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Training day

Kimiko Martinez | Dec 17, 2018

The Alberni Pacific Railway’s no. 7 train is ready for Kiwanis passengers.

The Kiwanis Club of Parksville-Qualicum is small but mighty. With just 13 members, the Vancouver Island, British Columbia-based club does its best to maximize resources. And its annual fundraiser is no exception.

The club raised about CA$7,500 at this year’s event with just two Kiwanians (and 16 volunteers) working it. 

Member Pat Weber, a past president of the Qualicum Beach Chamber of Commerce and the club’s special events coordinator, leveraged his connections and experience coordinating winery tours to create a unique evening of luxury, entertainment and education “unavailable anywhere else.”

For years, the club hosted a formal dinner cruise that always sold out. 

“Every year the demand became greater, so we decided to step the adventure up a notch,” Weber says. 

This year, the club made space for more guests (and more fundraising) with a completely new experience that sold out in only three weeks. A steam train ride would transport its passengers to one of the newest historic sites on Vancouver Island — a recently renovated mill — for dinner, dancing and more.

Getting on board with ticket sales

For an experience events coordinator, the planning and logistics of an event is the easy part. The ticket sales is what takes time. So the Kiwanis Club of Parksville-Qualicum did something innovative. They enlisted some of their grantees to help sell tickets.

For example, if you’re going to give money to a youth program or senior center, have them sell tickets for you with the promise that they’ll get 10 percent of any tickets they sell. For the steam train dinner event, one of the club's favorite programs ended up with about $800 from its ticket sales.

“They became aware of what we’re doing and what we support,” Weber says. “And it’s an amazing way for a small club to sell tickets for an event.” 
Guests, ranging in age from the 30s to the 80s, boarded a beautiful, classic working steam train at Qualicum Beach, where it originally hauled lumber from the wharf to the mill. During the ride up to McLean Mill Historic Park, they savored wine and cheese tastings. At journey’s end, a four-course, locally sourced dinner served by a local restaurateur awaited them, as did music, dancing and a tour of the old mill town, including a country store, post office, old houses, historic steam equipment and the mill itself.

“The event was sized to feed the energy,” Weber says. “From the time they got on the bus (to the train), they started developing relationships with the people traveling with them. By the time they were on the train, they were ready for the party.”

So ready, in fact, that even rain couldn’t derail the fun. And because of the way the event was coordinated — with buses shuttling guests from building to building so they could climb on and off under cover — nobody got wet.

“Everybody just had a ball,” Weber says. “Although it poured rain, it didn’t dampen the spirits.”

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