Rolling with the punches

Community COVID-19 Featured

When it comes to fundraising amid a worldwide health pandemic, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pictou County decided to just “roll” with it.

The agency’s major fundraiser, Bowl for Kids Sake, had been scheduled for early April but had to be cancelled due to COVID-19 and the public health measures that were put in place to protect against its spread.

“We were at a bit of an advantage when COVID hit because most of the planning had already been done, sponsors had been secured and people had been contacted,” said executive director Margie Grant-Walsh

When they realized they could not have a gathering of the size that turns out for the annual bowling fundraiser, Grant-Walsh said the agency had to make a decision.

“If we postponed until the fall we felt there would be a lot of other events taking place and we didn’t know what the crowd limits would be.”

So, the group decided to “roll on” with the bowling fundraiser — but in another format.

A virtual platform was used to engage local residents, have fun and raise money for a good cause.

Grant-Walsh estimates that 65-70 teams had signed up to participate in the Superbowl Saturday event pre-COVID. “We were pretty well on target to reach our goal which was 100 teams.”

Of those teams that had registered to bowl in person, many of them participated in the virtual event.

“Our original goal was to raise $65,000 and after COVID hit I said I’d be thrilled with $25,000,” Grant-Walsh said. As of Monday, just after the schools challenge was held on Friday, more than $32,000 was raised with more financial support being expected to “roll” in.

“We’re very pleased,” Grant-Walsh said.

She praised the staff at Scotiabank in Stellarton who volunteered their time to stay at work after closing for a number of days to collect the pledges and pledge sheets.

The school challenge, which involved 12 teams, took in a little over $2,500.

“We normally come in around $10,000 so certainly a drop in revenue, however, we are very pleased as we were able to engage many people on social media about the event, having children and youth post videos, dress up and have fun.”

She said considering it is tough trying to get kids to sit and complete school work, the kids’ portion of the fundraiser was a success.

“I love these young role models setting the precedent for other young people. Joshua Anderson raised over $700 and Lilly MacDonald over $500,” she lauded.

Grant-Walsh is thrilled with success of the fundraiser in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t think that would have happened in any other community,” she said. “I really believe that Pictou County is unique. I’ve travelled across the country with Big Brothers Big Sisters and I’ve seen the support they have at different agencies, and there’s just something about Pictou County that people really value and believe in what we do. And I think right now people are starting to realize even moreso how important mentoring is. Because now we have kids who have not been in school, they have not seen their friends … there’s isolation, depression, mental health issues. And these are some of the things that mentoring addresses.”

Grant-Walsh is humbled by the support. “I can’t adequately express our gratitude enough; the people of Pictou County still amaze me!”

Margie Grant-Walsh, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Pictou County, checks out the virtual bowling event held in place of the annual Bowl for Kids Sake.