It’s a bargain-hunters’ Shangri-La, and I will attend every year for the rest of my life—but not for the bargains.
Every May the Queen’s Park neighbourhood hosts a community garage sale and it’s one of the events that I really look forward to, but it’s probably not for the reasons you’d think.
Yes, you can get some absolutely fabulous bargains and it’s no secret that I love to get a deal. It’s also an event that builds community because it’s a good excuse to chew the cud with your neighbours, and we all end up buying some sort of junk from each other. I’ve picked up lots of things for our Arts & Crafts bungalow including vintage framed prints, a craftsman-style front porch lamp, and even a wooden door for my art studio. In fact, it was during this annual sale that I bought one of my most prized possessions–my fireplace surround. I love that I know which house it came from and the connection it gives me to the heritage of my city. So yes, great deals, neighbourliness, the treasure exchange, and the proverbial “hunt” for a great deal are all reasons to shop at the Queen’s Park Garage Sale.
But even if I was never to buy another thing, I will always attend. This sale will always be close to my heart because each year it is held in support of Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.
Back in 1995, Frank Wright, a local realtor, decided to sponsor the Queen’s Park Garage Sale in support of the then-under construction and first free-standing children’s hospice in North America. The doors opened that year in November. And only two days after their opening, my husband and I and our two daughters walked through the shining new front doors for our first stay there. In 1994 our oldest daughter, Brenna, was diagnosed with Batten Disease, a rare, degenerative neurological disease. During the next few years after our inaugural visit we received respite at the hospice and, later, palliative and bereavement care there.
Despite what you might think, the hospice is a place full of life–children in wheelchairs zooming around, siblings playing video games with the occasional visiting hockey player and families enjoying time and relaxation together. But children do die there: Brenna passed away at our “home away from home” on the last day of summer, September 21, 1997. The funds raised by the Queen’s Park Garage Sale from 1995 to 1998 directly supported our family while we used Canuck Place.
Another New Westminster family, who live just a few blocks from us in Glenbrook North, needed Canuck Place too when their younger daughter, Madison, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. Says her mom, “Madison passed away in January 2004 at Canuck Place. And we are forever grateful for the care she received.”
The Queen’s Park Garage Sales continued and the funds raised during that time directly helped and supported their family. Then a few years ago, we found out that another young boy living in the Queen’s Park area also received palliative care and subsequently passed away at Canuck Place. Once again, this family was helped in their time of need by the community through the dollars donated during the Queen’s Park Garage Sale. Families receive all the services provided (accommodation, respite, cooked meals, psychological & emotional support, etc.) at no charge, a blessing at such a vulnerable time in a family’s life.
Now the tradition continues. On the Saturday of the Mother’s Day weekend, May 11, people from all over the Lower Mainland will crowd the streets of Queen’s Park for the 18th annual sale. It starts at 9:00am and continues until 4:00pm.
Some are there for the deals; others come to get a glimpse and walk around one of the area’s favourite heritage neighbourhoods. New Westminster—“The Royal City”–and once our provincial capital, is a great place to view Victorian and Arts & Crafts era heritage homes and bungalows.
The families who host the sales do so for many reasons. One woman told me it’s a way to clear out her house each year and she knows the funds she donates will be going to a good cause. Another told me she does it because she never wants to take her children’s health for granted.
But it’s the children who touch my heart the most–the kids with the cookie or lemonade stands and a big sign that says “All funds go to Canuck Place” or “In support of Canukc [sic] Place.” Over the years parents have told me they encourage their children to participate because it teaches them about civic responsibility and how giving back to their community and to a facility like Canuck Place is important. It’s children helping children.
One final reason why I will never miss the neighbourhood garage sale? It’s my opportunity to thank garage sale participants. Sometimes it’s awkward because people don’t know what to say when I tell them who I am and why I’m thankful for their support. But that human connection is always worth the effort because it is a concrete way to express the great appreciation and esteem held in my family’s hearts for what the people of Queen’s Park have done for us and others in our time of profound distress and need.
Now through this post, I have the opportunity to say thank you more publicly. I also want to thank Frank Wright for the years he sponsored the event and now Dave Vallee and his team who have taken up the cause. If you are a participant in the sale, thank you from my heart to yours, for cleaning out your house and supporting the families who use Canuck Place. If you live in the Lower Mainland and have purchased or intend to purchase items at the sale, thank you too.
On that note, for those who plan to attend this year–please spend, spend, spend! How often do you get to do something so entertaining and fun and be certain that the funds donated really do make a difference in people’s lives?
Canuck Place has made it possible for many families like mine to go through the loss of a child and come out the other side mentally and emotionally healthy. For the many families who have benefited from your support through the Queen’s Park Garage Sale, that old adage, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure” has never been more true or carried such deep meaning.