Oak Bay firefighters will fundraise any way imaginable, from good old boxing bouts at Fight 4 The Cause, the annual tree chipping by donation after Christmas and high-end gala affairs – in the name of pouring that cash back into the community.
“Firefighters since our inception have been involved in community work,” said Greg Swan, executive director, Oak Bay Fire Fighter Charitable Foundation.
In 2012, Oak Bay joined the ranks of Victoria and Saanich fire departments that had already created charitable foundations. “Our purpose is to raise funds to give to other charities and advance education in schools,” Swan said. “Our biggest drive is to impact the kids in Oak Bay in different ways.”
Two years ago, Oak Bay Fire Fighters Charitable Foundation donated nearly $30,000 towards the purchase of a new school bus for Oak Bay High School.
This year they added $10,000 to the coffers of the Monterey Middle School parent advisory committee fund to develop an outdoor classroom.
“The work of the Oak Bay firefighters with our school community goes well beyond just fire safety, and we really appreciate the tremendous support they give to our school,” said Monterey principal Ken Evans.
“The school community of Monterey Middle has greatly benefitted from the commitment and generosity of the Oak Bay Fire Fighters’ Charitable Foundation,” he said.
“Every year they raise funds on behalf of Monterey and other schools in the community which support various initiatives that enrich our students’ experiences. Last year they went even further, hosting a special gala dinner fundraising event which brought in $10,000 toward our vision of developing an outdoor classroom to further connect our students to the natural environment as an integral part of their learning experiences at Monterey.”
Along the way the foundation offers cash donations here and there throughout the year to sports programs and other educational opportunities. “We hold an annual Christmas tree recycle in January and the money raised from that goes to typically five $500 bursaries at Oak Bay High,” Swan said, of a program whose roots reach back about two decades.
The firefighters’ philanthropy recognizes the world outside of Oak Bay boundaries as well.
They’re still involved with the other area departments through the Professional Firefighters of Greater Victoria Community Foundation that also includes firefighters from Esquimalt, Saanich, Victoria. “We’re involved with the four-core (fire departments) and the calendar,” Swan said.
That foundation pledged $250,000 over 10 years to the pediatric centre at the Victoria General Hospital and continues to make major contributions to Firefighters for Fox, British Columbia Professional Firefighters Burn Fund and the Mustard Seed food bank.
Oak Bay Fire also holds the traditional boot drive to support those with Muscular Dystrophy in May and firefighters volunteer for the annual CFAX Santas Anonymous drive. “The firefighters on their own time deliver food hampers and presents to families that are unable to pick them up,” Swan said. “We usually give Santas Anonymous a donation as well.
“It’s that inherent drive to help in the community,” Swan said. “It’s also a way for the public to see, to interact with the firefighters and meet us, understand what we’re about. But the driving force behind it is they want to help and knowing we’re in a position to help. The firefighter name does carry a bit of weight, we have the ability to raise funds, we have the public support.”
Learn more about the organization, or donate online at oakbayfirefighters.com.