Kelowna gives generously for Maxine DeHart’s last United Way breakfast

Tears, cheers and lots of hugs at Central Okanagan United Way breakfast.

Emotions were running high at this year’s United Way Drive-Thru breakfast.

Clad in her signature pyjamas, Maxine DeHart bustled around a never-ending line of cars at Kelowna’s Ramada Hotel parking lot, repeatedly pulling a tissue out of her pocket to wipe tears from her eyes.

“I cannot believe how much people have given,” DeHart said, while taking a moment to sit in one of the tanks that rolled into the event as the total tipped over the $57,000 mark. The previous year’s total was $40,000 and by the time all was said and done, this year’s total was $110,053, putting the 20 year total over $850,000.

Helping meet that aim was the Thomas Alan Budd Foundation, which chipped in a $20,000 donation to the DeHart breakfast.

Budd said that he flew in from LA the night before to make an appearance at the drive-thru breakfast, adding that both Maxine and this community are well worth the effort and the donation.

That caused DeHart to tear up for what was not the first or last time of the morning event.

READ MORE: COMMUNITY RALLIES FOR MAXINE

For 20 years she’s thrown her all into the breakfast and the community has rallied around her.

Dianne Neufeld, a retired teacher, was one of many people at the Thursday event who makes her way to the breakfast annually and this year she went to great lengths to show DeHart her support.

Neufeld recently injured herself and is no longer able to drive her car, so she grabbed her walker and boarded a bus in north Glenmore, where she lives. She got off and walked through the line of cars to make her donation.

It’s that kind of support that makes it hard for DeHart to walk away, but all things have a “best before date — milk, events, politicians” she said, in her inimitable style.

DeHart first heard about the drive-thru concept at a United Way meeting in the Lower Mainland she attended with a delegation from Kelowna 20 years ago. She was about to enter the next year as president of the United Way fundraising campaign.

The Sutton Place hotel in Vancouver had held a relatively successful drive-thru event for two years and it sparked DeHart’s imagination.

“I knew right off the bat we could make it work in Kelowna,” she said, in an earlier interview. “We had all the components in place. A unique event nobody else was doing, a hotel to put it on with a big parking lot, as chair of the United Way campaign I could give it a public profile. In my heart, I just knew if I presented to people, they wouldn’t say no to supporting it.”

Driving back home to Kelowna, it’s all DeHart talked about for the three-hour trip.

“I had it all worked out except for the sponsors by the time we got home. The concept was there. Everyone was ready to throw me out of the van, they were so sick and tired of hearing me talk about it.”

DeHart was right, though. In the end, it has been a highly successful endeavour and, while she will bow out of it after today, DeHart expects to bring her enthusiasm to other events in the days ahead.

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