The smiles weren’t just on the cookies after the final numbers were tallied for this year’s Smile Cookie campaign at the Tim Horton’s at the Travel Centre near Ashcroft. The campaign, which runs for a week every September, sees cookies sold at $1 each, with all proceeds going to benefit a local cause.
Manager Damian Couture says it’s been confirmed that when it comes to Smile Cookies as a percentage of overall sales during the week of the campaign, the Ashcroft Timmie’s had the highest percentage of all franchises in the Okanagan region, and was third when it came to the total number of cookies sold (6,100).
This year marked the third Smile Cookie campaign at the Ashcroft Timmie’s. The first one, in 2017, raised $540 for the South Cariboo Minor Hockey Association, and in 2018 $3,123 was raised for the Ashcroft Volunteer Fire Department. This year the funds—more than $6,100, when the dust settled—were earmarked for one particular person: 13-year-old Ashcroft resident Robert Belin.
The request came from the Ashcroft and District Lions Club, who had previously helped purchase hearing aids for Robert. However, he had outgrown the hearing aids and needed new ones, and the Lions were determined to help.
“Members of the Lions club were at the Tim Horton’s from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the full week of the Smile Cookie campaign,” says club president Sue Peters. “We had one person, and sometimes two, accosting every person who came through the door. As soon as we said why we were raising the money, people were fantastic.”
Peters hand-delivered letters to businesses in Ashcroft and Cache Creek, and they rose to the challenge. “Home Hardware bought 15 dozen. Interior Savings, Royal Bank, Quality Glass, Kal Tire, Arrow, both fire departments, and others bought cookies.
“One fellow from the Lower Mainland bought six dozen cookies, then said ‘Want some? I have no idea what I’ll do with these, but you guys have such great heart.’”
Couture says that the community response far exceeded expectations.
“We have very good community support. It was very impressive how people were coming in out of the normal and buying a dozen cookies to give away. Sue Peters started a ‘Buy cookies’ challenge, asking people to buy cookies and give them to someone else to pay it forward.”
After seven days of greeting customers, decorating cookies, and talking about why they were raising funds, the Lions Club found it had more than enough to buy Robert a new set of hearing aids. The question was, what to do with the rest?
“We’d already spoken with the audiologist in Kamloops who Robert was dealing with, and who had got on board with the project by writing off the fitting fee of $800,” says Peters. “We had asked if there was a better set that would suit Robert better and were told no, the ones that had been chosen were the best, and would do until he was 16 or 18.”
As the funds raised kept mounting beyond what was needed for a new set of hearing aids, the audiologist was asked if he had any idea what the next set would cost, so that money could possibly be put away for those.
“We thought they’d be several thousand dollars, but were told that the cost for hearing aids for kids is controlled,” says Peters. “So we got a few extra things, like volume control, for the new set, and have put $2,000 aside for Robert’s future needs.”
She explains that it’s up to Robert and his family to decide the best use of the funds. “Moulds are $150 per ear, and they have to be replaced every six to eight months, so the funds could be used for that, or they could be put aside and left for the next set of hearing aids.”
After the $2,000 for the new hearing aids and $2,000 for future needs had been set aside, the Lions were in the happy position of having more than $2,100 left over.
“Robert is a Sea Cadet, and they’re madly fundraising for a trip to Halifax next year,” says Peters. “We raised well in excess of what we needed even for two sets of hearing aids, and the trip came up, since Robert is a cadet.
“They want to take the whole corps [to Halifax], so we’ve presented them with a cheque for $2,162.75.”
Couture says he’s really proud of the way the communities of Ashcroft and Cache Creek stepped up to help out.
“They saw there was a promotion, and their adoption of this event into the community is heartwarming. I believe both communities always had that rally-forth spirit to work together and get things done, and we’ve seen we can do these amazing things year after year. It’s wonderful to be a part of it.”
For her part, Peters can’t give her Lions Club members enough credit.
“They were diligent in how they approached people and they were there at 8 a.m., decorating cookies. They embraced it wholeheartedly, and they embraced Robert.
“All the locals who knew Robert talked about what a nice young man he is, so that was a big part of the local support. And his mother Ramona does so much fundraising for local groups, and donates to so many causes. That’s another big part of why the Lions wanted to support them: because they give back to the community as well.”
Looking at the end result, Peters is overwhelmed.
“It’s amazing. It blew everything we expected to do out of the water. We basically doubled last year’s total. If we could double the [previous year’s] total every year, that would be awesome.”