The Juniper kids with a passion for the BC Wildlife Park reached their lofty financial goal far sooner than they expected — and they will continue to collect, sort and deliver for the animals they love.
In April, 12-year-old Gabby and 10-year-old Dimitri, along with mom Alexandra Armstrong, were taking their empties to the depot and decided to forward the cash to the BC Wildlife Park, knowing the closed facility was facing a cash crunch.
The first donation was $33 and change.
“We felt good about it. That was awesome. Then we came home,” Alexandra told KTW.
She then noticed a post on the Juniper Neighbourhood Facebook page, from a person asking for suggestions on where to donate proceeds from their bottle run. Armstrong reached out, suggested the wildlife park and offered to pick up the bottles.
“The kids originally set a goal of $2,000 and we would drive around the neighbourhood, collecting bottles and cans and all these bags from residents in Juniper,” Armstrong said, “In about five days, they got to $2,000.”
At that point, Julie Ratcliffe, the BC Wildlife Park’s marketing and events manager, got wind of the kids’ efforts, paid them a visit and mentioned it costs about $10,000 per month to keep the animals fed.
From there, the $10,000 fundraising drive began.
As the kids collected the bottles, people also started dropping off bags of the same at the family’s home — the one with the big sign out front, urging people to drop off their bottles and cans and help the wildlife park — where the mountains of returnables were constantly being sorted between runs to the Lorne Street Bottle Depot on the Halston Connector.
Armstrong figures the family’s vehicles have made about 45 trips to and from the depot from April 23 through this week.
The donations came from all areas of the city: Aberdeen, Dufferin, Westsyde, Brocklehurst, with many bags having notes of encouragement and thanks attached.
The kids will keep collecting to help the park, but there is no new goal, knowing every dollar counts as the park reopens on June 1 under pandemic-related safety protocols.
Gabby said the endeavour has kept her and brother Dimitri busy.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “We’re out there sorting every day for a couple of hours, and then we have to do some school work here and there — ‘Mom, I need to take a break. I’m going to go do some school work.’ — and then we come back and sort.”
Gabby said “perseverance” is what comes to mind when she ponders what she has learned from the fundraising campaign.
“That, when you set a goal and you work hard for it, little by little, you will get there,” she said.
Gabby said they chose to help the BC Wildlife Park “because we basically lived there for three years when we were younger.
“To have it closed is just heartbreaking and other kids wouldn’t have the same experiences we had, interacting with the animals and — my brother’s looking at me as I speak — the train.”
Among all the animals at the east Kamloops wildlife rehabilitation facility, Gabby is partial to Thunder the Elk: “I just think it’s really cool that an animal can carry antlers that are 25 pounds each.”
Dimitri cites Thunder and Quilla the porcupine among his favourite animals at the park and said he is excited to visit once it reopens next week.
And what has Dimitri learned while collecting, sorting and delivering thousands of bottles of cans to the depot?
“That it’s a marathon, not a sprint,” he replied.