Seeing the never-ending line-up of cars heading north into Whistler last Friday to enjoy the fall weather, the last weekend for the bike park and Turkey Sale weekend was a reassuring feeling. People haven’t forgotten we’re here it seems, and on the heels of our busiest summer ever it’s clear that many would still rather be here than anywhere else.
As locals we can all relate to that, although probably for different reasons.
After a while, life in Whistler becomes a little less about the way it looks and the fun stuff you can do — although that’s still extremely important — and more about the people who live here, the amazingly good quality of life we’ve created for ourselves and the strong sense of community we’ve developed — in spite of the sometimes transient nature of our population and the way we’ve spread out into different neighbourhoods. This is not just a great place to visit, it’s also a great place to live, raise a family and one day retire.
That didn’t happen by accident. It took generations of hard work by people who put themselves out there, that took things on and volunteered their time and energy to make Whistler what it is. Ideas and ideals do come to life here.
That sense of community was very much on display recently. It was in the Harvest Hoedown fundraiser for a local going through cancer treatment, the response to the residents displaced by a fire at Eva Lake Village and all of the timely fundraisers taking place to give our local food bank a boost in its busiest season.
People give so much of themselves to this town. Take this weekend’s Whistler Readers and Writers Festival: Stella Harvey started this event in her living room with 20 people, and this year it’s already sold over 400 tickets and passes. It features special guests like author and CBC radio personality Jian Ghomeshi and Giller Prize-winning author Will Ferguson (I recommend everyone read Happiness™), and is becoming one of the most important events of its kind on the West Coast.
Or take a group like WORCA, which hosted yet another volunteer trail day this past Saturday (Oct. 12). A volunteer board with one part-time employee somehow manages to stage over 20 Toonie Ride events a season, sanction Monday night rides and over a dozen other races, support youth programming through clinics and camps, stage a bike swap where many locals go to buy their first mountain bike, and contribute hundreds of hours of maintenance to our local mountain bike trail network — itself built by people who volunteered their own time.
Or take a guy like Bob Brett, who long ago created a group called the Whistler Naturalists to teach locals, seasonal workers and visitors a little something about the natural environment in Whistler. That in turn lead Brett to create a living catalogue of every species in the valley (the Whistler Biodiversity Project), which in turn led to the creation of two amazing events — the annual Bioblitz festival that has inspired dozens of other similar events, and the hugely popular Fungus Among Us mushroom festival that takes place this Friday and Saturday (Oct. 18 and 19).
Or take a group like Whistler Search and Rescue, which is hosting its annual fundraiser on Saturday night. WSAR is a group of dedicated and highly trained volunteers that conducts searches and rescues in our local backcountry — up to 54 a year — without getting paid a dime.
And you can’t talk about people putting themselves out there without mentioning Lil Goldsmid, who passed away at the end of September at 90 years old. Whatever the project, whatever the need, Lil rolled up her sleeves and pitched in. She filled bags at the food bank, unpacked bags at the Re-Use-It Centre, read to children, raised money for the library and so much more. She even used her death as an opportunity to raise money, asking people to send donations to the Salvation Army instead of flowers.
Anywhere you look in Whistler you can see the influence of volunteers like Lil. They help out at our animal shelter, rush to put out fires, marshall countless events (including the successful Ironman Canada race in August), coach dozens of teams, sit on the boards of numerous non-profits, help people in need, create the astonishingly good arts and culture scene we enjoy, and more.
There are some good reasons why people in Whistler are so willing to step up so many different ways. There’s the fact that so many of us came here from somewhere else, and we’ve had to create families, friends and a community to replace the ones we left behind. Another is the feeling of being lucky, that we’re all fortunate to be here — who wouldn’t volunteer some time to keep this place great, or make it a little better?
There’s also the fact that we’re all living in a world created by people like Lil Goldsmid, Stella Harvey, Bob Brett and so many others. They made volunteering and service a tradition in this town, the price of admission into an incredible community.
In our own small way, The Question wants to help. Each week we’ll be running a new Helping Hands section in our community listings where we’ll post upcoming volunteer and fundraising opportunities. If you’re looking for sine assistance, please email me at email@example.com. And if you’re looking to help out then, well… get in line.