With more than 60 support programs throughout the Southern Interior, the United Way of Thompson Nicola Cariboo has woven itself into the very fabric of the region's communities.
On Tuesday morning, the organization's leaders thanked a banquet hall full of the donors and volunteers who make the charitable works possible.
"The magic truly happens in these communities because of you," said Danalee Baker, director of community impact.
More than 500 people — some from as far as Clearwater and Williams Lake — attended the United Way's breakfast, which marks the annual fundraising launch.
The event also celebrated the many volunteers, corporations and employees who brought in $2.2 million last year for the betterment of kids, underprivileged families and the mentally and physically challenged.
After surpassing its goal by $200,000 in 2012, the organization is once again striving for $2 million.
Emcee Brenda Aynsley, the group's executive director, beseeched those in the room to spread the word of United Way funded programs.
Among the many essential initiatives supported by the funds raised last year were: starting a Boys and Girls Club program that gets kids out of bed, fed and to school on time; providing five disabled athletes with sports wheelchairs; enabling 16 youth community projects with grants; and supporting the formation of three neighbourhood associations.
Last year's campaign chair for United Way Thompson Nicola Cariboo, Yves Lacasse, urged those gathered to take the organization's Seeing is Believing tour.
"It brought tears to my eyes," said Lacasse of his experience on the tour. "It's sad to see so many needy people in the community."
Organizations and groups paid $150 a table to start the fundraising ball rolling and that was quickly followed by corporate donations and pledges totaling nearly $400,000.
That includes Teck Highland Valley Copper mine's pledge to match employee donations to a maximum of $300,000. And if the United Steelworkers Local 7619 repeats last year's feat, the company will be on the hook for the full amount.
In 2012, the workers donated $335,000, earning them this year's award for largest regional employee campaign. And the company's matching funds earned them the award for largest regional corporate campaign.
Employees of Canfor in Vavenby earned the quantum leap award after bouncing back from a temporary shut down in a big way.
Some of the Steelworkers Local 1417 workers relied on Clearwater programs funded by the United Way. When they were back on their feet they figured out a fun way to pay it forward — a dunk tank featuring company managers.
More than $1,500 balls were bought, raising more than $20,000 for the cause.
Celebrated with a greatest impact award was an event that garnered the most funds in one day — Jail and Bail. The participants in the mock incarcerations were able to raise more than $92,000.
CAW Local 3018 workers and Taseko Gibraltar mine raised $100,000, earning them the award for the largest corporate and employee partnered campaign in the Cariboo.
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United Way fundraising awards
* Quantum Leap – Canfor Vavenby: $20,000
* Regional Rookie Campaign – District of Clearwater: $3,000
* Largest Regional Corporate Campaign – Highland Valley Copper Teck: $300,000
* Largest Regional Employee Campaign – USW 7619 and Employees of Highland Valley Copper: $335,000
* Largest Kamloops Employee – Domtar CEP Local 10-B: $76,000
* Largest Cariboo Corporate & Employee Campaign – Gibraltar Mine/CAW Local 3018: $100,000
* Highest Per Capita Giving – BMO Columbia St. West: $24,500
* Greatest Impact Special Event – RCMP Jail & Bail: $92,000
* Most Fun Special Event – Finning
* Kamloops Rookie Campaign – Lafarge