Two days after starting an online fundraiser to benefit the Indian Residential School Survivors Society, two Penticton residents are already halfway to their financial goal.
Organizers Linda Goff and Paul Varga plan on biking from the South Okanagan to Kamloops later this month and are hoping to raise $2,150.
Their campaign is titled 215 kilometres for 215 children and comes just days after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced that ground-penetrating radar discovered the remains of 215 children at a former residential school in Kamloops.
As of Saturday, the two had raised $1,110, and their bike trip will run June 19-20.
“We were looking at doing some longer (bike) rides this summer,” said Varga, a local lawyer. “And then about the same time we were discussing this, they announced the news of the discovery of the bodies.
“It’s all we could talk about. And now we’re going to do a ride to commemorate this because this is a shocking, horrific thing.”
Goff came up with the biking and fundraiser, with the two then looking at a map and figuring out the distance from Penticton to Kamloops, which is around 230 km through Vernon.
“It just works and it makes sense,” said Varga.
The two plan on cycling to Vernon the first day, and said if others want to join them, they’d gladly welcome the biking company. A support vehicle will be following the two on their journey.
Day two will start at O’Keefe Ranch, just past Vernon, to hit 215 exactly.
Asked how it feels having reached the financial halfway point just two days in, Goff called it great news.
“I can’t believe how generous people are,” said Goff. “That just goes to show that people really do want to help.”
Varga noted one person donated $215 — a touching amount, he said.
While travelling from Penticton to Kamloops, the two will be wearing orange t-shirts over their cycling gear, and taking a pair of orange shoes to place at an appropriate memorial in Kamloops.
The two said they don’t know how long the ride will take, but stated the journey will be well worth it.
“To me, the discovery of 215 children’s bodies is shocking,” said Varga. “Maybe this is a way to all come together and figure out a way to grow and move past this horrible tragedy.”