Last weekend’s Old Fashioned Family Picnic, a 20th-anniversary celebration co-sponsored by the Sooke News Mirror and the District of Sooke, was a day of fun, laughter, music and more, but the heart of the event was, without a doubt, the Hannah Day Family Fun Zone.
The fun zone was named in remembrance of Hannah Day, the nine-year-old Sooke girl whose seven-year-long battle with cancer eventually took her life on Mothers’ Day this year.
“We named the kids’ area for Hannah to acknowledge her battle with cancer and to recognize all the children who are engaged in their own battles with serious illness in the community,” said Rod Sluggett, the publisher of the Sooke News Mirror.
“We asked that people bring a new, unwrapped toy to donate to the Victoria General and Vancouver Children’s hospitals, and the community response was tremendous.”
By the end of the day, the bin for toys was overflowing as people arrived with their toys to add to the growing pile.
And, at one point in the day, representatives of the Victoria Mustang Club arrived at the picnic with their own contribution.
“We saw the event advertised and our group already to our own toy runs for the Salvation Army. I thought that this sounded like something we just had to do,” said Lisa Bryce, the moderator of the club.
“It was a great feeling to be able to drop the toys in the bin. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”
Brooke Ervin, Hannah’s mother, who operates a bouncy castle business out of Sooke, generously loaned six of her largest attractions to the event. Those castles quickly captured the attention of the children and, over the course of the day, several hundred children bounced, slid down water slides, played in the ball pit and just had loads of fun on the inflatable play structures.
“It was great to be able to make the castles available for the kids. This event really showed what the community is all about. I had a lot of support for Hannah over the years and I’m glad to have been a part of giving these children some joy while collecting toys and donations for the hospitals that do such great work with sick children,” said Ervin.
In addition to the 263 toys that were collected throughout the day, many people stopped by the event’s information tent with cash donations and, at the end of the day, more than $400 was collected for the hospitals.
Mayor Tait joined with Sluggett to thank the many community members that volunteered to make the event a success.
“Peter Jonassen of the Sooke Music Festival, the Rotary Club, Councillor Al Beddows who took an active and energetic role in the event, the Rotary Club, the Harbourside Lions, the Sooke Lions Club, the Sooke Folk Music Society…and so many more,” said Sluggett. “We had volunteers who helped with the kid’s activities like painting fish and the rock painting, firefighters who were on site all day, and other municipal staff who worked really hard to make the whole day a success.”
“We want to thank everyone who helped with the event and I’m thrilled we were able to collect toys and donations for the hospitals,” said Tait.
“This event served to once again demonstrate what a great, generous community we have.”