We wouldn’t be here today without you, our community. The support and recognition you continue to provide us is unmatched. In fact, because of you, we’re steps away from our goal to opening Phase 1 of the Okanagan Youth Recovery House! We’re grateful you choose to include us in your events and giving back. Which is why we wanted to share this story and perspective of Elizabeth Fairbanks Parker and Brian Fairbanks who host a charity event with their friends every holiday season. This year, they chose to support The Bridge.
An in-person event didn’t seem likely for Elizabeth and Brian, they even considered putting their 4th annual charity event on hold. We sat down with the couple and got the inside scoop on their perseverance and what turned out to be their most successful year yet!
Q: How do you choose the charity you support?
Elizabeth: We’re selective in who we pick, and in order to sponsor an event like this we want to make sure that what we’re choosing is well received by our friends and community. We really investigate quite a bit and ask the questions we think our friends would ask. When we spoke to a couple of our friends they were already supporting the Bridge through different projects. We felt like we really made the right choice this year because everyone was really happy with the selection of The Bridge.
Q: What made you choose to support The Bridge this year?
Elizabeth: There were some things about The Bridge that really stood out to us. Number one, it’s very professional, very well run. It’s also a cause that’s near and dear to our hearts - supporting the youth in our community because they are our future. We saw how The Bridge serves youth and then we started meeting the people involved in [the organization] and saw their incredible commitment and integrity.
Brian: We met at the Cadder Avenue house and were introduced to Kelly [Director of Fund Development]. As we’re standing in the foyer and she’s taking us through everything, we can hear laughter down the hall and around the corner. It just was a warming and welcoming sound. As we continued the tour, we found six staff members sitting and having coffee in the living room area and the mood was so uplifting and so vibrant that I couldn't help but be really impressed. These were staff who didn't know us from anything else, they were just in their work environment and how happy they were going about their jobs. When they spoke about what they did, they spoke with passion- the laughter and the lightness didn’t disappear. It’s a difficult thing they’re doing, but they do it with such commitment and that really made an impression on me. I knew we had picked the right place to be trying to support. It was a wonderful moment for me.
Q: What does your event typically look like, does it change when you incorporate different organizations?
Elizabeth: Well this year, it was quite different of course. In the past, we would contact our friends, lay out a big feast for them, play games, enjoy music, dancing, the camaraderie, and really share in the abundance of the season. This year, because of the pandemic and everyone’s real concern with taking care of eachother we thought about cancelling it. But we really didn’t want to because the need is so much higher this year than it ever has been. So we had been learning about Zoom and we decided to go ahead and try to do a Zoom party! It was really a challenge, we had to go through a few learning curves in order to do it.
Brain: We’re not particularly techy. Some of the things we wanted to do we simply didn’t find a way to do. But in the end, everything worked out!
Q: What were some of this year’s challenges going virtual?
Elizabeth: Most of our friends are in the senior group, retired as well. They weren’t all able to get on. We had some people not accept our invitation because they weren’t comfortable with Zoom. What we discovered is with seniors there are a few special problems including hearing impairment and not being able to get on technology as easily. So we learned those things about our community that put some limitations on it. But in fact, our participation was better than ever and we were able to raise more funds than ever so it was still very successful!
Q: What should people know if they’re planning a virtual fundraiser?
Elizabeth: People love prizes, so if you can somehow coordinate a pick-up later on that’s great. Find a way to be festive, but remember you’re only decorating for a screen! Get support from the charity or organization you’re supporting so they can attend as well. Make sure to have a platform where you can invite multiple people for an unlimited length of time, but keep in mind you can only see a certain amount on the screen at a time. Prepare some folders or packages with information about the charity and fundraising slips so they can easily support.
Q: If you could - would you go back to in person next year or keep trying Zoom?
Elizabeth: We’d go back to our parties, it’s just a lot of fun and our whole point is to bring people together. But in terms of success, maybe we’d choose Zoom again!
Q: Would you encourage other people to host their own fundraising events?
Elizabeth: Of course, it was so worth while. The cause is so wonderful.
Q: Say someone is thinking about hosting their own event, where’s a good place to start!?
Elizabeth: Meet with the people you’re going to fundraise for. Secure a speaker. Let the speaker know how much time they have, we gave Celine [Executive Director, The Bridge] 15 minutes because our friends wanted to have time to chat with her after as well. Then, get your list of friends together and how many you want to invite. We had to think about how many would be on the screen so everyone could see each other, and that’s where we came up with the idea of bubbles so if you get together with your bubble we could have more people on the screen. We talk about our reasons for doing it, we talk about our stories and what it is that makes this important to us and we share that with other people to say if this is important to you too, please join us!
Brian: The inspiration goes both ways. Our meeting with Kelly and the introduction we had really encouraged our participation more as team members, than someone on the outside trying to fundraise. We really felt supported and incorporated. The whole professionalism we were presented with allowed us to feel that sense of being part of something bigger than ourselves. I think that’s what carried us through to keep organizing and attempt a Zoom fundraiser!
Their commitment to The Bridge didn’t stop after the event, Elizabeth hosts online yoga classes by invitation and encourages participants to donate through The Bridge instead of providing her payment. In fact, this past year’s experience has encouraged them to get involved with the organization in other ways as well. If you have any questions for Elizabeth and Brian, please leave them in our comment section below and we’ll make sure to follow up!
Looking to host your own event in support of The Bridge? Get in touch with us so we can help make it a success! Contact Kelly Paley, Director of Community Engagement, at 250-763-0456 ext. 2224 or email email@example.com.