Bob Saunders is working the room like the veteran networker that he is.
On this night, the showroom at his family’s Saunders Subaru dealership in Colwood hosts a veritable who’s who of participants and volunteers in amateur sports, school and community groups. The occasion is the presentation of cheques to more than two dozen of those groups from the Saunders Family Foundation.
Saunders is anxious to introduce Naomi Walser, a Cowichan Valley-based B.C. Lacrosse Association development coach who is expanding the sport for girls in the public school system.
It’s lesser-known programs like Walser’s that the foundation enjoys helping out, groups in which those involved are often too busy coaching or volunteering in other ways to raise funds.
Dave Saunders, the former Colwood mayor and a foundation board member along with siblings Edie and Ruth and his parents, Bob and Norma, is getting pretty good at putting people together as well.
That networking skill has helped the foundation turn the money it raises – such as the $49,000 brought in at this year’s fundraiser golf tournament – into far more value for the groups they help directly and indirectly.
“We’re able to leverage $49,000 into what I think is about $500,000 over two years,” Dave said. “It’s the synergies and the connection of individuals that escalate that to a bigger amount every year. The monetary amount is different than the in-kind amount, which is why we host this event; so people can link and get those synergies going.”
The golf tournament money, as well as the ongoing donations dropped off by community members, pushed the cumulative total raised to nearly $250,000 in the foundation’s six years of existence.
Not only has the money helped out sports groups from Belmont football and Strawberry Vale fastball to Juan de Fuca girls hockey, and music and performing arts groups from most of the West Shore’s middle and high schools, it has helped get two significant programs off the ground locally.
The Comfy Car program offers free vehicle use for families whose children are undergoing cancer treatment, while Wounded Warriors helps provide supports for veterans suffering from the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, among other things. Partnerships created and contacts made through the foundation have enhanced those programs for their beneficiaries, Dave said.
“We always get approached to help, this was just formalizing that help,” he said of the creation of the foundation. “It’s so neat to be able to see and give back to the community in a different way, rather than just monetary. Now you’re actually making an impact at several different levels.”
As well as presenting cheques to more than two dozen community, amateur sport and school-based groups Wednesday, Dave Saunders announced that two large tool chests and $500 worth of tools would be presented to graduating students from the Esquimalt High automotive service technician program.
He was later approached by a representative from Belmont secondary asking if there might be a way that automotive students at their school might participate in a similar program.
The synergistic wheels were probably already turning on that one by the end of the week.