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Support for first #WESEEYOU day much better than expected, organizers say

First Nation students at Thomas Haney hosting drive-through to collect donations this Saturday
Volunteers stuff large Canada Post boxes with plenty of activities for #WESEEYOU Day. (Ballantyne Project - Special to The News)

Organizers of the first #WESEEYOUDAY are amazed at the support they have been receiving from kind-hearted individuals coast-to-coast.

What started out as a call in late November for people to send packages to a remote First Nation community having a tough time during a COVID-19 lockdown, has turned into a country-wide initiative.

Maple Ridge’s Dwight Ballantyne, who formed the Ballantyne Project in the spring of 2019 to promote awareness of these isolated people, said the support has been incredible to see.

“We’re overwhelmed with the amount of volunteers who have stepped up for this project,” he said.

Now, more than 500 boxes are going to 10 different communities across the country.

“People are being really awesome,” said Ballantyne.

READ MORE: Maple Ridge man aims to bridge gap between remote communities and rest of Canada

Ballantyne Project’s Denise Trottier said boxes packed with activities like puzzles, games and colouring books, are being sent from every province in Canada.

“The call for help spread on Facebook and Instagram, and literally coast-to-coast, people are shipping large Canada Post flat-rate boxes filled with activities,” she said.

Families, schools, churches, and youth centres are all pitching in to help.

Here in Maple Ridge, many individuals are doing their part. Trottier said Maple Ridge Baptist Church, St. George’s Anglican Church, and the Maple Ridge Secondary School Indigenous Leadership Group have contributed.

This Saturday (Jan. 9), the 14 students who make up the Aboriginal Leadership group at Thomas Haney Secondary have organized a COVID-19 drive-through donation event.

It will take place at the school from 1-4 p.m. at 23000 116 Ave.

Aboriginal support worker Billie Seneviratne found out about #WESEEYOU day on social media, and, she said, the idea pulled her in.

“Our Aboriginal Leadership program is new this year, and we wanted the students to focus on local community and something that connected them with their ancestry,” she said.

The group got behind the idea, and have filled up 10 boxes already, but are hoping to meet their goal of 20.

“We thought one final push before Monday to fill 10 more boxes would be incredible, and to help our students in Aboriginal Leadership reach their goal would be amazing for me.

“I want to see them really solidify their accomplishments.”

A virtual event for #WESEEYOUDAY will take place on Monday.

It will be presented by the Artbound Foundation, and supports from the sale of tickets for the 45 minute presentation will benefit True North Aid.

Dwight Ballantyne is opening up the talk, and there are many special guests to follow, including indigenous medicine woman, Asha Frost; First Nations social media influencer, Sherry McKay; spoken word poet, Miranda Kay; and current president of Doctors of BC, Matthew Chow.

“It started out as a small idea,” said Trottier.

“But thanks to a group of amazing people who heard about what we want to do, it’s turned into something way bigger than we could possibly have imagined.”

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