The Troutsmen have a busy weekend coming up. On Saturday night they're helping to facilitate "La Illuminacion Fashion Show" at the GLC, which will raise funds for the WAG animal shelter. On Sunday night they're donating auction items and supporting a fundraiser for earthquake-stricken Japan at the Hilton Resort and Spa. On Tuesday night, Mar. 29, they're facilitating another fundraiser for Japan at Sushi Village, creating a VIP area in the back with live DJs providing entertainment.
It's a lot to take on, some of it with very little notice, but the Troutsmen were relaxed and at ease when I sat down with them on Sunday afternoon. Very leisurely in fact, which is fitting for a non-profit society that is officially registered as the Troutsmen International Club of Leisure. There are now chapters in Vernon and Mt. Baker, which makes the group international.
To date the society has helped to raise roughly $21,000 for various causes, including sending 12 low income Whistler kids to summer camp and cash donations to the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program. By the end of this weekend their total will be closing in on $30,000 with both the fashion show and Japan fundraiser expected to sell out. If you're keeping score, they've passed out around 10,000 cheeseburgers at their barbecue social events.
The club meets at midnight every third Saturday of the month. It's men only, as implied by the name. And while there's no moustache requirement, sporting leisurely facial hair "shows total commitment" and can help secure an invite to join the Troutsmen's inner circle.
They have hundreds of friends and supporters, but the number of actual Troutsmen is small - about 25 in Whistler, roughly 15 in Vernon and another small group at Mt. Baker.
And how exactly does one join the Troutsmen? You have to be invited.
"It's more about attitude and presence," says Myles Ricketts.
"It's showing up at events and showing interest," adds current president Sheldon Steckman.
"It's about showing that you're going to be dedicated, before you're in it and dedicated," put in Cam Archer. "It's a full commitment."
Most of all it's about being leisurely. It didn't start out as a charitable organization but rather as a group of friends hosting fun, social events that brought together different social circles. At one of their self-funded cheeseburger picnics the group asked people to bring a donation to the Food Bank, which is when the Troutsmen had their Zeitgeist moment: they could have fun AND raise money for worthy causes. It wasn't long after that when the society discovered that they could leverage sponsorship and partnerships to create bigger events and raise more money. If someone hosts an event - like the fashion show - they make it a Troutsmen event by bringing the entertainment and the people.
They are not the Lions Club or Rotary, which are comprised of business leaders and established members of the community, and which raise tens of thousands of dollars for charities. They are the "other guys," throwing events for younger people that don't have as much money.
"Everybody has something to contribute," says Ricketts. "As long as they have heart and want to have fun, anybody can come out.
"Everything helps. Not everybody can contribute a lot, but a can of beans is still something."
That's why the group emphasizes events over fundraisers; events bring out people and create opportunities for raising money without asking for donations.
"The goal is to make it fun for people - they come out, have a good night and support something at the same time. It's social development, it's social collateral and it's fun."
Steckman says the group is getting positive feedback from both the Lions and Rotary for their approach, and he even attended a Rotary meeting to get a feel for the club. They've borrowed a few things from the Rotary for their own meetings, including a system where members can be fined. Some of the fineable offences include talking over others, not being "leisurely" and falling asleep at meetings - something that happens when you meet at midnight on Saturday night.
Rich Glass, the club's secretary, says the goal is to grow.
"We want to get bigger, host bigger events, do more in the community," he says. "We already support a lot of events, but ideally we'd like to have at least one event every month," says Glass. The Troutsmen are already building relationships with stakeholders like the Resort Municipality of Whistler, the RCMP, Whistler Blackcomb and others, which in turn is creating more opportunities.
"We have the whole Whistler Olympic Plaza in the summer, which I can see us using to host bigger things that reach the entire community," he adds.
Some of the events already hosted by the Troutsmen include a street hockey tournament, which will return in May, regular cheeseburger picnics, poker night, the Valentine's Day Troutsmen Ball, a "Lawn Leisure Day" at Rainbow Park with a slip'n'slide, bocce and other events, their Fall Classic and annual general meeting, and more. One of their longest-running events is their MOLF tournament, which is short for "Multilevel Golf." The one-day tournament features nine holes of pitch and putt in Pemberton, 18 holes of wiffle golf, 18 holes of mini-putt and 18 holes of disk golf.
Although they can get behind anything, the Troutsmen try to focus on local events.
"When we pick events, we're looking for things that are local and leisurely, things in Sea to Sky that bring enjoyment to the people here," says Steckman. "For example, sending locals kids to camp where they can enjoy recreational activity. Or the Whistler Adaptive Sport Program, which is all about bringing recreation to people with disabilities."
The Troutsmen will also answer the call in other situations. For example, their involvement in the fashion show and WAG fundraiser was in response to the story of dog culling by a local dogsled operator, and the Troutsmen's desire to do something positive for dogs to counteract all the negative publicity that Whistler has received. As for Japan, a number of Troutsmen work at local sushi restaurants and list Sushi Village as a core sponsor, along with Black's Pub and Moguls.
For more information:
Troutsmen on the web: www.troutsmen.org
Troutsmen on Facebook: Look up "Friends of the Troutsmen"
Troutsmen on Twitter: @Troutsmen
La Illuminacion Fashion Show
What: A fashion show by Zombie Love creators Angela Cooney and Lara Cooney, produced by Andrea Cooney. Following the show there will be a live performance by Small Town DJs.
When: Saturday, Mar. 26, from 8:30 p.m.
Where: The GLC
Tickets: $20 for the fashion show and after-party with Small Town DJs. All proceeds go to WAG.
Japan Relief Community Fundraisers
What: Whistler's sushi restaurants and Teppan Village are coming together to host a fundraiser with a flea market, raffle, life music, live painting and more.
When & Where: Sunday, Mar. 27. Flea market is 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Myrtle Philip. The main event is from 7 p.m. onwards at the Hilton Resort and Spa.
Tickets: Minimum $10 donation at the door, all proceeds going towards relief organizations working in Japan.
Sushi Village Japan Earthquake Fundraiser
What: VIP lounge at Sushi Village with live music.
When and Where: Tuesday, Mar. 29 at 9 p.m., Sushi Village.
Tickets: $50 including dinner, all proceeds going towards relief organizations working in Japan. This event is limited to 70 people and is selling fast. Call Sushi Village at 604-932-3330 to book your spot.