Lakecity students create Dollars for Koalas fundraiser to repay service of Australian firefighters

An example of the stickers and buttons being created for Dollars for Koalas. (Patrick Davies photo-Williams Lake Tribune)
Jaco Sharkey (from left) works with AJ Snider Cherie Dube to make stickers and buttons for Dollars for Koalas. (Patrick Davies photo-Williams Lake Tribune)
Leadership student AJ Snider (from left) along with her friends and fellow Grade 12 students Cherie Dube and Jacob Sharkey is heading the Dollars for Koalas fundraiser at Lake City Secondary Williams Lake Campus. (Patrick Davies photo-Williams Lake Tribune)
Leadership student AJ Snider (from left) along with her friends and fellow Grade 12 students Cherie Dube and Jacob Sharkey is heading the Dollars for Koalas fundraiser at Lake City Secondary Williams Lake Campus. (Patrick Davies photo-Williams Lake Tribune)
AJ Snider holds out a freshly minted button made for the Dollars for Koalas fundraiser. (Patrick Davies photo-Williams Lake Tribune)
Jaco Sharkey (from left) works with AJ Snider Cherie Dube to make stickers and buttons for Dollars for Koalas. (Patrick Davies photo-Williams Lake Tribune)

At Lake City Secondary Williams Lake Campus a group of volunteer students, on their own time, led by members of Student Leadership are organizing their very own Australian wildfire relief fundraiser.

Wildfires hold a special place in the psyches of those lakecity residents who were present during the fires of 2017 and the subsequent evacuations. In addition to making people much more cautious in case of future disaster, it has also made many able to better empathize with the victims of fires across the world. The fires that have most caught the attention of the world in recent months, however, are the wild bushfires burning across Austalia.

These fires were what inspired and fuels the Dollars for Koalas fundraiser that is currently being set up at the WL Campus to run from Jan. 13 to Jan. 17. Driven by student activism and organized largely by students, this idea came out of the Student Leadership Class shortly after returning from Christmas break.

Read More: Williams Lake businesswoman launches T-shirt fundraiser for fire-ravaged Australia

The lead organizer of this fundraiser is Grade 12 Student AJ Snider who said she came up with the idea when discussing politics and current events in leadership class earlier this month. During this discussion, someone brought up the Australian fires and all the fundraisers going around, such as Still North Design Co.’s own local effort, and Snider figured that they should try to engage the school in some way and do a fundraiser themselves.

“With the 2017 Wildfires, Australia actually sent firefighters to Canada to help with that and so I like to think we should really thank them really hard. They helped us out a lot with that,” Snider said.

The name Dollars for Koalas was suggested and Snider said they went from there, choosing to make and sell stickers and buttons with a koala design on them. She admitted they did try to incorporate other animals impacted by these fires but were unable to come up with other catchy names.

Much of the design work for the buttons and stickers came from Snider’s fellow volunteer and Grade 12 student Jacob Sharkey. He too got involved with Dollars for Koalas due to his wildfire experience, though his involvement was more hands-on than most.

“I’ve been a wildland firefighter for two years now. So two years ago when the fires hit and they were horrible here, I was actually working with a lot of Australians and New Zealanders so I just kind of want to help them out and return the favour they gave to us,” Sharkey said.

Together with around a dozen others, Sharkey and Snider have been making buttons and stickers through the school’s vinyl class, with the two of them using their own time to cut out and finish each item. Laura Ulrich, the vinyl class teacher, has been supporting them with the materials and equipment, Snider said.

“This wouldn’t have been able to happen without Ms Ulrich and her abilities, generous heart and time. A big thanks to her and all the people who are helping us with this,” Sharkey said.

Snider said she plans to sell the stickers for $2 and the button for $5 during lunch next week with the excess items being sent to Columneetza or even some local businesses, though she said that part has yet to be figured out as there are supply problems with expanding out outside of the high school. She hopes to raise $1,500 at the minimum from this fundraiser and feels that their school is capable of doing so.

Read More: Australian firefighters bring experience to the B.C. wildfire battle

“One hundred per cent of what we make is going to Australia. The school is going to help us out by taking the money and sending it off, preferably I want to find a charity that will help with something specific,” Snider said.

While she hasn’t yet selected a charity she said she’ll be looking for those who cover veterinarian needs of injured animals like koalas, insurance costs for those who have lost their homes or lives and any other group that will be directly helping those impacted by the fire. Once that selection has been made, all proceeds will be donated to said organization.

Sharkey suggested that members of the broader lakecity community who’d like to contribute to Dollars for Koalas could do so by donating to the vinyl class and give them more resources to work with.

When asked why he feels Williams Lake should donate to this or other causes, Sharkey said he sees it as simple decency and repaying a debt. Two years ago when lakecity homes were threatened, Australians helped ensure the community could return to unburnt and intact structures and he sees this as just a small way to say thank you.

“When we were burning, we had somewhere to go. We had a bunch of cities and provinces who were willing to help out and send people or take us in. We had a lot of resources we could go to but Australia is an island, they don’t have that opportunity, that entire continent is suffering severely. We were one little section of the province versus an entire continent, it’s insane how much they’ve lost,” Snider said. “Even when we donate a little bit, it makes all the difference.”

The bushfires in Australia have come as a result of extreme drought and record high temperatures and have consumed roughly 10-million hectares or 100,000 sq km. For context, the Province of British Columbia is 944,735 sq km.

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