Shane Gunn and Darcy Foster hoped their 2017 Wildfire T-shirt fundraiser would generate $20,000 to $25,000 to help small volunteer fire departments that were struggling.
That was their original target.
But a year later, the project has surpassed all expectations.
“We’ve actually raised $210,000 minus expenses,” Gunn said before handing out three more $2,500 cheques to three local First Nations groups in Williams Lake on July 6.
“It’s been a good run.”
Cash donations have totalled almost $130,000 and another $62,000 in-kind donations of T-shirts and decals that organizations could use for further fundraising.
A former firefighter and search and rescue volunteer, Gunn said about two weeks into the 2017 fires, he recalled how in 2003 there was someone selling T-shirts during the Kelowna fires.
“I thought we should do that.”
Crediting businesses in 100 Mile House for helping them get the project started and eventually Schickworks in Williams Lake who took over the printing of the shirts, Gunn said they started out ordering 500 or 1,000 shirts at a time to sell.
“It was all serendipitous and not really well-thought out but in hindsight it was great,” Gunn said.
“At first we went with eight sizes and three colours, but then went with all black, and then later added pink. Then in the fall we decided to make hoodies, which was great, but we didn’t realize how big those orders would be.”
Laughing, he described needing to use his sled trailer to pick up 96 boxes of hoodies that were crammed into Schick Works.
“They took up five times the size as the T-shirts did,” he said.
One of the funnest aspects of the experience has been giving out the money and noticing how far the T-shirts have gone in the world.
“We sent them to the US, New Zealand and the UK from our online store,” Gunn said.
And he said he has received texts from people telling him they’ve seen people wearing the T-shirts on beaches in Mexico.
Foster said they are both very grateful and proud that the community supported the cause.
“During the craziness of last summers fires, the T-shirt fundraiser became this amazing symbol of community pride,” Foster said.
“It not only raised money for local fire halls and other groups in need; but it also became a badge that said, I understand and I’m with you.”
Foster and Gunn grew up next door to each other in 108 Mile House.