It has been a year like no other for Elmira District Community Living, the organization having experienced flooding on multiple properties, a massive fire at a group home and a COVID-19 outbreak declared at one of its facilities. There was a little relief in sight, however, as the Raymond Dietrich Memorial BBQ decided EDCL deserved to be the sole beneficiary of this year’s event during the global pandemic.
The modified event in August raised some $16,000.
“It was a no-brainer that they were going to get 100 per cent of our funds raised this year. It was almost a biblical proportion, the stuff that they’ve went through this year. So, it was an opportunity for us to give back,” said Dave Stalzer of the RDM committee in a conference call alongside BBQ team members Chris Pope and Will Jamieson, and EDCL’s Bev Evans and Greg Bechard.
This year is the fourth iteration of the BBQ, which began in Will Jamieson’s backyard and then moved out to the Waterloo Rod and Gun Club.
“This year, COVID obviously threw a wrench in our plans, not being able to do what we wanted and having everybody gather out at the Waterloo Rod and Gun, but as always, the show must go on, as Will likes to say. And it wasn’t a matter of if we were going to do the barbecue, it was how we were going to do it this year with all the restrictions in place,” said Stalzer, who said he was blown away by the turnout in August.
“There’s not many communities around the world like ours.”
Forced to make changes due to the pandemic, organizers had low expectations for the event, which got started in 2017 in memory of Raymond Dietrich, an Elmira resident born with Down syndrome. Instead, they got to deliver $16,000 to EDCL last week at the site of last spring’s fire.
EDCL’s Evans said the group was expecting to see a smaller cheque this year due to the coronavirus situation, with perhaps even the cancellation of the barbecue.
“These young men are unstoppable. With their friends and family, they put together an amazing event, which raises money and awareness in our community. This year, we thought ‘no way, no how,’ but they did it. They found a way – they packaged food and made sure that they had schedules drawn up so that we could all pick up our food at our location. And it was hot and delicious, and really appreciated by everyone,” she said.
Bechard, EDCL’s executive director, said money raised by the community goes toward expenses that government funding doesn’t cover.
“There are many things that the government of Ontario does not pay for,” he said, pointing to the example of a wheelchair vans operated by the agency.
Currently, EDCL has ten on the road, with one needing to be replaced about every year and half at a cost of between $60,000-$70,000. In addition to the replacement fees, there is also insurance, fuel and the like.
“Although the government has funded the majority of the group homes, they don’t necessarily pay for all the repairs and maintenance,” Bechard added.
Stalzer says that next year’s event will have a few surprises in store and will be bigger and better than the past four years, thanking the public for coming out and supporting the cause.