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Port Alberni drag racers donate nearly $16K to pair of charities

Residential school memorial, hospital expansion both benefit from Aug. charity cruise
Wahmeesh Ken Watts, second from right, Chief councillor for Tseshaht First Nation, accepts a donation of $7,750 from Alberni Valley Drag Racing Association members Roger Haggerty, left, Dave Beecroft, Deb Haggerty and Dave Mikkelson. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Drag racers and car enthusiasts alike showed themselves to be a giving bunch following the inaugural Thunder in the Valley Cruise on Aug. 6.

The cruise drew 180 vehicles, raised $16,000 for charity and was well received, especially in Beaver Creek and Cherry Creek, said AVDRA’s Deb Haggerty. “People lined the streets.”

The cruise was a substitute to the annual weekend drag racing event, which was cancelled for a second year due to COVID-19 restrictions resulting from the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Drag racers chose a pair of charities to support: the Tseshaht First Nation’s AIRS Memorial project, and West Coast General Hospital Foundation’s emergency department fundraiser. Drivers paid $30 each to participate, and both AVDRA and the Tseshaht sold T-shirts to raise additional funds.

A small contingent from the AVDRA, including Dave Beecroft with his race car, gathered in front of the Tseshaht Administration Building on Tsuma-as Drive on Aug. 25 to present a cheque for $7,750 to Chief Councillor Wahmeesh Ken Watts, who was surprised at the size of the cheque.

“For me, it shows Port Alberni has got a big heart—when our community needs to come together, we do. All these things we have to go together as a community, now we’re supported.”

Tseshaht First Nation is preparing to search the former grounds of the Alberni Indian Residential School (AIRS) for lost children. Watts and his council have started a fund to build a permanent memorial for residential school survivors and the children who never came home.

Watts said his nation is committed to supporting AVDRA as much as they have supported Tseshaht, by helping find a permanent location for the drag races.

The cruise organizing group then brought Dave Beecroft’s race car to the Emergency Department entrance at West Coast General Hospital to donate another $7,750 to the WCGH Foundation.

With the donation the WCGH Foundation has now raised more than $830,000 of the $2 million it committed to raise for the emergency department expansion. Work began in September on the $6-million expansion.

“It’s amazing how the community supports the hospital,” said Ellen (Brown) Everard, vice-president of the WCGH Foundation.

Anyone wishing to donate to the WCGH Foundation’s challenge can find more information at People may also call Chris Francey at 250-731-1370 Ext. 48148 or email

Anyone wishing to make a donation to the Tseshaht AIRS project may do so by e-transfer to (comment or note that it Is a Tseshaht AIRS donation) or write a cheque to Tseshaht First Nation and deliver or mail it to 5091 Tsuma-as Drive, Port Alberni, B.C. V9Y 8X9 and make a note that it is a Tseshaht AIRS donation.

Ellen Everard (Brown), centre, from the West Coast General Hospital Foundation, accepts a cheque for $7,750 from members of the Alberni Valley Drag Racing Association. The money was raised from the AVDRA’s Thunder in the Valley Charity Cruise. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Ellen Everard (Brown), centre, and Chris Francey, second from right, of the West Coast General Hospital Foundation, accept a cheque for $7,750 from members of the Alberni Valley Drag Racing Association. The money was raised from the AVDRA’s Thunder in the Valley Charity Cruise. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)

Susie Quinn

About the Author: Susie Quinn

A journalist since 1987, I proudly serve as the Alberni Valley News editor.
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