The Coquitlam Firefighters Charitable Society's gala is crossing borders to Port Coquitlam and an ocean to the Caribbean.
After holding the event for five years at the Hard Rock Casino Vancouver in Coquitlam, the sixth edition, which will have a Caribbean theme, will be held at Riverside Community Church in PoCo Sept. 28. And the fledgling Port Coquitlam Firefighters Charitable Society is joining in on the fun — as well as the work.
James Anderson, gala chair and vice-president of the Coquitlam Firefighters Charitable Society, said PoCo smoke-eaters had asked in previous years to connect.
"At that time, we were just not open to that idea," said Anderson. "And then we moved from the Hard Rock Casino and tried to find a new venue and the new venue was in their hometown, so we kind of needed to ask them."
Both societies plan on using the funds raised for breakfast and snack programs in schools.
"They get the most out of what we do," said Anderson. "If our program grows, it grows for our community for the same kids in the same school district that all have that need there.
“I was a teacher [in Surrey] before becoming a firefighter and have seen the huge impact a snack program could have in the community first-hand. Giving snacks away that were purchased from a fire department-funded program to kids that 100% need a snack because that’s the first thing they’ve touched that day for food."
“We have done charitable ventures as a union and now having a charitable society allows us to localize fund allocation a little bit more to benefiting the Port Coquitlam community,” said Colby Kulhanek, vice-president of the Port Coquitlam Firefighters Charitable Society, which is still in the process of being registered.
“The opportunity to learn from the Coquitlam guys who have been doing this successfully for the past five years was something that is very valuable to us," he said. "The fact we had an entertainment space available in our city that would be suitable for an event like this turned it into a perfect partnership."
One thing both groups agree on is the gala's focus on the guests having a good time — which means not having to suffer through a firetruck load of speeches. Entertainment will be provided by DJ Flipout of 94.5FM The Beat and Vancouver Island performer Caleb Hart, who is originally from Trinidad and Tobago and performs a variety of styles, including soul. pop, rock, calypso and reggae.
"If you think about our job, we respond to emergencies," said Kulhanec. "That’s generally our interaction with the public. It’s going to be the worst part of their day. And for us to have an event like this, it’s going to great causes, it’s going to contribute to communities in ways that we weren’t before, and we get to interact with the community in a happy environment where everybody’s having a good time.”
• Tickets for the Caribbean Gala can be purchased at eventbrite.ca. A "fire sale" gives purchasers a $10 per ticket discount until Sept. 6. More information is also available at coquitlamfirefighterscharity.com, which also has a direct link to purchase tickets.