By: Korie Marshall

During the storm in late November, the Valemount Lions Club received a surprise delivery – four large boxes full of wooden toys for the community.

Last spring, local members of the Lions Club were in touch with Robert Prinse, past president of the Chilliwack Lions about a provincial project within the Lions Club – the Making Wooden Toys project. The project is to “build smiles for kids” in participating communities, and the goal this year was to give away 900 toys.

The project initiated by the Chilliwack Lions Club is to share some of the toys they made with other clubs in the province, who will in turn distribute them within their communities. Some clubs have given them to local organizations that make up hampers for families in need; others have used the toys as fundraisers, or have donated some of them to community-operated family centres and daycares. A long-term goal of the project is to recruit woodworkers to assist their local clubs in building the toys, and then “pay it forward” to other communities. The plan is that there be no cost for any community to get involved, only time. The wood work diagrams and patterns are free and in some cases wood is supplied.

Rita Rewerts, board member for the Valemount branch, says they hadn’t spoken with Prinse since the spring, and she and local president Barb Shepherd were quite surprised to get a call about the delivery. Rewerts says Lordco Auto Parts delivered the wooden toys for free for pick-up at the local store.

“Thankfully, in our case, Heidi from Lordco delivered them right to our door, after graciously holding them throughout the extreme snowfall until we could get the hall plowed out,” says Rewerts. “This partnership between non-profits and private enterprise is wonderful.”

An assortment of some of the toys and wood crafts are currently on display at the Lions Hall, while the club decides what to do with them. The Valemount club will be looking for wood workers in the community who would like to partner in the “build smiles for kids” project. The Chilliwack branch partnered with a school in their area to build the toys they sent to Valemount, and Rewerts thinks it would be a great project for the high school shop and home economics programs, if it can be arranged. The Club has a volume of wood from the removal of the late Bob Beeson’s cottonwood trees last year from in front of the hall, and this could be a perfect opportunity to use some of it.

Other BC Lions Clubs participating in the program so far are Armstrong, Campbell River, Creston, Duncan, 100 Mile House, Clearwater, Lake District, Lillooet and Langley.