At the end of the holiday season, islanders may find themselves with extra returnable bottles and cans and may be looking for a way to give back to the community.
Chris Joynson and Bob Delion from Gulf Islands Families Together Society (GIFTs) are collecting donations from bottle returns to go towards sending a group of islanders to the annual Operation Trackshoes event in Victoria in June.
“It’s a sporting event for people with special abilities that happens once per year at the University of Victoria campus. Participants go for three days,” Delion said. “There’s a certain cost to each participant, and what we try to do is raise money to defray those costs.”
The pair started collecting bottles and raising money in 2013 when Joynson was trying to save money for a trip to Disneyland. After the trip, they realized they could continue with the fundraising, but needed a cause to which they could donate.
“We gained a bit of momentum with different people around and we got the money to go. We decided to keep doing it and give it to a charity, and Christopher thought of Operation Trackshoes,” Delion said.
They have been going to the event every year since.
Joynson is known around town for helping out at the fire department, who donate his admission and transportation costs. However, other members of the community also attend the event every year and the bottle donations help cut down on some of the costs. People from all over B.C. attend the UVic campus to compete in track and field events and get to know each other in a fun setting. In addition to the sporting events, the weekend includes a live band, karaoke, communal meals and a dance.
“If there’s 10 people and we raise $1,000, they each get $100 discount off what they have to pay,” Delion said.
Joynson’s main athletic event is swimming, and he trains every week for both this competition and for the Special Olympics. However, he also loves the atmosphere of the weekend and getting to socialize with all sorts of other people.
“I like the food there. Karaoke is fun too. I love singing Tom Petty stuff,” he said. “I’m excited for this year.”
So far the pair have raised around $500. Most of the money comes when people donate their recycling refunds to the Operation Trackshoes account at the Return It depot. Delion also helps those who can’t make it to the depot by picking up their recycling, though the preferred way is for people to make donations at the depot.
“I wanted to ask people to keep it on their mind and put it on our account when they bring in bottles,” Delion said. “They can call us [at GIFTS] to get in touch with me too.”
“I like being helpful,” Joynson added.