It was the best time anybody’s ever had in jail but the prisoners were still eager to get out.
That’s because their freedom would mean that social programs in the City of Kamloops would get much-needed help.
Kamloops RCMP hauled nearly 100 people to the clinker at the Tournament Capital Centre Thursday during the annual United Way Jail and Bail fundraiser.
And even organizers were surprised at this year’s generosity. Any doubts of reaching the $75,000 goal were dispelled by early afternoon when the total reached $70,000.
By 4 p.m., a United Way spokesperson said they’d gone well over that goal. The event continued to 8 p.m.
“As usual, people have been extremely generous,” said Brenda Aynsley, executive director of the Thompson Nicola Cariboo chapter of United Way.
It was a jovial, almost giddy affair as “criminals” arrived in handcuffs before being tried in front of a judge in a robe and wig and sentenced to incarceration until $500 bail could be raised.
“For us, it’s been an opportunity to bring in new people who haven’t been involved with United Way previously,” said Aynsley. “And it’s always so much fun.”
There was much kvetching from the prisoners, which included the city’s highest profile residents like Kamloops Blazers veteran Dylan Willick who arrived on crutches with a broken ankle, and Sun Rivers general manager Rob Larocque and marketing co-ordinator Brynn Gise, who arrived wearing a zoot suits.
“I’ve got places to be,” laughed B.C. Ambassador Acacia Schmietenknop, a prolific volunteer. “Now it’s my turn to ask for some help.”
“They want to donate money, but to keep me in!” laughed Bob Helv, deputy assessor with B.C. Assessment Authority. “Somebody started a rumour that if I don’t get out of jail, people won’t get their assessments this year.”
Many jailbirds stuck around beyond their mandated fundraising minimum, with some collecting more than $5,000 each for their release.
By mid-afternoon, Larocque and Gise brought in $2,500 to push the total above the $75,000 mark.
“This community is just unbelievable like that,” said Supt. Yves Lacasse of the Kamloops RCMP, which co-organized the event.
The fundraiser fits the RCMP’s mandate by helping redirect vulnerable youths towards beneficial activities, education and support.
“Our mandate is to have a safe community, so if we can help those social agencies survive and maintain the great programs they have, than it goes hand-in-hand with what we’re trying to do,” said Lacasse.
Plus there’s an added bonus for volunteering officers, he said.
“The part that’s really rewarding is we get to interact with the community at a different level than we normally do. And they get to see our officers how they really are.”