By Moneca Jantzen

For the last two decades Kamloops has enjoyed an annual rite of passage each spring, namely Boogie the Bridge. Around the end of each April, a red ‘sea’ of runners and walkers pours out of downtown and crosses the Overlanders Bridge in hopes of accomplishing various running/walking goals.

This celebration of community health and movement has grown from the heart and soul of running guru Jo Berry, and has been sustained by countless volunteers, sponsors and participants year after year.

Boogie the Bridge is an enormous undertaking and it has been one that the Kamloops community has embraced enthusiastically over the years growing from only 68 participants in the beginning to almost 3,000 in 2017.

This monumental event, which now includes a 3-day Expo beforehand besides the Boogie Run Clinics, demands the help of almost 50 committed volunteers over the course of the year and demands almost another 100 on the day. The logistics to keep all of the moving parts working demands a well-oiled machine, one that has had twenty years of practice.

As we look to celebrate our volunteers this month during National Volunteer Week (April 15 – 21), the effort by and talent behind the Boogie organization is a prime example of what deserves our collective thanks and appreciation in organizations all over our community.

Not only does Boogie the Bridge promote and celebrate community health and the transformative notion that ‘movement is change,” proceeds from this annual event are directed towards two agencies each year. This year’s beneficiaries of the fundraising efforts will be KELLI – Kamloops Early Language and Literacy Initiative and the Kamloops Brain Injury Association. Representatives from each organization are required to become team leads on the organizing committee.

Four years ago, Susan Wright was one such representative when her organization, Family Tree Family Centre, was on the receiving end of some of the Boogie proceeds. Two years after fulfilling her organization’s commitment to Boogie, Wright is helping out with the Mini-Boogie for the kids and organizing the chalking of the route with inspirational messages for race day. Wright also serves as Treasurer of the Boogie the Bridge Society.

“My first contact with Boogie the Bridge was when my organization, Family Tree Family Centre, was selected as one of the Charities of Choice for 2014 & 2015. It was very exciting for our organization as it presented a great opportunity to raise the profile of our agency and at that time, we were experiencing a financial crisis. Being awarded the opportunity for funding was a big part of helping us keep our doors open,” recalls Wright.

Her continued involvement on the Boogie team stems from Wright’s attachment to the other people involved.

“I have formed great friendships on this team and cannot imagine being without them. Being a part of this team is more than just a volunteering opportunity.”
“The team is a really cohesive unit full of love, laughter and support. I’ve never seen such a large group function so well together. It is truly a joy to be a part of this group.”

After 3 years of volunteering for Boogie, Wright decided to finally join RunClub last year and gave running a try.

“Once the Boogie season begins it is so wonderful to see so many people out running in the community. Not only do we see a “sea of red” on Boogie day, I see more and more people out running getting ready for the event, many wearing shirts from the year before. The community health benefits from this event are truly amazing! I know for myself joining Run Club was a game changer. I never thought that I would be able to join in such an event as a participant and Run Club got me ready. The Run Club training was so supportive and encouraging. It kept me coming and as a result I lost 30 pounds and I was able to participate in Boogie last year in the 5k with my son,” enthuses Wright.

Another enthusiastic Boogie the Bridge volunteer is Karla Karcioglu who serves on the social media and magazine teams.
A TRU journalism graduate, Karcioglu explains “I’m a big believer in finding special community projects that would benefit from (my) knowledge and/or experience, and using that to help give back. Some people give money, some give products or services, and some give time and expertise. All of the above are great! At this point I’m in a position to give time and expertise.”

Karcioglu appreciates the dynamism of the organization and the opportunity to contribute new ideas. Last year she floated the idea of Boogie Beer with the help of Red Collar Brewing. They brewed a keg of Boogie Beer and proceeds of the sales were donated to Boogie the Bridge.

“There are so many exciting things going on. There are so many moving pieces that make this event happen, and it’s all so exciting, so it’s hard not to get involved in a few different teams, committees, or projects. Plus there’s always the opportunity to pitch new elements to grow Boogie. Also, everyone on the Boogie Team is so helpful, and open to ideas and suggestions, so it’s very collaborative.”

Karcioglu cites numerous rewards to being involved in planning this event each year.

“This was the first time I was involved in choosing new charities for Boogie the Bridge funding, and that in itself was such a rewarding experience. It’s amazing to learn how much of an important role the funding from our event has on each charity, and the impact that has on our community.”

“The energy of the Boogie Team is also rewarding. The excitement and the support you feel being part of this team is hard to match anywhere else.
And finally, the biggest reward by far is race day, when you get to watch the excitement of the community, the inclusiveness and support everyone has for each other, the fun everyone has on race day, the big smiles on the faces of people of all ages and abilities as they cross that finish line and complete their goals!”

Just as RunClub and Boogie the Bridge are committed to the notion that actual “movement is change,” it is safe to say that the organization itself represents change, and transformative change at that.

While incredibly welcoming and supportive, RunClub and Boogie the Bridge embody a philosophy that promotes a safe place to move out of our comfort zones and volunteering for the organization provides huge capacity for growth and learning and growing good things for the wider community.

Wright recounts the day she had to offer a presentation on her charity and due to a mix up on the time she arrived late and flustered, almost panicked and upon arrival the committee helped calm her down, brought her some water and encouraged her to proceed with her presentation.

“They listened intently, asked me questions and were very kind to me. The rest is history. I am truly grateful to have been given the opportunity to be part of this great movement—it has truly changed my life.”