Submitted photo While dressing up is not mandatory for the big night out, this group of friends went all out at last year’s Big Night Out event. This year’s event will take place Feb. 10.

Big Brothers Big Sisters WL grateful for community support following wildfires

Big Night Out next fundraising event, set for Feb. 10

Big Brothers Big Sisters Williams Lake is still here and they are going strong into 2018.

That’s the main message Big Brothers Big Sisters has following the summer’s wildfires, which forced them to cancel their 25th annual ­— and last -—Tour de Cariboo.

“We went away from the fires, we came back and we were devastated because it was our 25th Tour de Cariboo and we knew it wasn’t possible,” said Melissa Newberry, executive director of the local Big Brothers Big Sisters branch.

“That for us is a lifeblood in terms of money. It supports all our programs,” she said.

The local branch is self-sustaining — all of the money used to support their programs and staff comes from grants and fundraising, and Newberry said the Tour de Cariboo is their biggest fundraiser of the year.

While the loss of the 76-kilometre bicycle event had the potential to be devastating, Newberry said that the response from the community has been heartwarming.

“It’s been overwhelming in terms of generosity,” she said.

Since the wildfires, the branch has received donations from the Royal Bank of Canada, the Williams Lake Stampede, the Red Cross, a Mount Polley bonspiel, a Mr. Mike’s Deeds Well Done campaign and “significant personal donations from people who may have written to us or may have had an association,” said Newberry, who also thanks MLA Donna Barnett for her support. Laureen Carruthers also donated a portion of the funds raised from her wildfire calendars to the organization. Newberry said the Christmas Cheer fund was also very well supported.

“All these donations add up and make a difference,” she said.

Newberry extends a large thank you to everyone who has helped, including anyone she may have missed mentioning.

The organization is on a roll again, with their latest event set to happen just next week.

On Feb. 10, Big Brothers Big Sisters will be hosting their third annual Big Night Out event.

“It’s prom for adults,” said Newberry. “Some people have told us it is like going to a wedding without all the speeches.”

While dressing up is not mandatory, attendees are welcome to rent dresses or tuxes from Glass Slipper for $40, with proceeds going to this year’s grads who may not be able to afford their own gowns and prom attire.

Tickets to the event, which this year has an enchanted forest theme, are $30 and are available at the Big Brothers Williams Lake office or by messaging them via their Big Night Out 2018 Facebook page.

Tolko, as the previous sponsor for the Tour de Cariboo, is sponsoring the event which will include delicious food, live music, a wine pull, prizes, a silent auction and more.

The organization is also well on it’s way to planning other fundraisers for 2018, including the annual Bowl for Kids’ Sake, which will take place April 6 and 7 . The theme, this year, will be the Wild Wild West.

The team has also decided to present the Tour de Cariboo for its final trip down the Likely Road.

“It’s closure, it’s not hanging there undone,” said Newberry of the decision to run the Tour de Cariboo for it’s final (for real this time) year.

“A lot of people have said they’ve thought about it, it was on their bucket list.”

As the average lifespan of a fundraising event is five years according to Newberry, she said it’s nice to have a last go and the team at Big Brothers Big Sisters has big plans for future fundraisers.

Still, she said, the support from the community has been crucial in getting up and running since the summer.

“It makes us feel valuable and worthwhile and that people recognize the work that we do is significant in our community,” she said.

“Going into 2018 we are feeling really positive. We are going to do the Tour again, we got through the difficulty of the fires, we had a lot of support and we are all feeling really positive.”

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