The Bluebird Day Fund (BDF) was created in memory of Sun Peaks’ local snowboarder Bryn Taylor, who tragically passed away in November of 2006. Bryn was a talented and passionate snowboarder with deep connections in the Sun Peaks community. His friends and family wanted to commemorate this and make a difference in Bryn’s name, so the BDF was started that same year to support the development of youth snowboarders and skiers at Sun Peaks resort.
Now, eight years later, BDF has firmly planted itself in the Sun Peaks community offering three different programs and holding numerous events throughout the year. I called BDF’s marketing director, Ben Morris, to chat about the past, present and future of the fund going into the new ski and snowboard season. Ben was a friend of Bryn’s and has been volunteering with BDF for roughly four years now. Read the full interview below to learn more about BDF and how you can help out.
Has BDF always been based out of Sun Peaks?
Yes, we’ve always had our main following up at Sun Peaks. We’ve had a few events in Kamloops over the years tied in with Oronge Boardshop. Kent Theissen owns Oronge Boardshop and is a (BDF) board member as well. We used to host things like rail jams and movie premiers in Kamloops, but for the most part everything we do now is based out of Sun Peaks. We hold most of our events here as well as our day programs that we provide for the kids are all at Sun Peaks.
Is your sponsorship program based at Sun Peaks or is it all over?
We’re talking about providing a different sponsorship program for kids once they have graduated through the program because we really only go up to about age 15 or 16 and then after that the kids are kind of on their own. We’ve really talked about how we can support them further as they are trying to progress on their own. So we do have one program, which is a reimbursement of $300 per person, per year. That’s based on travel expenses or registration for events, whatever expenses they might have for their events.
Who can apply for the reimbursement?
Anybody can apply for it, but we only take so many applications. I believe we have about half a dozen grants we can offer at this time. If there are more applications than grants, we go with the best argument for receiving a grant.
What’s the deal with the “Giver Balls” stickers?
The Giver Balls sticker was based on a handshake that Bryn would do. If you see the sticker closely, it’s a hand overtop of a fist. When people used to pound fists, Bryn would always grab your hand. It was kind of his thing and if he had a tag line it would be giver balls. That was just kind of his thing and his style of living, so the two just went naturally together. I personally didn’t design the logo for that one, but I did develop the new logo that we have now. The Bluebird logo is actually in the final stages of getting trademarked, so we are excited about that.
How has BDF changed from the beginning until now?
I think it’s really grown. Most of the locals up at Sun Peaks, and everyone that is old enough to come to the events have really supported it, which has kind of lit a fire underneath the board members to keep on top of everything. We are at a point now where we don’t want to grow anymore, but just solidify everything that we have currently and make everything the best we can while slowly supporting more kids. We’ve had a few board members come and go all on good terms and for the most part it’s been a really great experience.
BDF received Not for Profit Society status in 2010. What needed to change in order for that to happen?
You basically go through the application process with the government, we talked about going for charity status, but that was a little more involved and in-depth than where we are at. We are able to provide a lot back to the community without having to go into full charity status mode. I wasn’t personally involved in the application process, but it was difficult and I believe it took a little while.
You mentioned some of the programs already, but what kind of programs does BDF run?
We have two programs that are really directed at the kids. One of them is our Bluebird Park Sessions, which is our terrain park training held at Sun Peaks throughout the winter from about January to March. There is about half a dozen kids who get one or two coaches, who are usually certified and working through the resort. The kids are well recognized on the mountain wearing their BDF hockey jerseys and travelling in a pack. They are working on dry land summer training as well, so there is more of an even flow coaching throughout the year.
The other program that we have is our Sports Mentorship program in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kamloops. We’re basically trying to provide sports mentors for their program, but our angle is that it will be up at Sun Peaks. The kids that want to try skiing or snowboarding will be paired with a BDF mentor for six days throughout the winter. Most of the mentors stay in touch with the kids and hang out all year round. We’re actually calling out for as many mentors as we can get. Our park sessions is pretty limited to the 12-15 year old range for kids that have a pass and are experienced with terrain parks, but the sports mentorship program is more open to age and skill range.
Another thing we have done is getting a “Please Don’t Drink and Drive” sign put up at Sun Peaks. That was really big for us and really establishes the board’s identity in the community. It’s such a good message and good spot on the hill. If we can stop one person from driving drunk, it’s a big plus. The other program we already talked about is the Expense Reimbursement program. These programs are what we are able to give back. For a time we did provide a lot of park equipment up at Sun Peaks, but they don’t really need our help anymore.
Are your programs all snowboard oriented?
Not necessarily, with the mentorship program it can be ski or snowboard. With the park sessions it seems that mostly snowboarders have entered the program, but it’s not closed to skiers. Our mandate is totally open to both. In any of our branding we try to steer away from making it one or the other.
How important are volunteers to BDF?
They are such a huge part of everything. It’s all volunteer based, so the board members are one thing with meetings and coordinating events, they are devoted year round. We have a really strong following of locals up at Sun Peaks who are always there and willing to help out with events, it never seems to be a problem to find hands. It goes to show just how much people support it. We talked about it this year in our general meeting that we need to take it a step further in recognizing our volunteers, so we are in the works of developing a recognition program for our special volunteers who are always there for us. They work really hard and help pull it all together for us.
How does someone become a volunteer with BDF?
If anyone is interested, they just need to get ahold of us through the website. We have callouts when we do need extra help, so if they are a member of the Giver Balls Facebook group they are called out all of the time before events happen. They have a lot of notice if they want to be a part of the program.
Do you have any current need for volunteers?
Yeah, we could always use people on the list we could get in contact with at a moments notice. Anyone can get in contact with us through the website and get their name on the members list.
What about for the new mentorship program?
If anyone wants to get in contact with us for that they can also go through the website on our programs page and there is a link directly to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kamloops website, which is where you will end up applying because you have to go through their application process since it involves record checks. Ultimately you want to apply through them, but you can contact us and we will put you in touch with the right people.
Can you tell me about some of the upcoming events for this year?
The next event is November 8 at Masa’s Bar and Grill and it is the Seventh Annual Fall Ball. Tickets are $40 and the only way you can get those is through the link on our website. It’s a prom theme this year; we’re going to have Speakerbox and DJ SL playing live. It’s always a highlight of the year for everyone because we get to dress up, hangout, and see a lot of people we haven’t seen over the summer.
Is it the Banked Slalom after that?
That’s correct and that date is yet to be announced. It is usually towards the end of March.
The Banked Slalom has been growing quite a bit over the years hasn’t it?
It did really good last year, I think it set the record for most attendees and was really well divided between skiers and snowboarders. It turned out really good. The weather was good, the snow held up, and people were really into it.
Do you want to say thanks to anyone for supporting BDF?
The entire BDF board would love to thank and hug everybody that has helped us out over the year with time, finances, volunteering, it’s really added up to an amazing program and we couldn’t have done it without everybody’s help. We hope to keep getting bigger and better, spreading the word, and getting more people involved.
Anyone interested in volunteering or wanting to learn more about BDF can check out their new website here!