Long-time local Bernie McCaffrey is a tough guy.
Like many Whistlerites, he loves an array of sports like golfing, baseball and, of course, skiing. “He’s a super fit guy and loves the Whistler lifestyle,” said Dave Branigan, a friend and former colleague. “But he was saying this was the hardest thing he could imagine.”
It takes a different kind of strength to go through what McCaffrey has been dealing with since a fire destroyed the Spruce Grove home he’s owned for decades, ruining everything inside and leaving him with third degree burns.
“The first couple of weeks (in the burn unit) he was on a lot of pain killers,” Branigan said. “The process is they knock him out to scrub the burned tissue out. When he comes to he has to deal with the pain of that.”
But McCaffrey is healing, he added. He’s been discharged from the hospital and is currently recovering on Vancouver Island. “When I last saw him he had bandages on his feet and he was just beginning to walk,” Branigan said.
The devastating fire broke out early on Aug. 11. Neighbours on Spruce Grove Circle woke up around 3:30 a.m. to discover the McCaffrey home engulfed in flames. One man attempted to wake up the family by throwing rocks at the windows of the home, which was already dangerously hot.
In the end, fire fighters were able to limit the damage to nearby houses — though two others were badly damaged — but the McCaffreys — including Rebecca, a teenage child and two adult children — had lost everything, right down to their vehicles.
After hearing the devastating news, Branigan knew he had to do something — in part because his family had gone through their own tragedy not long ago. “A year and a half ago my son walked off a cliff on New Year’s Eve,” he said. “He was in a coma and spent a year in the hospital. In that time, a lot of people in the Whistler and Pemberton community supported a charity to sustain our family when I needed to be off work with my son. Knowing how much that can lift your spirits and help you financially through your darkest days, I thought it was a good time to pay it forward.”
To that end, Branigan posted an idea for a fundraiser for the family on his Facebook page. That’s when Karen Roland, who co-owns Roland’s Pub — jumped in and offered the Creekside bar as a venue.
A fundraiser, featuring a silent auction and the local Grateful Dead tribute band FOMO, is slated to take place on Sept. 20.
Branigan, Roland and McCaffrey all worked together decades ago at the Longhorn Saloon. Though Roland said she’s fallen out of touch with McCaffrey in recent years she wanted to help. “It was a little terrifying,” she said. “I wasn’t aware he was in the house. I didn’t find that out until after the fact and Dave posted he was in the hospital and had third degree burns… Living in Whistler, you get to know a lot of people. He wasn’t a close friend over the last 15 years, but it’s someone I know and care about.”
Along with canvassing local businesses for auction items, Roland is organizing a raffle draw with tickets that can be purchased anytime. So far, she’s collected three major prizes, including box seats for a Canucks’ game, a “Creekside getaway” with a one night stay at Nita Lake Lodge, a Superfly zipline adventure and dinner for two the Red Door Bistro and a set of patio furniture, wine glasses and some wine from Constellation Brands wine distributor.
“The McCaffreys are good, local people and this is a tragedy that’s really set them back,” Branigan said. “We’d love to see the Whistler community come out and support them.”
For information on how you can help email Roland at firstname.lastname@example.org. An account has also been opened for the family at the Whistler TD branch #9987 in Danielle McCaffrey’s name. The account number is #6644232 for those who wish to donate.