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Penticton Ironman donates supplies after wildfires force cancellation

More than 30,000 pounds of water and Gatorade were donated across the valley

After the cancellation of this year’s Ironman in Penticton, organizers were left with the question of what to do with all of the supplies.

With wildfires ongoing and people evacuated across the Okanagan, donating supplies was the obvious move.

“I don’t have exact numbers, but I think it was roughly 30,000 pounds worth of bottled water and Gatorade that we donated, throughout the Okanagan Valley,” said Susie Ernsting, the race director for Ironman Canada.

The event was set to take place on Aug. 27, but shortly after the government announced a province-wide state of emergency and a travel advisory for the Okanagan, the event was forced to cancel for the third time in the last four years.

All of the water and Gatorade, along with shirts for volunteers and athletes, had arrived well ahead of the event and the difficulties presented by the wildfires in the region.

The closure of the Kelowna airport didn’t help, cutting travel arrangements for many of the Ironman staff who were set to arrive and run the event.

“There were only three of us on the ground,” said Ernsting. “We were fortunate enough that the team from Budget Truck Rentals had already delivered 15 box trucks, so they had a crew of drivers and we helped load the trucks and they were able to help us connect with the right community groups in order to make sure that we didn’t overwhelm any one center.”

All of the items were donated, thousands of bottles of water and Gatorade, along with shirts for people across the region.

“It’s certainly a silver lining of the whole situation that we were able to donate quite a lot to both evacuees and the first responders and all the firefighters,” said Ernsting. “We feel awful for the athletes, obviously everyone who had worked on this the last 12 months, but at least we could do a small part to help out those in need.”

The previous cancellations in 2020 and 2021 had helped prepare the team to be flexible, cancelling sooner rather than later to make it easier for athletes to start dealing with travel plans sooner, and to allow them to look to other North American events sooner instead of traveling to Penticton and finding it canceled after arriving.

Despite the cancellation, there has been an outpouring of support from the community, including the many volunteers who had been set to help out on Race Day.

“We had a lot of volunteers stop by the warehouse set up at Pen-High making sure we were okay,” said Ernsting. “We had a group help us find shipping containers and storage for equipment we could carry over til next year. It was really great to see all the people that were concerned.”

Ironman Canada is currently set to return to Penticton in 2024 through to 2027. The exact date has not been announced yet.

READ MORE: Heading home: Phased plan underway for Kelowna wildfire evacuees

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Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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