Jubilation surrounded the Tofino Resort and Marina last week as the beneficiaries of Brendan Morrison’s Saltwater Classic gathered to receive their donation cheques and celebrate each other’s committed community efforts.
The Classic hosted its 10th annual successful showing last month and has well-established itself as a colossal source of funding for a variety or local organizations, passing the $500,000 mark for dollars raised last year.
This year’s event netted $84,000, which was distributed to 19 grateful organizations that received their cheques at a ceremony held on Aug. 20.
“I think the whole event from planning, through fruition, to this cheque distribution ceremony has such an amazing community feel to it. All of the people that were represented here today are doing great work in our community and it’s just a good feeling to be able to help support them,” Saltwater Classic spokesperson Lynda Kaye told the Westerly News at the event.
“They represent a fair cross-section of who we are as a community: involved, energetic, volunteer-minded and appreciative of the things that we all come together collectively to do for the good of the community.”
She said the event’s giving nature, with all proceeds donated back into the community, is a product of its founder Brendan Morrison’s love for the community.
“It has everything to do with Brendan,” Kaye said of the former NHL star who frequently visited Tofino in his youth and purchased property in the town roughly 13 years ago.
“He’s always wanted to find a way to give back in some way. It’s his vision for this event and he has put his heart and soul into it every year since we started. I think, in general, you’ll find that NHL players and former NHL players are super fundraising-minded and this was he and [his wife] Erin’s way to do something positive for the community that they really love so much.”
One of this year’s beneficiaries was the Tofino General Hospital Foundation and foundation chair Arlene McGinnis told the Westerly she is perpetually inspired by Morrison’s contributions.
“There’s so much support for our small community from Brendan Morrison; I just can’t say enough about that man. He does so much for our community,” she said.
“He’s not contributing to one group of people, he’s contributing to many and that’s important. It brings people together and it’s just wonderful…When we meet down here and everybody sees who is receiving these donations from the Saltwater Classic it forms a partnership with everybody. It’s just really heartwarming.”
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Samantha Hackett of the Westcoast Multiplex Society said the Classic’s support makes a huge difference in terms of the society’s abilities to lobby for its proposed ice-rink and pool facility on the West Coast.
“We’re going after $18 million, so we need this money to keep us going and keep the dream alive,” she said adding Brendan and Erin’s support shows their commitment to the town. “It’s so encouraging. They care so much. It’s more than just a fun weekend for them, it is about the contribution to the community and making sure that their money is widespread through different organizations and we really appreciate being one of those.”
Elizabeth Yuhasz of Tofino’s Community Children’s Centre was ecstatic to be celebrating the Classic’s generosity with so many other local groups.
“Today was awesome because it was so wonderful to see so many different organizations all in one place that are getting support from such a wonderful volunteer-run event,” she said. “It was exciting being able to see everyone able to come together and benefit from such an amazing opportunity for all our families, our community members, our children that are growing up here and really making their life here.”
Yuhasz said she has lived in Tofino for 10 years and watched the town’s growth lead to a growing need for local support.
“Knowing that there are community members who want to support you and the community you’re working for and living in is such an empowering, wonderful feeling,” she said. “It just makes me really proud to be a part of the [Classic] and also the community living here.”
The Classic has been a longstanding supporter of the Tofino Rec. Commission’s Kids Access Fund, which provides financial support for local youth to participate in recreational programs. Speaking on behalf of the commission, municipal councillor Tom Stere said support from fundraisers like the Classic is “critical” to keeping Tofino’s health humming.
“There are limited ways for us to raise funds, so this is an important source of funding for many of the small community groups that it supports and, without it, they wouldn’t be able to deliver a lot of the programs that they’re able to do,” he said. “[Brendan’s] a super nice guy, great with kids and his continued support of this community does not go unnoticed”.
The dates for next year’s Tofino Saltwater Classic will be announced in January.