Jailbirds raise $20,000 for cancer research

District of Sechelt Coun. Alton Toth told Coast Reporter last Friday he had “no idea” why he was being thrown in jail, but he did have a plan for making his $500 bail. “I’m hoping I can raise it all at once by calling [former mayor] John Henderson.”

Toth wasn’t the only politician hauled off to a makeshift outdoor jail cell installed for the Sunshine Coast’s first “Jail N Bail” fundraiser, which brought in at least $20,000 last Friday, with more donations due this week.

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Sechelt Mayor Darnelda Siegers, Gibsons Mayor Bill Beamish, Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) chair Lori Pratt and shíshálh Nation Chief Warren Paull were among the accused asked to call in a favour.

The event was held in advance of Cops for Cancer, an annual 800-kilometre cycling tour that raises money for cancer research. Participating off-duty police officers volunteered and IGA provided food for a barbecue.

Normally the Red Serge Gala, held annually in September, is the local detachment’s major fundraiser, but detachment commander Staff Sgt.Poppy Hallam introduced this event to help local participants Const. Dustin Shevchenko and Const. Chris Mager reach their individual fundraising goals.

Police arrested people at the behest of those who paid $25. Once detained in the blue fence “jail” on the lawn outside RCMP headquarters in Sechelt, suspects were given a fundraising goal and had to call friends and family and whoever else might be willing to make a donation to bail them out.

One woman was responsible for bringing in Sechelt’s mayor and council. “She paid the $25 for each one of them to be arrested,” said Hallam, who has conducted jail-and-bail fundraisers for 18 years.

Halfway through the day Hallam said they “had more than surpassed” their participation goal, with about 40 arrests on the books and at least three suspects raising more than $1,000 apiece. Police made arrests as far as Halfmoon Bay. They drove to the airport in Wilson Creek to arrest Pratt, Beamish and Siegers, who were returning from a trip to Courtenay. The trio got off the plane, “and we were waiting for them,” said Hallam.

Politicians weren’t the only perpetrators.

Darren deRoon, who works for the Ministry for Children and Family Development, was jailed by his coworkers and raised $690. He admitted to having pranked them over the years. “It was a fun experience. Very unexpected,” he said.

Summer Hay turned herself in. “I like to say I abetted arrest,” said Hay, who was inspired to get involved by the cyclists and because of personal experiences.

When asked whether those being arrested might misinterpret the experience Hallam said police make it clear participation is voluntary.

“It’s not spiteful, it’s all in good fun,” she said, “If someone did not want to go, we would not make a scene, we would just leave. We’re not going to make anyone feel guilty.”

As for guilty Toth, he did eventually make it out, raising $600 from friends as far away as Medicine Hat, Alta. Henderson did donate, though less than Toth had hoped for. “Unfortunately someone beat me to John, so he only had $20 to contribute!”

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