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Our Community: Charity group blooms in Victoria

A new philanthropic society has just sprung up in Victoria. The Dahlia Society has nothing to do with the cultivation of the colourful garden plants.
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Saanich Mayor Frank Leonard takes a ride on the zipline at Uptown.

A new philanthropic society has just sprung up in Victoria. The Dahlia Society has nothing to do with the cultivation of the colourful garden plants. The founder, Christopher Mavrikos, gave the new non-profit the name because it was his late mother’s favourite flower and he wanted to honour her memory by creating an organization that, like his mother, aspires to create a better community by helping those in need.

“The Dahlia Society will help those who need it most, when they need it the most,” said Mavrikos, who has raised more than $150,000 for breast cancer research, advocacy and support.

He said the society will hold several signature events each year, including Canstruction Victoria and Think Pink.

The former fundraiser, scheduled to take place May 30 to June 18 at Mayfair Shopping Centre, sees teams build sculptures with non-perishable food. The public then votes for their favourite. At the end of the competition the structures are dismantled and the ad-hoc building materials will be donated to the Mustard Seed food bank.

“I estimate we will have eight or 10 teams,” said Mavrikos, who also manages Romeo’s Pizza on Hillside Avenue. “Each team will typically use up to 10,000 cans for their project. You do the math. At the end of the competition the food bank gets a substantial donation at what is typically the low point of the year for them.”

He said Canstruction will be one of a bunch of unique fundraising events he intends to introduce in the coming months. Every dollar raised locally will stay local, he promises.

He is moved to philanthropic work in memory of his mother Lynn, who died after a long battle with breast cancer in 1997, when he was only 18. His previous work to raise funds for breast cancer was influenced by his mother’s death.

For more information, go to


United Way honours local fundraisers

Last week the United Way of Greater Victoria announced the winners of its 2013 Spirit Awards. Every year the charitable organization hosts a campaign to raise money for programs that sustain the community’s social and economic fabric. Last year, their annual campaign collected $5.8 million, which is distributed to community organizations that address poverty, homelessness and families or individuals in need.

The awards were given in recognition the more than 400 organizations and thousands of employees, donors, volunteers and community partners who participated in the campaign. The awards are presented to groups of employees who demonstrated exceptional community spirit, team spirit and spirit of generosity.

There were a dozen categories. The winners include:

• Natural Resources Canada — Pacific Forestry Centre

• The Department of National Defence

• Brandy Rowan and Jennifer Downie from the District of Saanich

• Seaspan Victoria Shipyards

• Viking Air

• TD Canada Trust

• University of Victoria

Schneider Electric

• UNIFOR 333, COPE 378 and CUPE 4500 for B.C. Transit

• Camosun College

• Victoria Cool Aid Society

• Monk Office


For more information, go to


Officer honoured for off-duty bravery

Last week, Victoria Police Const. Craig Barker was presented with the department’s Civic Service Award for going above and beyond the call of duty — on his day off.

The award is conferred to members of the public, officers and professional support staff whose actions help to make the communities of Victoria and Esquimalt a safer place.

Barker was on his way home after his shift two weeks ago when he noticed a security guard chasing a man near Hillside Mall. Without hesitation he joined in the pursuit. When cornered, the suspect pulled out a pair of wire cutters and threatened the officer with it. Unarmed and alone, Barker was able to talk the suspect into dropping the weapon and surrendering. It was later determined the suspect was known to police and tied to numerous property crimes throughout the Capital Regional District.

The Victoria Police Department’s Chief Constable, Frank J. Elsner, presented the award to Const. Barker for his quick-thinking, off-duty action that led to the arrest. For more information, go to


Zipline raises $23,000 for Iver’s education

More than $23,000 was raised for an education fund for Baby Iver, who lost his mother at childbirth, from more than 4,600 people who rode a zipline installed temporarily at the Uptown Shopping Centre over spring break. The 300-foot side-by-side zipline ride, operated by AdrenaLine Zipline Adventure Tours, was the first urban zipline on Vancouver Island.

Each ride cost $10, with $5 being donated to the education fund. The thrill ride proved popular with children and adults alike, averaging 250 to 300 riders every day it was open. More than 500 people came to shopping mall to ride the zipline last Sunday, the final day of spring break for many local schools.

For more information go to or


Trek for Tourette along Dallas Road

The Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada, Victoria Chapter, is hosting its 6th annual Trek for Tourette today. It is the only national fundraiser for the condition.

This family-friendly event takes trekkers for a five kilometre walk along Dallas Road — from the Polish Hall in James Bay, along the waterfront to Dallas Road and back. The Victoria event is one of a number held across Canada by the organization. People can register online, raise pledges and win prizes.

Registration begins at 1, the trek starts at 2 p.m. People should meet at the White Eagle Polish Hall, 90 Dock St. in James Bay. Plenty of parking on site. For more information, go to


Soup Kitchen gets helping hand

It’s not just the city’s most vulnerable citizens who can suddenly find themselves homeless — sometimes even those who help out are in need of a helping hand. The Soup Kitchen — also known as the long-running 9-10 Club — had been running a daily soup kitchen out of the basement of St. Andrew’s Cathedral for 31 years.

But due to renovations to the building, they had to vacate the premises. Without a location, they could not continue to provide their meal service to the needy.

“We didn’t want to lose our volunteers or suppliers,” said Richard Marshall, chair of the soup kitchen’s board of directors. “And we definitely wanted to keep serving soup to the hungry.”

But finding a temporary home in downtown Victoria was much more difficult than anticipated.

“But then Our Place came to our rescue,” said Marshall. “The mission offered us free use of the dining hall — and the reception from staff has been so wonderful. Our volunteers are amazed at all the services Our Place offers to the homeless and impoverished in our community.”

The Soup Kitchen plans to return to its original location by the end of the year when renovations are complete.

“We understand the value of fellowship over a good meal,” said Don Evans, executive director of Our Place. “And anything that benefits the most vulnerable citizens of our community has our support. With a little bit of shuffling, we were happy to help The Soup Kitchen and its guests find a home at Our Place.”

The Soup Kitchen currently operates from 8:30 to 10 a.m., Monday to Friday at Our Place, 919 Pandora Ave. For more information, go to


Car rally raises funds for dementia research

Registration is closing fast for Rally 4 Memories: The Drive for Dementia, a fundraising poker-themed car rally hosted by the We Rage We Weep Alzheimer Foundation. This is the third year of the popular event.

The rally from Victoria to Tofino includes two nights’ accommodation (standard room) of your choice at Middle Beach Lodge in Tofino.

Events include a kickoff event at Philip Nyren Menswear, Womenswear, an arrival reception including drinks and appetizers, dinner prepared exclusively for the event, breakfast at the lodge and lunch mid-Island at the Tigh-Na-Mara Seaside Spa and Resort in Parksville.

There will be several stops along the route where participants can connect with fellow car enthusiasts and collect winning poker cards. Prizes are awarded for the top three poker hands.

There will also be a pre-rally party and live auction hosted by feature sponsors Lugaro Jewellers and TAG HEUER.

The cost of the rally is $600 (based on two people, driver and navigator). A tax receipt is sent to all participants. The event sets off Saturday, April 26. For more information, go to