Oak Bay marine rescue volunteers receive $100,000 grant

Gaming grant will help the volunteer organization bolster training, provide administrative support and aid equipment renewals

Steve Gaudet

Steve Gaudet

Oak Bay Sea Rescue received a $100,000 boost from the province last week.

The one-time community gaming grant to the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue station will help the volunteer organization bolster training, provide administrative support and aid equipment renewals.

“Our volunteers respond to about 50 emergencies on the water every year. This support from the province helps provide the excellent training and robust equipment we need to keep our crews safe and at the ready,” says Terry Calveley, Oak Bay Sea Rescue Society president.

The funding includes:

• $7,000 to the junior program, where funds will be used for supplies, equipment and operational costs for the training program for youth ages 14 to 19.

• $50,200 to the Search and Rescue Boating Safety and Education Program, where funds will be used for training volunteers, purchasing or replacing certified equipment and gear, and for ongoing operational costs.

• $42,800 in additional funding to aid in the purchase of required certified equipment and capital acquisitions, such as a new vessel.

While the organization typically applies for help toward its operating costs, close to half of this year’s grant will go toward replacing one of OBSR’s two vessels, which is nearing the end of its operational life with the search and rescue organization.

The $400,000 vessel is expected in 2018, Calveley said.

While OBSR’s boats may look like whale watching boats or others people may be familiar with, their specifications and requirements are quite specialized, she added.

Additional fundraising is in the works for the organization that also relies significantly on public donations. A campaign launch is planned for June 23, “just to show our supporters and existing donors what we do on the water and how they support that,” Calveley said.

Operational costs include the estimated $1,000 needed to outfit each search and rescue volunteer, equipment updates, on-going training and trying to have both vessels ready to go should a call come in. The organization has also received a $3,000 grant from the District of Oak Bay for much-needed radios, Calveley added.

“The more time the crews can get on the water, the better.”

Calveley also appreciates the contribution to Oak Bay’s junior program, which has since been adopted by some other search and rescue stations around the province.

The program has between three and 12 juniors involved at any given time. Each junior is assigned to a crew and while they don’t join emergency calls, they can participate in all the training, Calveley said. One junior has also become a regular member. “Youth are so engaged in the program we find they are involved in many (OBSR) activities.”

The opportunity for those youth to learn water safety skills and share them with peers is invaluable. “They walk the talk,” Calveley said.

Every year, the B.C. government approves community gaming grants distributed among specific sectors, including arts and culture, sport, environment, public safety, human and social services, parent advisory councils and district parent advisory councils.

Gaming grants also benefit food banks, hospital auxiliaries, hospice societies, wellness providers, service clubs, counselling services and organizations that assist people coping with challenging life situations, including addictions, serious injuries and disabilities.

“Since 1977, the volunteers of the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue station in Oak Bay have served their community by dedicating themselves to boat safety and saving lives,” Yamamoto said in presenting the grant. “Our government will continue to support emergency responders and the overall safety of all British Columbians.”