One of Tofino’s largest and longest running local fundraisers is ready to celebrate its 13th year of luring philanthropic fishers to town.
Brendan Morrison’s Tofino Saltwater Classic will run from July 7-9.
“I didn’t know what to expect when we started it. I knew Tofino was an unbelievable community that supported all their local initiatives wholeheartedly and that’s exactly what’s happened here,” Morrison told the Westerly News. “Through people who fish in the event to people who donate items or their time and space and volunteers, it really is a community event…If you want to have an impact on a child’s life and you want to come out and have a good time, this is the event to be at.”
The former Canucks star founded the event to express his love for the West Coast after speaking with Wickaninnish Community School’s then-principal Brad Dusseault about the broad need of funding for local programs.
“We were chatting about doing something to raise funds for the community and more specifically the school and we just kind of came up with the derby,” he said. “We took it and ran with it and we’ve had a great team of volunteers from day one that get energized and excited every year we have it.”
The event has since taken off, raising over $725,000 for local programs and initiatives and boasting a diverse roster of beneficiaries that includes Wickaninnish Community School, Tofino Salmon Enhancement Society, Raincoast Education Society and the Tofino Volunteer Fire Department.
“Every penny we raise stays right in the town, so that’s super cool,” he said. “We can cover a lot of different areas and we’re on the cusp of hitting $1 million dollars, which is something that was probably unfathomable when we started this,” Morrison said. “A lot of cool things have happened over the years and we’ve got some pretty neat things on the horizon as well.”
He explained that his love for Tofino has been growing since his childhood when his parents would bring him for frequent and cherished visits.
“Tofino has always been a special place for me. Some of my earliest childhood memories are from MacKenzie Beach, having beach fires and running around Ocean Village,” he said. “Fast forward 25-30 years, I started to have kids and I spent almost all of my summer in Tofino with my family and my kids and they were becoming friends with some of the kids in the community. I just love the community and being able to have an impact on some grassroots programs.”
He said he’s particularly proud of the impact the Saltwater Classic has had on local youth as a key contributor to the Community School’s hot lunch program as well as helping children from low-income families participate in recreation programs and Raincoast Education Society experiences.
“I’ve always been an advocate that if you’re ever in the position to help other people, it’s your obligation. You should be doing that and helping out,” he said.
As part of the annual derby, Morrison has invited local youth to a community ball hockey game at the school and this year’s game is set for July 7 at 10 a.m.
“It’s another great way to connect with the kids,” he said. “It just has that community feel and, for me, it kind of takes me back to when I was a kid. I spent hours and hours in the cul de sac in front of my house working on my game. That’s what I grew up loving to do and to be able to do it now with kids is a lot of fun.”
He added that Tofino offers the perfect setting for the derby as great fishing combines with a welcoming community vibe to create the perfect lure for returning anglers and newcomers.
“It’s good fishing. I’d put Tofino up against pretty much any place on the coast. It’s such a large area to fish. You’re not pigeonholed into one or two spots, you have miles and miles of coastline. You can fish inshore, you can fish offshore and with the diversity of species of fish it’s a world class fishery, no question,” he said.
“We have a real, solid base of returning anglers, there’s a couple guys that have been there for all 13 years which is amazing, but we are still getting that fresh blood every year, which is important to keep the excitement and the energy of the event up.”
More information about the event and how to register can be found at https://www.tofinosaltwaterclassic.com.
“My family and I are extremely proud of what the Tofino Saltwater Classic has accomplished so far, and we are looking forward to welcoming supporters to this year’s event,” Morrison said through a statement announcing this year’s derby. “Our fundraiser is one hundred percent focused on helping the community. Every dollar we raise goes back to supporting initiatives that improve the health and wellness of the Tofino residents with emphasis on youth programs.”