Pirates return to BC waters in support of kids with special needs

It has become an annual tradition every summer in Victoria, Vancouver and Kelowna when local skippers raise their sails – and the Jolly Roger – in support of children with special needs. The event is Boat for Hope, a fundraiser for Variety – the Children’s Charity. It is also an extremely unique opportunity for families who have kids with various physical, mental, and emotional challenges to get out on the water and experience a pirate adventure.

“Imagine being out on the high seas hunting for treasure with marauding pirates giving chase. It’s the kind of thing I think every young child fantasizes about, and with the help of our community partners, we make it a reality for kids who might otherwise never have a chance to do something like this,” says Variety BC CEO Kristy Gill.

Every year, Boat for Hope is a spectacle to behold. Local skippers don’t only donate their time, fuel, and vessel, but they fully embrace the swashbuckling spirit of the day. Ships turn up completely decked out in pirate décor, and the captains and crew themselves transform into the saltiest seadog scallywags you’re ever like to meet.

Once on the water, kids are ferried to treasure stations, where they will undoubtedly along their journey find themselves in an epic battle with pirates bent on stealing their treasure. Armed with an arsenal of water guns, the kids are always well-equipped to repel the attack, and after a long day of collecting booty, the kids are brought to “Treasure Island” for a family barbeque, complete with games and live entertainment.

“For the hundreds of kids and families who participate every year, the day is a wonderful chance to spend time together, something that is very precious and all too rare for many of the families we support at Variety,” remarks Gill. “Having a child with special needs can be very time consuming, very financially challenging, and of course circumstances like mobility issues can severely limit opportunities to do things like go boating – never mind enjoy such a grand scale pirate adventure.”

Behind the scenes, Boat for Hope is a magnificent coming together of local boating and business communities to show their support for BC families.

“Along with being a wonderful day for the kids, for us at Variety BC, it is also an important fundraising opportunity, so that we can continue helping children with special needs,” notes Gill. “Our community partners have been so amazing for us, not only providing much of the in-kind support to run the event, but also in creating awareness and being active fundraisers for our cause.”

Donations to Variety – the Children’s Charity go towards kids with special needs throughout British Columbia and the Yukon. Funding is made available for medical care and services, mobility equipment, specialized therapies, and education opportunities, not covered by public health care.

Click here to see this year’s Boat for Hope dates.


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Dear Variety Family,

During the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) global situation, our highest priority is the health, safety and well-being of our Variety donors, families, members, supporters, volunteers and all British Columbians.

Variety BC has been here for more than 50 years ensuring kids with special needs thrive. I would like to assure you that during this uncertain time, we will continue to be here for BC’s kids with special needs.

I also would like to provide you with an update on our response to date and our commitment to you moving forward:

  • In keeping with the BC Centre for Disease Control’s recommendations, we will be postponing all Variety events between March 16th and April 30th including our One Night in the Valley Gala on Saturday, April 4th at the Glass House Estate Winery
  • We have closed the Variety Office as a precautionary measure and are having employees set up to work-from-home. All in-person meetings will be moved to teleconference. We will evaluate working “virtually” on a week-to-week basis while actively monitoring the evolution of this global pandemic and returning to regular operating procedures once health authorities deem it safe for our staff to do so.
  • Due to our office closure, we have postponed the shipping of Robert Bateman’s Woodworkers – Pilated Woodpeckers posters and our Variety water bottles. Anyone looking for tax receipts will receive them via email
  • With the closure of BC’s schools, the need to ensure our kids are supported has never been so great. As such, our Heart of Variety Fund will continue to accept grant applications by e-mail.
    Like all of you, we will monitor the COVID-19 situation and communicate with you on important health and safety measures and decisions regarding events regularly.

We encourage you to stay informed by visiting BC Centre for Disease Control’s website at www.bccdc.ca and the Government of Canada’s website at www.canada.ca/en/publichealth/services/diseases/coronavirus-disease-covid-19.

We are grateful for your support as we navigate through this uncertain time.

Thank you,

Cally Wesson
CEO – Variety BC