The annual Fleet Diving Unit turkey fundraiser took a slightly different form this year, but the result blew everyone out of the water.
The Canadian Navy’s deep sea divers combined to ride nearly 1,500 kilometres last Saturday – on stationary bikes situated at Langford’s Millstream Village – and brought in more than $21,000 for the Westshore Christmas Hamper Fund.
“Our goal was to raise $15,000 to put a turkey on everyone’s table,” said Lt. Walter Dubeau, the unit’s training officer and one of the organizers of the event. “We were quite amazed, because it was a really slow start for us.”
The divers garnered support from various parts of the West Shore community, from individuals to businesses. The folks from Everything Wine nearby ran a fundraiser barbecue on site, and McDonald’s operator Ken Taylor dropped in with a cheque for $1,500.
“It was definitely the West Shore pulling together,” Dubeau said.
There was a definite element of spectacle during the event. Dubeau himself clambered into a heavy diving suit and rode the bike for a while, as did a few others.
One team member even donned a diving helmet and dry suit and plunged under about 10 feet of water to ride a stationary bike submerged on the bottom of a portable 3,000-gallon dive tank trailered in for the event.
Known as the Navy Divers Turkey Run in previous years, the fundraiser was converted in 2014 when organizers couldn’t secure the support of the RCMP to run interference for runners on the roads. They did part of the run at Belmont secondary last year, but Dubeau said having all of the activities centred in one place this year made for a less scattered effort.
Gayle Ireland, president of the Westshore Christmas Hamper Fund Society, which takes over the Goldstream Food Bank space under the Royal Canadian Legion in Langford in December, said the money raised by the divers goes a long way toward rounding out the hampers for local families in need.
“It’s such a blessing to have that team of dedicated divers do what they do for us,” she said. “Without their support we couldn’t give as generously as we do.”
The donation will go toward the purchase of such things as Thrifty Foods gift cards to help families purchase items not provided in the hampers, such as turkeys. As well, they help cover the cost of Walmart gift cards for teens, and toys for younger children.
“We know there’s going to be more funds coming in (during the month of December), but this gives us a good base,” Ireland said.