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Nearly $34,000 raised for Island search and rescue group following August rescue

Efforts to fundraise and give back to Comox Valley Search and Rescue proved to be more fruitful than imagined as a check for over $33,000 was handed over to the group.

The donation was raised by Innisfree Farm and Botanic Garden owners Chanchal Cabrera and Thierry Vrain, after 77-year-old Vrain was rescued from the slopes of Boston Canyon while lost on a hike up to Mount Becher.

Cabrera and Vrain said he was lost overnight but were very impressed by the efforts of CVSAR members who were able to rescue him the following day and get him the help he needed, saving his life.

To give back, Vrain and Cabrera decided to host a fundraiser at their farm and hold an online silent auction with the goal of hitting a $5,000 donation that would be matched by Vrain. However, the auction turned out to be much more lucrative than they expected.

They say by the end of the evening of the fundraiser on Sept. 5, over $11,000 had already been raised, and donations continued to pour in over the next week. Vrain then upped his contribution to $10,000, bringing total amount raised to $33,817.

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“This really speaks to the power of community and how important search and rescue is in the Comox Valley,” said Cabrera. “These people are unsung heroes, volunteers who risk their own safety to help others, and they are clearly appreciated by many.”

They add it is approximately the cost of running the helicopter training program for a year. However, the goal of the funding is to help CVSAR find a permanent home for them to run their operations, which search manager Paul Berry says is incredible.

“It was emotional, it was overwhelming for the team to receive that sort of support very publicly at the event and then to receive the check,” said Berry.

“We have been at this for almost 50 years and in the 25 years I’ve been a member this is the first time we ever had a group show appreciation in such a large and public way.”

Berry says the donation will help move the bar up a bit as they get closer to buying their own space. They have never had their own space that is fully paid for in their near 50 years of operating.

He adds they have a plan and quote for building, which will cost $1.4 to $1.5 million, but they still do not have land to build on.

“We’re currently sitting at close to $700,000 that we have set aside. We have a commitment from the regional district for $500,000, so $100,000 a year for the next five years,” said Berry.

“We’re getting there, but we still have a long way to go and when we have to purchase land that puts it even further out of reach.”

He says people can help give to CVSAR by going to their website and a link can be found to their Roofs for Rescuers fundraiser. He adds donations can include land donations if it makes sense from a location standpoint.

CVSAR will be holding an open house on Oct. 1 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at 3001 Moray Ave. to celebrate and thank the community for their contributions and for the public to come in and see what they do.

“These people saved my life; and maybe one day they will save yours,” said Vrain. “Raising funds for them, raising awareness of their work, seems like the least we could do to say thank you.”

With files from Hussam El-Ghussein, Vista Radio

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