Vernon wheelchair curler and three-time Paralympics gold medalist Sonja Gaudet addresses the crowd Wednesday at Turtle Mountain Winery as she is named the Community Foundation of North Okanagan's Smart and Caring Community Champion.

Vernon wheelchair curler and three-time Paralympics gold medalist Sonja Gaudet addresses the crowd Wednesday at Turtle Mountain Winery as she is named the Community Foundation of North Okanagan's Smart and Caring Community Champion.

Foundation launches $3 million fundraising campaign

Community Foundation of North Okanagan establishes three-year goal

Thanks to the Community Foundation of North Okanagan (CFNO), Vernon wheelchair curler Sonja Gaudet can enjoy a post-game beverage at the Vernon Curling Club.

When Gaudet and fellow Canadian Paralympic gold medalist Ina Forrest of Spallumcheen started wheelchair curling, they were unable to go upstairs at the local club and enjoy a drink or socialize with other curlers because there was no way to get up to the club’s second floor for the wheelchair athletes.

Thanks to a donation from CFNO, an elevator was installed at the club.

Gaudet relayed that story Wednesday night at Turtle Mountain Winery as she was named the first CFNO Smart and Caring Community Champion, as CFNO launched its plan to raise $3 million over the next three years.

“When you remove physical and attitudinal barriers, people with disabilities really have an opportunity to shine,” said Gaudet. “In 2007, with help from (CFNO director) Herb Wong and Scott Kyllo, curling club manager at time, the community foundation supported an elevator at the club which created a welcoming atmosphere for anybody with a disability when we entered the building.”

Backed by the slogans Your Community Needs You and 17 x 17, the CFNO’s campaign objectives are to increase the toal value of endowments from the current level of $14 million to $17 million by 2017 (hence 17 x 17).

It also plans to focus attention on the Smart and Caring Community Fund, an endowment which charitable organizations in the North Okanagan apply annually to fund projects to enhance the quality of life in the communities.

“This is a historic moment in the growth of our community foundation,” said outgoing board president Michael Tindall. “Everyone involved is excited by both the challenge and the potential return to the community.”

The foundation named former director and MLA Tom Christensen as honourary chair for the Smart and Caring Community Fund.

“To take on this role is a no-brainer,” said Christensen. “I believe deeply in what the foundation does; to raise funds that create a legacy that covers everything in our community, so many different elements, whether its sports, young children, seniors, community halls.

“The range of organizations the foundation supports is the essence of community. I’m very honoured to be asked to be the honourary chair.”

Longtime foundation donor George Galbraith of Vernon was not at the campaign launch but it was announced by CFNO fund development/donor relations director Leanne Hammond that Galbraith has pledged $50,000 in matching funds for eligible gifts to the Smart and Caring Community Fund.

Founded in 1975 as the Vernon Foundation, CFNO’s service has expanded to the entire North Okanagan.

Its endowment base has grown substantially over the past 10 years, and there are now 150 separate endowments from which annual distributions are directed to a number of local charities.