BY BILL PHILLIPS
It was a complete surprise.
When Demmy and Renee Conway-Grist of Costumes for a Cause showed up at Hub City Volkwagen this afternoon, they thought they were getting a cash donation for the charity they run. It was true, they were getting a donation. But it wasn’t cash and they didn’t realize just how big of a donation it would be.
When they came in the showroom, owner Richard Schleich presented them with the keys to a minivan.
The tears started to flow as the homegrown charity that helps sick kids was given a tremendous boost.
“It means so much,” Demmy Conway-Grist said of the donation. “We were basically running costumes out of a small car. This is incredible.”
Costumes for a Cause is Demmy, Renee, and a group of volunteers who dress up as well-known cartoon characters and visit children in the hospital undergoing chemotherapy treatment. It’s a home-grown charity that came about after the first FanCon two years ago.
“It was kind of an accident,” said Demmy of the group’s origins. “We got the first costume and it was just for fun (for Fancon). Everyone just lost it and asked if we would do birthday parties.”
After talking it over, they decided that it was a great way to give back to the community, and if they were going to attend someone’s special day, it was going to be a privilege, not a cost. After attending a few birthday parties, they began to ask for donations in order to buy more costumes to reach to a bigger crowd.
Before long, they had a couple of costumes and they were contacted by the pediatric ward of the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia to come visit a sick child.
“Our first visit to the ward was emotional, as have been every visit since. We have had the honour of holding a child’s hand while undergoing chemotherapy.”
“Being in the company of someone who had only a couple days left in this world. Getting to make a sick kid’s day just that little bit brighter … The list goes on. As well as this, we’ve had the pleasure of visiting the Seniors of Jubilee Lodge on special occasions like Christmas Day and Easter and enjoy bringing smiles to everyone’s faces with our strange characters.”
Their costumes include Olaf from Frozen, Chase from Paw Patrol, Michaelangelo the Ninja Turtle and Pikachu, as well as a variety of seasonal characters and super heroes.
“We do birthday parties and events, 100 per cent by donation, and all that money goes towards getting gifts for kids in the hospital, costume maintenance, and new costumes,” said Demmy.
They recently made a trip to Children’s Hospital in Vancouver and Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.
In addition to the trip south, and they’re hoping to make another soon with the new van, they visit the University Hospital of Northern B.C. as often as they can.
For Richard and Sarah Schleich of Hub City Volkswagen, giving a van to Costumes for a Cause was an easy decision to make.
“Those two ladies do so much for the community,” said Richard.
“They do this, not for money or profit, but because it’s something they believe in. At the end of the day, it’s all for the kids … They do such a sacrifice for the community, it was the least that we could do.”
It took a little bit of searching to get just the right vehicle that would meet the charity’s needs, but Richard tracked one down.
“That’s pretty impactful,” said Sarah Schleich of the work Costumes for a Cause does. “They do a lot of good … On their last trip to Vancouver they could only get three costumes (in their car) and they had to sleep on top of the costumes in order to get to Vancouver to see the kids.”
That will change with the roomier Volkswagen.
You can find out more about Costumes for a Cause on their Facebook page.