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Strathcona Park Lodge program manager working to establish camp scholarship fund

Sophie O’Brien’s marathon last year sent students from remote communities to WYLD camp
Sophie O’Brien “running WYLD” in June 2021. Photo Courtesy Sophie O’Brien.

Strathcona Park Lodge’s youth program manager, who last year ran a fundraiser marathon so youth from remote Vancouver Island communities could attend summer camp, is working to establish a scholarship to help provide the same opportunity year-after-year.

In June 2021, Sophie O’Brien ran “Run WYLD,” a solo marathon through Strathcona Provincial Park. The run raised money to pay for students in School District 84 to attend the lodge’s Wilderness Youth Leadership Development (WYLD) camps.

READ ALSO: Campbell River runner fundraises for youth to experience outdoors

O’Brien raised over $6,400, allowing five kids to be offered spots at the camp (though one had to drop out at the last minute).

For those youth, WYLD camp provided an opportunity for them to interact with different youth from unfamiliar communities with diverse backgrounds, while learning new skills.

The run also left its mark on O’Brien.

“The whole experience for me was really powerful,” she said. “It felt very surreal, but very powerful.”

Now O’Brien is trying to establish an ongoing scholarship to provide similar opportunities for youth from remote communities in the school district each year.

“The goal is to create some partnerships with organizations that want to be longer term,” she said.

“My goal is to reach out to donors — organizations or corporate donors, or even if people just want to donate, like they did last year.”

O’Brien is seeking five donors to each contribute $1,185 — but hopes to secure multi-year commitments.

The Strathcona Park Lodge is once again offering to subsidize costs by 15 per cent.

Youth are nominated by teachers and the administration of SD84 from each community. Strathcona Park Lodge then chooses the youth from this shortlist.

O’Brien is considering another fundraiser run this year, but has not quite ironed out the details yet.

“I haven’t made a commitment in terms of what I’ll be running, but I have some things that are inspiring me.”

Look down near your feet the next time you hike