White Rock firefighters hang a banner on their firehall Wednesday to celebrate the completion of a joint effort with the Surrey Fire Fighters Charitable Society to raise $500,000 for the Peace Arch Hospital. (Aaron Hinks photo)

White Rock firefighters hang a banner on their firehall Wednesday to celebrate the completion of a joint effort with the Surrey Fire Fighters Charitable Society to raise $500,000 for the Peace Arch Hospital. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Surrey, White Rock firefighters fulfill pledge of $500K to Peace Arch Hospital

Money allocated to hospital’s mental health ward

Firefighters have always raced against time, and it appears that mindset goes beyond extinguishing fires.

The Surrey Fire Fighters Charitable Society and White Rock Fire Fighters Charitable Association finalized a $500,000 commitment to the Peace Arch Hospital this month, three years ahead of schedule.

In 2016, White Rock and Surrey firefighters made a commitment to the hospital’s mental health ward. The initial goal was to complete the fundraising effort in five-to-seven years, with seven years being the “realistic goal.”

However, on Wednesday, Surrey and White Rock firefighters raised a banner at the White Rock Fire Hall celebrating the completion of the fundraising effort, with a final installment of $110,000 being paid to Peace Arch Hospital.

Surrey charitable society vice-president Dylan Van Rooyen said the joint fundraising effort was split on a per capita basis. Surrey Fire Fighters Association’s annual Charity Golf Tournament was responsible for the lion’s share of the funds, and money collected through future golf tournaments is to be earmarked for mental health initiatives.

“Mental health is obviously very important to firefighters because we see it when we go to calls. But we’ve also had internal challenges where we’ve had to focus on mental health,” Van Rooyen said Tuesday.

The success of the golf tournament has steadily grown over the years, with a slight setback this year due to COVID-19.

“It used to be about $50,000 to $60,000 net each year. We almost broke $100,000 in 2019, this year we were a little shy. We actually managed to pull it off with COVID-19 restrictions placed in September… and we were around $85,000 this year,” Van Rooyen said.

The virus has changed how the Surrey society raises funds. Van Rooyen noted that events such as beer tastings and beer gardens, which proved to be successful in the past, aren’t possible for the time being. He said the Surrey charitable society is shifting towards online fundraising.

“We’re just trying to get the word out that, hey, you might not see us as much in the community, but we’re still here, we’re still helping, we’re still having great success.”

White Rock Fire Fighters Charitable Association director Paul Farrant said it was a honour to work with Surrey on the initiative.

“Obviously it’s close to our hearts, Peace Arch Hospital being in our community. It was a no-brainer for us, to help where we could,” Farrant said.

As a thank you for the gift, the waiting area of the hospital’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse Zone, as well as the seclusion room and quiet/consultation room, was to be named in the crews’ honour.

“As First Responders, Surrey and White Rock Fire Fighters consistently go above and beyond to protect and serve our community. In that same spirit, they have now completed an incredible $500,000 donation pledge to Peace Arch Hospital’s new ER. We are so very grateful for their generosity and their service,” said Stephanie Beck, executive director of Peace Arch Hospital Foundation.

Like Surrey, White Rock firefighters had to cancel some fundraising event this year due to COVID-19, including their annual Pancake Breakfast with Santa.

White Rock firefighters are to host a Christmas tree chip on the first Sunday in January (Jan. 3) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Centennial Arena with COVID-19 safety measures.

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