For the past 6 years an increasing number of youngsters, or rather, many decades junior the average lawn bowler have been gathering every July to raise funds for cystic fibrosis on the greens. Incongruous? No, it’s Lawn Summer Nights, an annual fundraising campaign borne in Australia but begun in Vancouver in 2009 by 3 friends, realizing a serious lack of fun in their home city and a need to bring awareness to a devastating, tragic and fatal disease.
Initially dubbed the Vancouver Leisure Society, the event has expanded across Canada, this year in 7 cities, from Victoria to Halifax. Every year the mandate has been fundraising, fun, and raising awareness for cystic fibrosis, the most common fatal genetic illness affecting young Canadians. In 2010, half those who perished from CF were under the age of 26. One of those souls was Eva Markvoort, the inspiration of Lawn Summer Nights and champion, even in death, of finding a cure for cystic fibrosis.
Event co-founder, Duncan Gillespie elaborates on the inspiration and genesis of Lawn Summer Nights, now a staple in the summers of hundreds and a major fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis Canada.
“Andrew, Graham and I were in Australia enjoying the leisurely lifestyle those down under enjoy, while at the same time learning about our friend Philip’s documentary about cystic fibrosis and life on the transplant list for his friend, Eva Markvoort. We came back impassioned to bring the fun of lawn bowling to Vancouver, but with a purpose and that purpose was raising funds and awareness for cystic fibrosis.” Gillespie continues, “6 years later, what started as a one city event is now a coast to coast Canadian philanthropic phenomenon. We’re in seven cities from Victoria to Halifax, and every passing year we get closer to Eva’s goal of making CF stand for “cure found” through the tireless fundraising efforts and donations of teams, caring companies and community members.”
Asked on the goal for this year, Duncan laughs, “#LawnMillion, of course,” alluding to the fundraising target of $1M in funds raised since the event began in 2009. The inaugural event raised $11,000, no small feat given the bulk of those funds were raised through single donations and drink sales from longtime sponsors, like Howe Sound, in it again for the 6th year as the beer sponsor. Every year, the total funds raised have at least doubled, poising this year to crack one million dollars.
The success of the event and continuing record-shattering of funds raised says as much about the community of Vancouver and in other participating cities as it does about the businesses and organizations who have jumped in with both feet, and generous cheque books. KPMG has been a corporate lead sponsor since 2012 and their interns, be-decked in KPMG royal blue tee shirts have literally lightened the load on the organizers.
“KPMG has been incredible,” comments Gillespie. “The first couple years it was just the founders, Graham and Andrew Dalik and I and our closest friends, hauling out the bowls, pleading for prizes, running around collecting prizes and finding people to help out. With KPMG we’ve found a total partner and they are helping across the country in more ways than just financially.”
On the inspiration of #LawnSummer, Lawn Summer Night’s spokesperson, Kim Bowie had this to say, “every year we’ve at least doubled what we raised the year before. Having Calgary and Halifax join for year 6, I don’t think I’m setting the bar too high to think we’ll cross the $1M total funds raised threshold. Both Victoria and Toronto bowled us over in their first years and they’ve only gotten stronger. I know that through creative team fundraising, like bake sales, car washes, hugs for sale, team raffles, even unique jewelry pieces, we’re going to get there. We’re sitting pretty at about $565,000 from the past 5 years, and over $31,000 has already been raised nationally and we haven’t even thrown our first jack. To hit #LawnMillion for CF is not only achievable, but it’s throwing a low bowl. We’ll get there.”
The event honours not only Eva Markvoort, whose iconic figure can still be seen skipping across the greens through the beautiful images co-founder Graham Dalik took, but all those suffering from cystic fibrosis, loved ones included.
Lawn Summer Nights Vancouver takes place July 10, 17 and 24 at the Granville Park Lawn Bowling Club. While team spots are sold out (sold out in -60 seconds), spectator tickets are available, announced on the Lawn Summer Nights Facebook page. All proceeds raised go to cracking #LawnMillion, and donations are graciously accepted here.