A Survivor-themed fundraiser raises over $500,000 for the Children’s Wish Foundation’s Nova Scotia chapter. By Don Douloff, January/February 2009
“Once you surround an event with water, everything is a challenge!” Those words, from Jenny Hasselman, programme management leader for Halifax-based downeast destination management, neatly summarize the task of organizing a Sept. 19, 2008, fundraiser for the Nova Scotia chapter of the Children’s Wish Foundation.
Heeding the client’s mandate to create the premier fundraising event of the year in Halifax, the downeast team (Hasselman, general manager Nicole Langille and Tanya Swinamer, Claudia Whitehead and Rayanne Mailman) devised a grand-scale, Survivor-type competition. Oh, and it was to take place on George’s Island, a Parks Canada property not generally accessible to the public and located in Halifax Harbour.
“George’s Island has virtually no infrastructure,” says Hasselman. “We had to bring over everything such as power, water, lighting, tenting, washrooms, food, etc., and take it all away when we were done. Plus, the dock that is in place is quite small, and couldn’t accommodate the large boats that were required to bring over participants and supplies. This involved co-ordinating one barge for boats to dock, a second barge with a very large crane on it to lift items onto the island, and a landing craft to bring over the heavy machinery needed to bring the equipment and supplies up to the top of the hill.”
One-hundred participants, comprising key Halifax businesspeople, community leaders and media divided into 10 tribes, competed in a series of Survivor-style challenges: building a team shelter out of tarps, rope and torches delivered by a Sea King helicopter; creating a fruit platter, a food challenge sponsored by the Westin Nova Scotian; performing various physical activities designed by Dartmouth Adventure Boot Camp; and answering brain-teaser questions compiled by the local Mensa chapter.
Reinforcing the Survivor theme were tikki torches, huts, bamboo and greenery, along with flags, printed with each sponsor’s logo and displayed on bamboo poles around the event-space perimeter.
All 240 people – the 100 tribe participants, 40 wish family members and 100 volunteers, staff and suppliers – feasted on a lobster supper and grooved to the East Coast sounds of Rawlins Cross. Two of the Trailer Park Boys showed up as surprise guests, while Cyril Lunney, of CTV’s Breakfast Television, provided hosting duties.
Participants raised money via pledges solicited before, during and after the event. The downeast team had hoped to net at least $100,000, to grant the wishes of the 10 children paired with the participating tribes (each wish costs about $10,000).
Ultimately, the event raised over $500,000 – Wish fulfillment of the highest order.