A 15-year fundraising tradition in Whistler is ending, at least for now.
Competing with an unprecedented number of fundraising events, organizers of Whistler’s Festival of Lights, the Association of Whistler Realtors, are cancelling the November event.
“There are so many events going on in this town that it is becoming a strain on our community,” said Barb Cofield, the chairperson for the gala dinner, dance and auction. “Everyone goes to them and it’s the same thing at every event.”
Cofield said the gala’s organizing committee is working toward a unique spring event instead.
Festival of Lights began in 1990 as a fundraiser for a local day care, raising $25,000 through a decorated Christmas tree auction. Whistler realtors adopted the festival, sponsoring home and business decorative light contests and initiating the formal gala. Over $650,000 has been raised over the years, going toward supporting local programs like the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program, Whistler Arts Council and the public library.
But Cofield said many non-profit groups have formed their own foundations and the subsequent fundraising events are proving to be too much for local residents and businesses and says the community is tired of auctions.
“There are other foundations in town that do contribute to the same small non-profits that we have supported, so these organizations do have other routes they can take (for funding).
Cofield says there needs to be continued partnering amongst non-profit organizations and foundations in order to mitigate fundraising overlaps.
“But I’m not saying the festival is over. It may come back in the spring in a different venue with a different spirit. We need to get together with some new energy and come up with something different.”