 

More than two years and over 2,000 pairs of shades later, she is set to eclipse the current record of 1506 pairs, held by Betty Webster of Hawaii.

Each pair of sunglasses must be uniquely different from the next, to count towards the record.

There's 2090 pairs of sunglasses in the collection. - Supplied

“You wouldn’t believe how hard it is to find 2,000 pairs of sunglasses that are completely different. It’s a big job,” Keenan says.

The sunglasses, old and new, have been sourced from more than 30 countries. Some were left behind in lost and found boxes at hotels, friends donated others and some were bought at the Dollar Store.

Richard Branson even gave her a pair when she met him – she described them as “big tall alien eye sunglasses.”

But behind the shades, there’s an even bigger goal.

Once the collection is officially verified, and the record is set, it will go up for sale and the money raised will go towards helping the victims of terrorist attacks in Kalmunai city in Sri Lanka.

Kalmunai holds a special place in Keenan’s and her husband’s heart. The couple – who, until recently, owned and operated the Canadian Second Language Institute in Vancouver – adopted the city in partnership with Rose Charities in 2004, after the devastating Boxing Day tsunamis.

They have spent the past 15 years helping to rebuild the city and support its community.

A series of terrorist bombings struck churches and hotels in Sri Lanka, on April 21, killing more than 250 people. Three explosions hit Kalmunai while security forces were searching for the suspects responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks. The explosions killed 15 people.

“It was heartbreaking to hear the news of the bombings,” Keenan says.

She hopes someone will buy the entire collection for $5000.

Lori-Ann Keenan is hoping to break the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of sunglasses.

Keenan says it will be a "relief" to let the collection go, but she isn't done with her bucket list just yet.

There are still 46 goals to complete, from as doable as "write a blog on Caesar salads" to as aspirational as "meet the Queen."

Overall, she wants to inspire others to challenge themselves.  

“If something scares you a little, but excites you a lot, you are on the right path,” Keenan says.

The officiating of the world’s largest sunglass collection will take place at Dressew Supply LTD, at 337 West Hastings at 12 p.m. on Saturday, June 29.

The collection will be on display until July 1.


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