Festival shines proceeds on local charities 

From the computers in the Myrtle Philip computer lab to the bricks and mortar of Millennium Place, the Festival of Lights has been shining on local charities for the past 12 years.

This year promises to be no different.

The funds raised at this year’s gala dinner at the Chateau Whistler on Saturday, Nov. 30 will go towards a portable X-ray at the Whistler Health Care Centre, called a C-Arm.

"Our event raises money for anybody that requires money as long as they meet the criteria, which fundamentally are programs that affect a broad range of individuals, and we generally buy hard goods," said local realtor Ann Chiasson.

"We want things that are going to stay in the process."

Chiasson has been involved in the event for the past 12 years. She said its roots are found in an event that was organized to raise money for the first Dandelion Day Care, which is now the Whistler Children’s Centre.

"It was such a good event that the Real Estate Association decided they would take it over as an annual give-back-to-the-community fundraiser," she said.

Originally the Festival of Lights was also a chance to encourage local businesses to decorate their shops and get into the Christmas spirit for the U.S. long weekend.

"That was the whole idea so that we were bright and lighted and looked very cozy for the U.S. holiday," she said.

That part of the event has fallen by the wayside even though the name remains.

While locals still string their lights out, nobody enters the Christmas lights contest anymore, said Chiasson.

And so, the gala dinner, where all the charitable money is raised, has become the key part of the Festival of Lights.

The major recipient usually gets about $25,000 from the festival.

Other valley charities, like WAG, the Spring Creek School, St. John Ambulance, the Whistler Scout Group, Zero Ceiling and Whistler Adaptive Ski Program, among others, will also benefit this year.

Depending on the funds raised the event usually doles out a total of $50-$60,000.

"It’s kind of the kick-off to the Christmas season," said Chiasson.

This year a jazz band called Top City will entertain guests at the black tie gala dinner.

There will be a silent auction as well as a live auction, with prizes ranging from gift baskets, dinners at local restaurants to a hot tub and a trip to Las Vegas.

The grad classes of Pemberton and Whistler will also have the chance to raise money through the coat check and a 50-50 draw for their Dry Grads.

The event, which holds 350 to 400 people, has yet to sell out but tickets are going fast.

The Festival of Lights is sponsored by the Association of Whistler Realtors and the $95 tickets are available from any real estate company in town.

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