British Columbia

Family foundation gives new home to Kamloops Search and Rescue

After years of searching for a suitable permanent base, the Kamloops Search and Rescue has been given a new facility. The Wings Above Kamloops Cooper Family Foundation will be converting a former bowling alley into a base for the search and rescue group and the B.C. Search Dog Association.

'Who wants to give you money and an entire building?...It was real kindness.'

Nelly Dever, president and CEO of The Cooper Family Foundation, stands inside of what used to be a bowling alley. The foundation has given the 22,000-square-foot building to the Kamloops Search and Rescue and the B.C. Search Dog Association. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

After years of searching for a suitable permanent base, the Kamloops Search and Rescue is getting a new facility.

On Monday, the Wings Above Kamloops Cooper Family Foundation announced it will  be converting the former Bowlertime bowling alley in the interior city into a base for the Search and Rescue group and the B.C. Search Dog Association.

Building renovations and the cost of rent for both organizations will be covered by the foundation. The foundation's mission is to assist with large projects that benefit the community by using money through the family businesses' real estate projects.

The building owned by the Cooper family will also provide space for a daycare.

Six months ago, Alan Hobler, search manager with Kamloops Search and Rescue, never imagined he would be holding the key to the team's very own place.

"Even when this first came up, I was so skeptical that this would come to fruition. But here we are and they just unveiled the billboards and we've got the key in my hand here and reality is setting in now," Hobler said.

Alan Hobler holds the key to the search and rescue team's new home base. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC.)

The foundation approached Kamloops Search and Rescue first, saying it was interested in helping them, he told Daybreak Kamloops' Jenifer Norwell.

"[It] almost felt like a scam at first. Like, who wants to give you money and an entire building?" asked Hobler. "It wasn't a scam. It was a real deal. It was real kindness and somebody wanting to do something decent."

New home

The 12,000-square-foot space will include a 3,000-square-foot canine training facility, a vehicle bay, a command centre, showers, a decompression room, a laundry facility and a 40-person meeting room.

The building renovation is part of a larger project to develop an entire area on the north shore in Kamloops called the Cooper Centre, which will include include a Tim Hortons and retail stores.

"One of the mantras of the Cooper family foundation is around helping people who are helping others, and this organization is a perfect example of that. It was such an easy choice," said Todd Cooper, president of Cooper Companies and board member at The Cooper Family Foundation.

The Kamloops Search and Rescue team stands outside, waiting to see the new space they will be working out of. (Jenifer Norwell/CBC)

Over the past few years, he noticed how busy the search and rescue team had been with cases in places like Sun Peaks and Merritt.

"Search and rescue was out on average once a week for the last two years so there's lots of other things that are happening all the time," said Cooper.

'Pretty exciting'

Finding out the B.C. Search Dog Association was also getting space in the new facility was pretty emotional, said Mike Ritcey, a director with the association. 

The non-profit trains professional ground search and rescue dogs for missions across the province.

"It's pretty exciting. It's something we never expected," said Ritcey.

Community support

Trevor Honigman, a manager with Vernon Search and Rescue, travelled from the Okanagan to see the new Kamloops base.

"We're all part of the same team across B.C. and it's just great to come and help support another local search and rescue team," said Honigman.

Kamloops Search and Rescue will finally have a permanent home. Yesterday, the Wings Above Kamloops Cooper Family Foundation announced it will be converting the former Bowlertime bowling alley on 8th street into a base for for Search and Rescue and the BC Search Dog Association. Daybreak's Jenifer Norwell was there. 5:54

With files from Jenifer Norwell and Daybreak Kamloops