Nfld. & Labrador

Not just the races: Cancelled regatta means a tough fundraising year, charity says

With the Royal St. John's Regatta being cancelled for the first time since the Second World War, Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador CEO Mark Bradbury said the loss of funds compounds what has been a challenging year.

'It's quite the loss for us,' Easter Seals CEO says

Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador use the regatta as an important fundraising tool. With the races cancelled, it adds to what's been a tough year for the group. (CBC)

With the Royal St. John's Regatta being cancelled for the first time since the Second World War, the CEO of Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador says the loss of funds usually raised at Quidi Vidi Lake are the latest blow in what has already been a challenging year.

"It's quite the loss for us not be to able to come down there this year," Mark Bradbury told The St. John's Morning Show on Wednesday.

There were no races at Quidi Vidi Lake on Wednesday, with the Royal Newfoundland Regatta called off months ago because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Easter Seals, which helps provide support and programming for people with disabilities in the province, has been involved in fundraising at the regatta for decades. They began fundraising there with the help of the local Rotary Club, and expanded to having their own booth lakeside in recent years.

Bradbury said the Easter Seals booth involved games highlighting accessibility in the province, along with promoting sports such as sledge hockey. He said the booth is an important revenue for the group, but is important in other facets as well.

"It's important for so many aspects," he said. "The social aspect — it's an opportunity for everyone to come down, and families come by and visit. We have a huge Easter Seals community and they come down with the families and children to visit us."

He added, "We have participants that are there as well, helping us at the booth … so there's a huge aspect for that on the social side."

Difficult year 

Easter Seals has faced many challenges over the course of the past year. Last July, a flood at Easter Seals House on Mount Scio Road in St. John's brought operations to a halt. Due to the pandemic, the group was also forced to cancel their popular summer camps.

Mark Bradbury is the CEO of Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador. (Paula Gale/CBC)

"It's been a real rough year for fund development events, that's for sure," Bradbury said. Our building has been almost shut down six months or more for sure, and that's where we do a lot of our fund development events.… Now we're trying to do things virtually."

The group has shifted to hosting virtual events, such as a virtual run, walk or roll at Bowring Park in St. John's. However, Bradbury said, the fact that events like these can't be hosted as a large social event has brought down registration numbers.

Easter Seals was able to host a successful luxury cabin lottery this year, which sold out quickly. Bradbury said the success of the lottery is helping to offset the loss of other events that can't be done.

As summer moves into fall and the COVID-19 pandemic progresses, he said, he hopes things can improve and a return to some form of normalcy can happen.

"Every one of these events matter," Bradbury said. "Because we must put off about 18 to 20 events … throughout the year, and they all matter and count. So yeah, we've been hurting as a result."

Bradbury said he hopes the worst of the pandemic has passed. 

"We're really hoping for the second wave to only be a ripple on the pond, and hopefully things really start to come around and we can start to find a new way of doing things."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from The St. John's Morning Show

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