Bragging rights were on the line on Saturday, September 22 as the United Way of northern British Columbia held their second annual fire truck pull in Fort St. John.
The fundraising event to launch the 2012 United Way Campaign pitted firefighters against police officers and energy sector companies against each other in a bit of friendly competition that brought in $25,000 for initiatives such as an outreach program with the Fort St. John Women’s Resource Society, an early learning program in Dawson Creek and a seniors transportation program in Fort Nelson.
“Today was an amazing success,” said Niki Hedges, United Way’s community development and campaign officer for northeast B.C.
“Last year, we did really well and the atmosphere down here was just electric,” she continued. “But this year, it just increased, and the spirit of the different teams here was phenomenal.”
The first fire truck pull brought in $8,000, an amount that was more than tripled this year thanks in part to the new participation of Progress Energy, who raised the most money of all teams with $7,700, and the continued support of Shell Canada, who had two regional teams that contributed over $14,400 collectively.
“I think it’s key,” said Rej Tetrault, operations manager for Shell’s Groundbirch operation in the Montney tight gas play, discussing the importance of that friendly competition between the energy sector companies, as well as within his own organization.
“We all have a bit of a competitive spirit,” he added. “And if you can leverage that competitive spirit to help raise money for great charities, for the United Way, than let’s go. Let’s do that.”
Tetrault’s team was not the best Shell had to offer that day, as the other Shell team won the competition by pulling the 31,000 pound fire truck the necessary distance in just 14.7 seconds.
Second place went to the Fort St. John Fire Department, who completed the task in just over 15 seconds.
The RCMP team came in just behind the firefighters.
“It’s great, especially for us with the police,” said firefighter and team captain Craig Faulkner.
“We always see them on scene and deal with them like that,” he continued. “And away from the job, it’s nice to have a relationship, especially when it’s friendly competition. Last year they ended up beating us. So, this year, it was our goal to make sure we beat the cops.
“That friendly competition is always good for an event.”
The Spectra Energy team, led by world-class speed skater Jay Morrison, failed to live up to expectations and finished with a disappointing time of about 22 seconds.
“My sport isn’t specifically tailored to the fire truck pull, necessarily, but I feel like there is some crossover in strength,” Morrison joked.
Luckily, Spectra was able to redeem themselves by taking home the prize for most spirited team.
“I’m always happy to support fun events that raise money for a good cause,” said Morrison.
“Fort St. John’s a really good community,” he continued, contemplating the ten teams who took part in the event and the tremendous crowd that came out to watch the competition. “We’re a young community, a growing community, and people are vibrant. And the community is vibrant because of it. I think people are willing to participate in a lot of the things that we have going on. And there is a lot going on in the community.”
“I think it’s great when the community gets out and supports United Way,” added Morrison’s Spectra colleague Rod Locke.
Of course, the true goal of the event wasn’t winning the race, but supporting a good cause.
“At the end of the day, everybody’s down here for United Way Northern BC,” said Hedges. “And we’re raising really important funds that will be invested into the community. Really crucial funds that go into programs and services where there is a critical need and where we will help to impact the most amount of people.”
Hedges is hoping to bring the fire truck pull to other northeast B.C. communities from Tumbler Ridge to Fort Nelson, a dream that the oil and gas industry will likely help her accomplish.
“It’s very important,” she said of the energy sector support.
“Company-wide, in western Canada, we’re a big supporter of the United Way,” said Locke.
Shell is another big supporter.
“We invited the United Way to come in and give us a presentation on what the United Way is because we do have new employees that aren’t maybe aware of what the United Way is and what they do,” said Tetrault, explaining how Shell’s Fort St. John office began their involvement in the 2012 United Way Campaign.
“We also brought a local charity that the United Way supports,” he added.
Even the kids are taking part in the fundraising efforts this year.
“Many of the Shell children got together and raised money on their own and put together their own fire truck pull team,” said Tetrault. “They pulled a golf cart. And together just the children raised $880.”