Donations will go a long way for five local organizations splitting a record-setting amount of money raised by loyal Kamloops This Week readers.
The annual KTW Christmas Cheer Fund has surpassed the $93,000 mark, which is unprecedented in the six years this newspaper has hosted the fund, adopting the cause after its original home, the Kamloops Daily News, closed in January of 2014.
This year’s total will be divvied between New Beginnings Stroke Recovery, Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association, Chris Rose Therapy Centre for Autism, Kamloops Brain Injury Association and the Y Women’s Emergency Shelter.
The funds are going to myriad programs and resources and come at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted operations for many organizations — making this past year’s record all the more impressive.
For New Beginnings, the money will be instrumental, president Lorna Friess said.
The funds will enable the group to acquire much needed equipment to help with its exercises and physical therapy, and they are also looking for help with speech therapy.
“This will have a huge impact in many ways for our members,” Friess said. “It is also important to note that all the money donated to our group stays in Kamloops.”
Michele Walker, who manages the local Y Women’s Shelter, said the Cheer funds will help them be more flexible in meeting the needs of their clients, noting that during the pandemic the organization has seen new needs arise and old ones become more prevalent.
“It lets us be nimble and respond to the needs better,” Walker said. “When you have a fairly narrow budget, you’re not always able to respond to people’s needs in the same way.”
There was a greater need for relocation and storage costs in 2020 for the organization and providing technology such as laptops and cell phones, given how important the online world became amidst the pandemic, was a new need, Walker told KTW.
David Johnson, executive director of the Kamloops Brain Injury Association, said the Cheer funds will provide financial stability, allowing the group to focus on helping people, rather than simply paying the rent.
“One of the biggest things that these funds do right now is give us hope and stability. Covid is hurting the economy and non-profits rely on donations,” Johnson said.
“To see the people of Kamloops giving so generously, especially when things are financially tight, gives us hope that we are going to pull through this time together.”
Johnson also thanked the community for donating unrestricted funds — a sign of trust to know their clients needs and how to serve them.
Jenn Mehr, office assistant with the Chris Rose Therapy Centre for Autism, said the funds will be put toward the centre’s integrated physical program (IPP), which focusses on assisting their students with integrating their sensory systems.
“For many individuals with autism spectrum disorder, it is often very difficult to focus and to not be overwhelmed by sensory input,” Mehr said. “We help our children learn to cope with that input and be able to focus on what is important.”
A variety of yoga and breathing techniques are used in the IPP, and the centre’s goal is to maintain two staff in the program at all times for more one-to-one to ensure each child is getting the programming they need, Mehr said.
The Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association (KTRA) plans to spend their share of the money on their horses.
On average, one horse costs the association approximately $4,000 per year to feed and maintain — excluding any unexpected veterinary bills, KTRA executive director Ashley Sudds told KTW.
“A therapy horse is the most important asset to any therapeutic riding program,” Sudds said. “Not just any horse can be a therapy horse. Our horses bear more than just the weight of the rider on their back. They also carry the struggles, the joy, the fear and the triumph of their riders as they overcome hurdles in the arena and in their everyday life.”