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PHOTOS: Pirates take over Coquitlam Walmart rooftop in pandemic reverse parade

An event catering to hundreds of families with kids facing health challenges, fire fighters, police officers and dozens of volunteers came together to put on a drive-by pirate 'treasure island' amid a dystopian backdrop of wildfire smoke.

Not a pandemic nor a sun blotted out by wildfire smoke could keep families from rolling through a reverse pirate parade this Saturday atop Coquitlam Centre. 

After plans were cancelled to host the annual Boat for Hope event at sea, a crew of volunteer pirates took to the Coquitlam rooftop parking lot to put smiles on children’s' faces and 'loot' in their pockets. 

Dozens of dressed-up volunteers put on shows and attacked with water pistols along a course that lasted about 20 minutes. At the end, each round of cars was entertained in a drive-through concert. 

The event — which usually attracts over 400 children with health challenges — normally takes to the waters of False Creek, piling kids, siblings and caregivers aboard 25 yachts every year for the past 21 years. 

And no stacking of calamities would stop them this year.

Organizer Rick Cassels said the idea was to think of the cars as the 'yachts' and each station of pirates as the ‘treasure islands.’ 

Local organizations like Coquitlam Search and Rescue, Coquitlam RCMP and the city’s fire department helped out, managing traffic flow and bringing life to the treasure stations by decorating their boats set upon trailers. Some were armed with water blasters so they could continue one of the most beloved aspects of the annual ritual, the mass water fight that seems to get everyone but the kids soaking wet every year.

Most importantly, Boat for Hope is also a fundraiser to support programs Variety - the Children’s Charity runs to help kids with special healthcare needs. In addition to sponsorships, money comes from a live online auction, a raffle for an inflatable boat prize package that also includes a motor and a trailer, as well as individual donations.

“We weren’t going to let the virus cancel this event for these kids,” said Cassels. “All we have to do is see the faces on these kids on that day and that’s the reason we do it.”

— with files from Mario Bartel