Vernon’s Historic O’Keefe Ranch needs community support to stay afloat due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A fundraiser was launched Aug. 1 as supporters can donate to specific aspects of the historical site. (O’Keefe Ranch photo)

North Okanagan ranch needs support to stay afloat

Founded in 1867, a fundraiser has been launched for the Historic O’Keefe Ranch

Two world wars, the Great Depression and the Spanish flu – these challenges and more have been weathered by the Historic O’Keefe Ranch over its history of more than 150 years.

Now, the ranch north of Swan Lake in Vernon needs community support to keep going.

The ranch got off to a much later start to its opening season, has been without its school program and has suffered from the lack of international tourism amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

While revenues from these normally reliable sources have dried up, the ranch still has animals to feed, heritage buildings to maintain and history to preserve.

“We need the community support to keep us going so that we’re around next year and for future generations,” said Tim Gibson of O’Keefe Ranch. “That’s the reality.”

To that end, the Fill the Steer fundraiser been launched with a goal of raising $250,000 to keep the ranch afloat. Supporters can donate in person at the ranch, by phone or online.

Those who contribute online will receive a gift basket in return.

Supporters can also choose to donate to a specific cause, such as sponsoring an animal or their favourite O’Keefe heritage building, or simply contribute to the general fund.

“We’re not only preserving heritage which was instrumental in the development of the North Okanagan, but we’re preserving stories about what happened during the Gold Rush years and the introduction to cattle and ranching in the area,” Gibson said.

“There’s a lot to hold onto.”

Since launching the Fill the Steer fundraiser at the beginning of August, Gibson said he’s been heartened by the support given so far.

“Online we’ve seen a pretty decent response already,” Gibson said. “There’s still a long way to go, but I’m encouraged.”

For more information, visit the Historic O’Keefe Ranch website.

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