Summer is off to a strong start for a long list of Sea to Sky-based organizations.
The Whistler Blackcomb Foundation (WBF) announced earlier this month it has awarded more than $430,000 in charitable grants to 18 wide-ranging community initiatives across the corridor.
It marks the second spring since WBF returned to its usual schedule of twice-yearly grant application intake periods—open to local non-profits each April and October—in 2022, after two years of pandemic-induced schedule interruptions.
“The Foundation is committed to helping organizations that benefit residents of the Sea to Sky Corridor. It is truly rewarding to get back to our normal funding cycles and disburse these funds to some amazing local non-profits,” WBF executive director Mei Madden explained in a release.
The largest grant in this round goes to Lil’wat Nation’s Xet’olacw Community School in Mount Currie. The school received $75,000 to fund a “much-needed” playground update for local families. “The playground upgrade will not only provide a safe and vibrant space for the school’s K-7 students but will also provide safe places for all of the Nation’s families and their visitors,” the WBF stated in the release. “This will be a recreational space that the community can be proud of.”
The foundation has also directed more than $100,000 to Sea to Sky fire crews. A grant of just over $53,700 will help the Whistler Professional Firefighters Association pay for an AutoPulse CPR Device, intended to help first responders fill a gap in patients’ pre-hospital care, according to the release. Pemberton Fire Rescue, meanwhile, received nearly $49,000 to enhance the department’s off-road wildfire response capabilities. The funds will allow Pemberton Fire Rescue to completely retrofit and revitalize one of its fire engines—a crucial piece of equipment for a town that lies within wildland urban interface risk class 1, the highest wildfire risk class in B.C.
The Whistler Mountain Ski Club is celebrating a $45,000 grant to fund the completion of its Timing Hut project, while the Howe Sound Women’s Centre welcomed $30,000 to support two new programs: a Counselling Assistance Program that aims to provide clinical counselling subsidies to violence survivors in need of support; and a Practicum Student Program that will allow HSWC to support more children, youth and families experiencing violence through its existing services.
The WBF also matched donations Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS) gathered during its food bank fundraising campaign, to the tune of $25,000. There’s no question that grant will be put to good use: WCSS recorded its busiest day in food bank history on June 5, when it served 84 households in the span of just three hours. As Pique recently reported, Whistler’s food bank tallied 13,633 visits in 2022, representing a 36-per-cent increase over the last four years. Pre-pandemic, the food bank typically counted about 2,500 visits a year.
Anyone who’s ever spent a night lost in the backcountry will appreciate WBF’s $23,000 grant to the Whistler Search and Rescue Society to fund the purchase of five night-vision helmets, specially designed to support after-dark helicopter rescue operations.
Squamish schools also made the list of WBF grant recipients this spring, with nearly $19,000 directed to Valleycliffe Elementary School to support a playground makeover project, and $17,000 to Howe Sound Secondary School to help furnish its revitalized courtyard.
Since its inception in 1992, the WBF has raised close to $20 million for registered Sea to Sky charities. The bulk of WBF’s funding now stems from its Founders Pass sales: the program permanently doubled last year, bringing the number of $10,000 VIP ski passes available each year from 50 to 100. That expansion means WBF Founders Passes now yield $1 million in annual funding for Sea to Sky communities. WBF opted to direct the $500,000 generated by the 50 new passes in 2022 to the Whistler 360 Health Collaborative Society, which opened a new primary care clinic space in March.
WBF’s other fundraising vehicles include its annual Telus Winter Classic charity ski weekend and gala—which this year raised more than $400,000—and the upcoming Telus Golf Classic, set to take place this year on Friday, Sept. 8. The foundation also saw a significant influx of capital in the last year from the sale of used Creekside Gondola cabins, Red and Fitzsimmons chairs that Whistler Blackcomb donated ahead of those lifts’ replacements, plus last month’s auction of historic ski-run signs.