Divers’ charitable spirit shines in annual turkey fund-raiser

Military divers spin on stationary bikes and run on a treadmill in a bomb suit

Members of Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific) and volunteers gathered Nov. 21 for the annual turkey run/spin at Millstream Village, Langford, to raise money for the Goldstream Food Bank’s Christmas Hamper Program.

Rachel Lallouz, Staff Writer – The Goldstream Food Bank got an early Christmas gift this year thanks to clearance divers from CFB Esquimalt.

More than $21,000 was raised for the food bank’s Christmas hamper program at the sixth annual Navy Diver Turkey  Fundraiser at Millstream Village on Saturday Nov. 21.

Lt(N) Walter Dubeau, lead organizer of the event, says crowds gathered at the Village to watch divers complete underwater demonstrations in a 3,000 gallon dive tank loaned to them by the B.C. College of Divers.

Alongside the divers was an equipment display set up by the Fleet Diving Unit (Pacific) bomb disposal unit. One diver wore full bomb disposal gear for the entire day while walking on a treadmill. Stationed a few steps away were divers on nine stationary bicycles riding for hours, eventually covering the distance between Victoria and Calgary, roughly 1,500 kilometres.

“People who line up to receive a hamper each year don’t have a whole lot,” says Lt(N) Dubeau. “The fact that more than half the dive unit – roughly 50 of us – came out and pulled together to raise the funds is a great achievement.”

He credits the strength of the diving unit for pulling off such a feat.

“It takes a whole unit to make this happen. The true thanks must go to the men and women of the Fleet Diving Unit and their friends and families who work hard to get every penny to put those turkeys on the tables.”

Lt(N) Dubeau has been volunteering with the Goldstream Food Bank for over six years, and says that more than 700 recipients from Langford, Colwood, Highlands, Metchosin, and View Royal visit the food bank for a hamper every Christmas.

To equip hampers with a meat product, the food bank relies on donations, which usually amounts to about 25 turkeys – not even close to the number needed for the hundreds who rely on the program.

“When I first started in 2007, the program couldn’t afford to place a meat product in the hamper, so they came away with dry goods, eggs, potatoes, carrots, onions, butter, and soup,” he says.

Karl Kavanaugh, a fellow retired RCN volunteer at the food bank before he passed away, suggested the Diving Unit would make a great resource to help pull together funds for hamper meat products.

Lt(N) Dubeau proposed the idea to his fellow divers in August 2010 and says the rest is history.

With the funds, the Westshore Christmas Hamper program purchases food cards with varying dollar amounts for specific hamper types. A single person would receive the A hamper and a $25  food card, a couple receives a B hamper and $30 food card, while small families receive the C hamper and $35 food card. Larger families with more than two children receive the D hamper and a $40 card. By providing a card rather than a turkey the program can accommodate dietary requirements of individual recipients.

But the Diving Unit’s job isn’t over yet. From Dec. 17 to 18, the team will again volunteer their time at the food bank handing out hampers and food cards.

“We see people with tears in their eyes because they aren’t used to such generosity,” says Lt(N) Dubeau. “For us, it feels good to do that for our community. We want the navy to shine and be able to take care of others.”

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