When the skies above Wallaceburg lit up with exploding fireworks Friday night, it signaled the end of 12 months of fundraising efforts by a local group of citizens – and the beginning of the next 12 months of work.
For the past three years, seven local resident, (Kevin Roocroft, Kristyna Roocroft, Karen Verstappen, Tom Cogghe, Jay Smith, Eric VanDamme and Travis Hooper) have raised $20,000 annually to pay for the event held at Kinsmen Park.
Four of the seven work at Homeward Realty, including chairman Kevin Roocroft who said the group’s commitment to children in Wallaceburg is behind the effort.
“We do it for the kids,” he said. “All of our committee members are young, family-oriented people. The fireworks were operated for years but the Knights of Pythias and when we stepped in we all agreed there should be a day full of free activities.”
Kevin’s sister Kristyna, said even the event’s name, Wallaceburg Family Fireworks Festival, reflects its purpose.
“We wanted something where parents didn’t have to worry about money,” she said. “It’s an important day and everyone should feel part of it.”
Kevin said he believes the event, which draws more than 6,000 to Kinsmen Park and adjacent A.A. Wright School playground, is the biggest in Chatham-Kent.
“We have a lot of out of town people who come here each year and help donate to keep it going,” Kristyna said.
During the day’s festivities, the group collects donations and sells glow sticks to raise money, but most of the funds come from sponsors and events held throughout the year as well as a small federal grant from Canada Heritage.
The committee sponsors an on-line auction, a trivia night, quarter auctions, raffles, 12 days of Christmas events and operates the children’s program at the annual Sydenham Challenge Dragon Boat festival.
“We literally start planning the day of the event and this year we’re ahead of that since we’re planning something really special for Canada’s 150th birthday next year,” Kevin said.