Dustin Derrick was the winner of the early bird prize of $1,000 in this year’s Heartland Youth Centre fundraising raffle. Derrick is also a Big Brother for Stettler’s Big Brothers Big Sisters organization which is operated out of the Youth Centre as well. photo submitted

UPDATE: Heartland Youth Centre has named the winners in this year’s fundraising raffle

Nan Gardner has won the grand prize of the 2020 GMC Terrain

Staff at the Heartland Youth Centre are thrilled with the results of this year’s raffle, the proceeds of which will go towards supporting various community programs.

Nan Gardner is the winner of the grand prize – a 2020 GMC Terrain from Stettler GM.

Dustin Derrick landed the early bird prize of $1,000 which was drawn in January, and Robbin Skaggs took home four tickets for the Alberta Prairie Railways. Derrick is also a Big Brother for Stettler’s Big Brothers Big Sisters organization which is operated out of the Youth Centre as well.

“For the raffle, we sold 1,500 tickets at $50 each,” said Winnie Bissett, executive director of the Heartland Youth Centre.

“It goes towards the operating costs of the Heartland Youth Centre – the Boys and Girls Club and Big Brothers, Big Sisters,” she explained, adding that originally, the draw was to be part of a major event called the Awesome Auction.

“The support has been incredible. On March 20th, we had 336 tickets sold. So I started doing a whole bunch of crazy, funny ‘Winnie’ videos,” she said with a chuckle. “And it seemed like whenever I did something really silly, we drummed up a bit more interest in it.”

Prior to the pandemic, staff were planning on setting up at other community events to sell tickets, like the also-cancelled annual trade show. But as mentioned, the connections via videos with the community proved to be a ticket to greater sales.

“The fact we sold out really just blows me away. I also started seeing people I had already sold tickets to buy even more tickets.” And some local businesses have stepped forward with generous donations to help out in the meantime as well.

“They have said, ‘We know the (Awesome) Auction isn’t going to happen, but we are still going to give you our support.”

As to the Awesome Auction, Bissett said the organization has opted to go with an online auction at some point this fall instead.

“The small and local businesses have been hit so hard, we aren’t going to go out and openly solicit for donations but if any businesses want to donate an item to us, we would be all about accepting that.”

As Bissett also noted, these past few months – in the midst of the pandemic – have been very challenging for the Centre.

With the social distancing protocols currently in place, regular programming has had to be postponed, cancelled or very much re-structured.

But with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, the connections between mentors and their kids have been largely maintained thanks for social media platforms. “We are hoping to resume our in-person matching between mid-June to late June,” she said. “So hopefully, we can get that off the ground.

“As for the Boys and Girls Club, we are working really, really hard to towards offering summer programming.

“There will be some virtual programming set up, and it’s very engaging and interactive,” noted Bissett. “That will be an option for families.

“We are also looking at doing some in-person programming but we want to make sure our membership understands that it won’t look like it always has in the past because we do have to follow Alberta Health Services guidelines. Currently, for a day camp, we are allowed cohorts of 10 which includes staff. So we are looking at eight or nine kids and one or two staff,” she explained, adding that they are hoping by later in July the protocols will allow for a higher number of kids to be gathered together. “Normally, we have 30 kids a day for day camp in the summertime,” she said. “So we are working in that direction to re-open.”

In reflecting on these past few months, Bissett said one silver lining has been seeing people being more active outdoors generally. “The number of families I see outside doing things together – personally I think that is heartwarming.”

And from a Youth Centre standpoint, she said it’s those kinds of experiences with one’s family that can really help to make a difference for the good. “I’m hoping that continues because I think we’ve been on ‘pause’ long enough that maybe some of these things will become habit,” she said. “That would be a positive.”

Meanwhile, Bissett said that the owner of Stettler GM, Brenda Esquirol, who serves on the Youth Centre’s board, came up with the idea for the car raffle. And each donation of $50 via the ticket sales certainly does go a long way to helping out at the Youth Centre.

For more information about everything that is offered through the Heartland Youth Centre, find them on Facebook.

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Robin Skaggs won four tickets for the Alberta Prairie Railways. photo submitted

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