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Philanthropist hits the trail with cash infusion

George Galbraith is donating $150,000 to the rail trail and matching up to another $150,000
George Galbraith holds his 16-month-old granddaughter Olive as he walks the Okanagan Rail Trail with his four-year-old grandson Oscar and supporters of the trail Monday. (Jennifer Smith/Morning Star)

As a typical kid growing up in the Okanagan, George Galbraith spent summers splashing in Kalamalka Lake and exploring the world around him.

“I played along the rail tracks,” said the 72-year-old.

Based on those experiences, the Vernon philanthropist provided significant support for the Okanagan Rail Trail Monday — a donation of $150,000 and he will also match up to a further $150,000 based on donations made by June 30.

The initial $150,000 is dedicated to his family, including his grandparents — the Galbraiths who depended on rail to stock shelves in their Vernon store and the Ewers who needed rail to ship fruit from their Westbank orchard to market.

“My parents, Harold and Lillian Galbraith, similarly worked in the Okanagan and contributed greatly to the community. It is an honour to donate to the Okanagan Rail Trail in their memory,” he said.

As for the matching dollars, it’s a formula Galbraith has used over 20 years to support other fundraising efforts, including the tower at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

“It appeals to the public. They can say, ‘If I’m putting in $20, I know someone else will give $20. It gets directly to their sense of fairness,” said Galbraith, who brought cable TV to the valley in the 1970s.

The first matching money came from Galbraith’s four-year-old grandson Oscar — a toonie.

“Way to go buddy,” said Galbraith as the $2 was handed over.

The Okanagan Rail Trail Initiative is currently $4 million towards its $7.8 million goal to develop the 49.5-kilometre rail trail from Coldstream to Kelowna.

“It’s unbelievable what we can do when we work together,” said Leanne Hammond, with the Community Foundation of North Okanagan, which is working with the ORTI and the Central Okanagan Community Foundation to collect funds.

Galbraith is encouraging all Vernon, Coldstream, Lake Country and Kelowna residents, and particularly those with deep roots, to get involved.

“If you go around the world and look at trails, you can’t find one like this, it’s very unique,” said Galbraith.

“This opportunity only comes along every generation or two. It’s a great opportunity for Okanagan residents to show what this means to their community and the generations ahead.”

For more information on the campaign, go to

Four-year-old Oscar Galbraith gives Leanne Hammond and Brad Clements a toonie towards the Okanagan Rail Trail to kick off his grandfather George’s (left) pledge to donate up to $150,000 in matching funds between now and June 30. (Jennifer Smith/Morning Star)