When Gibsons mayor Bill Beamish and a restaurant full of young soccer players counted down for the illumination of the Wendy’s/Tim Horton’s 25th Festival of Lights display on Nov. 28, loud cheers greeted the burst of color. This year sports a record number of trees, sponsored by local businesses, installed and decorated by members of the Sunshine Coast Youth Soccer Association (SCYSA) and their families. “This corner is lit up with the joy that Christmas represents!” said restaurant owner Klaus Fuerniss.
Over the years, every school, service, volunteer and arts organization in the greater Gibsons area has taken a turn to “host” the fundraiser. Local businesses and organizations sponsor the trees, indoor wreaths, or other larger outdoor displays and all of the money raised goes directly to the hosting group. This year, SCYSA players and their families sold the sponsorships and turned out in the midst of last Saturday’s atmospheric river to install and decorate the trees. As he thanked the various committee members and the store liaisons (including his son Oliver) who pulled the project together, Fuerniss commended their hard work, particularly as they installed the trees and lights in the rain. He also called out the Gibsons Volunteer Fire Department who turn out each year to install the rooftop lights, and who have even created some of the large, whimsical outdoor displays. “But the real heroes are the sponsors of the trees,” Fuerniss noted. “We have been extremely fortunate in having the support of our community.”
Fuerniss stated that with its best year for sales ever in 2021, the Wendy’s/Tim Horton’s store was able to give back even more to the community. Not all its charitable work is as visible as the Festival of Lights (which is unique to the Gibsons location), or the popular Smile Cookie campaign (which is a national charity fundraiser). Like the Festival of Lights, the Smile Cookie campaign raises funds for local non-profits. This year the Nutcracker Ballet Association leaped into action, selling 19,000 cookies and raising $19,000 for the annual dance production. To produce that many cookies, Fuerniss commandeered the ovens of his other franchise stores in the Lower Mainland and “the little ballerinas came out to decorate them, working night and day to get all the smiley cookies ready for sale.” Their enthusiasm lifted Gibsons into the number one spot for funds raised through the Smile Cookie campaign – the third year in a row it achieved that honor. “And that says what Gibsons is all about,” Fuerniss concluded.
As he congratulated the team effort that raised more than $16,000 for the organization, SCYSA president Jay Richlin jokingly called out Mayor Beamish, saying “We hope with the support of the Town now we can get some all-weather fields up here!”