It was a brisk, windy weekend as 15 firefighters from the Williams Lake Fire Department took to the roof of Canadian Tire for the inaugural Williams Lake Firefighter Rooftop Campout.
Williams Lake firefighter Braden Fournier, who organized the event, said their goal was to raise $7,500 over the course of the weekend.
He said thanks to the generosity of community members from Williams Lake they were able to raise $8,452.10, exceeding their goal.
“I feel very, very proud of the community and, quite honestly, very overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity. I can’t wait to see what this event can do in the future,” Fournier said.
The rooftop campout is a fundraiser in support of those impacted by muscular dystrophy (MD). At the campout firefighters spent 24 hours in cold temperatures to raise money and awareness about MD and the fight to prevent it.
Around 40 people gathered in front of Canadian Tire off South Lakeside Drive Saturday to see the firefighters off, including other members of the WLFD, fellow firefighters from neighbouring departments like the Wildwood Volunteer Fire Department, friends and family and local government representatives. All remained respectfully quiet as the WLFD and their guest speakers said a few words.
Assistant fire chief Trevor Schick emceed the opening ceremonies and said as former head of MD fundraising within the department, fundraising for MD has been one of the most important things to him ever since he first became a firefighter 15 years ago.
“The partnership between firefighters and MD Canada, as well as the ongoing support from B.C. communities such as Williams Lake, has allowed MD Canada to improve the quality of life for thousands of Canadians impacted by neuromuscular disorders,” Schick said.
The work MD Canada does is wide and varied and has allowed those who live with neuromuscular diseases to live longer and more fulfilling lives. Schick said their goal is to continue to increase their investment into innovative research to accelerate the development of treatments and one day, a cure.
Firefighters and MD Canada have had a 65-year partnership raising funds in the amount of $85 million for the organization, Schick said.
Williams Lake itself, meanwhile, over the years has helped firefighters raise over $300,000 since 1990, something that received a wide round of applause at the ceremonies.
Fire chief Erick Peterson said that he is always amazed by the community’s generosity and their support for their fundraisers. As fire chief, however, Peterson wanted to take a moment to thank the men and women of the WLFD, both those ascending the ladder and those there to support them.
“On days like today, I’m particularly proud because you are volunteers. You are a group of volunteers who work in our community and just make it better,” Peterson said.
While they all have regular day jobs, Peterson said his team are the type to volunteer no matter what the task, be it leaving in the middle of a family dinner to fight a fire or volunteer to camp out on a roof for 24 hours for MD.
Peterson said he’s sorry he couldn’t be up there with them but remarked with a chuckle, he wasn’t that sorry.
Mayor Walt Cobb spoke briefly and thanked both the community for supporting the event and the firefighters for organizing it.
MP Todd Doherty was also in attendance and took the mic to thank the firefighters and their fellow first responders for all the sacrifices they make in their daily lives. A healthy community is key to a happy and safe community, Doherty said, which is why he was honoured to be attending an event such as this.
“Both my wife and I grew up here in Williams Lake and we know that when trouble comes, or when challenges approach us, we just need to look to our neighbours for health and assistance and (the WLFD) epitomizes that every day,” Doherty said.
After donating to the event Doherty pledged that, should the event occur again next year, he’ll be willing to campout himself with the firefighters next year for the full evening.
Community member Dave Maitland, who has had MD since he was 30, was also invited to share his story. Maitland talked about the challenges he’d faced but how he could always rely on the WLFD to support him any way he needed.
He thanked all the firefighters, across Canada, who take time out of their lives to fundraise for MD Canada to support people like him.
Around 50,000 people across Canada, Maitland said, have a neuromuscular disorder so this cause is an important one. Maitland wants people to remember that, until 30, he had a normal life but what really hurts about this condition is seeing children born with it who have to struggle with it from day one.
That support from MD Canada and communities like Williams Lake are all the more important to them, he said.
“I just want to say that quite often I’m an advocate for accessibility and awareness for inclusion throughout the community, for example, ramps and elevators, but today I’m glad there isn’t an elevator or a ramp going up to the roof of Canadian Tire,” Maitland joked. “That’s the first time I think I’ve ever said that.”
After the opening ceremony concluded, the 15 firefighters and some visitors including Doherty and Cobb ascended up to the roof which was equipped with several tents, one for cooking, one for sleeping, a TV to watch the hockey game later and a portable toilet.
By Sunday morning, participants were all in good spirits after spending the evening on the rooftop.
Schick, meanwhile, thanked the event’s sponsors including Canadian Tire owner Brad O’Neil, the Williams Lake Tribune, Sugar Cane Archaeology, Johnson Meir Insurance, United Floors, Dawson Road Maintenance, the Realm of Toys, Lakecity Denture Clinic, Interior Properties, Scotiabank of Williams Lake, the Williams Lake and District Credit Union, United Concrete, RE/MAX Realty, Silver Tip Lodge Heli-Skiing, Oliver and Company, OK Tire, Williams Lake Optometry, Brandt Tractor, Do More Promotional, Schickworks Signs & Stitches, Rona, Mr. Mikes, Tim Hortons, Mainline Roofing, Gordon Septic Services, Compact Rentals, the GOAT Radio Station, Woodland Tinnitus & Hearing Clinic, Dodge, Cariboo GM, Laketown Furnishing, WalkRite Shoes, the Sandman Inn, Gibraltar Mines and Dr. Dickens Dental.