Even when Maxine DeHart is “taking a break” from her fundraising activities, she still helped raise more than $50,000 for the United Way fundraising campaign on Thursday.
DeHart was the guest of honour for the inaugural United Way Celebrity Roast held Thursday at the Willowstone Academy Auditorium.
She was subjected to a roasting by several of her friends and colleagues for more than two hours.
Among the roasters were radio talk show host Phil Johnson, Ramada Hotel & Conference Centre general manager Stan Martindale, retired Global Okanagan news anchor Rick Webber, long-time radio personality Steve “Stuntman” Francis, singer Anna Jacyszyn, and city councillors Loyal Wooldridge and Ryan Donn.
Comedian Rob Balsdon served as the master-of-the-ceremonies.
Letters were also read aloud sent by former mayor Walter Gray, former Kelowna fire chief and city councillor Gerry Zimmermann and retired Kelowna RCMP superintendent Bill McKinnon, all who were unable to attend the roast due to other commitments.
Numerous comedic shots were directed DeHart’s way during the evening’s proceedings, but she took them all in stride, microphone in hand ready to rebut some of them on the spot.
She admitted to being somewhat trepidacious about subjecting herself to a roast.
“But when I saw it was to benefit the United Way, I said I am in,” she said. “I know how hard it is to raise money nowadays.”
DeHart’s fundraising exploits have left a huge impact on the 73 agency programs that are supported by the local United Way across the Okanagan Valley.
Those programs address some harsh realities of the Okanagan lifestyle — one in five kids under the age of 14 live in poverty, one in five adults have mental health issues, 10 per cent of seniors live in poverty and 21 per cent of households spend more than half their income on rent.
The centrepiece of her efforts had been DeHart’s annual drive-thru breakfast, which during its 20-year tenure raised $850,000 – a phenomenal amount when considering the actual event itself was only three hours long each year.
DeHart and her drive-thru supporters decided to step back and bring the fundraiser to a close last year, raising $100,000 in the final event, but she has a new United Way fundraising idea she is planning for 2021.
She credited the sponsors behind the drive-thru for making it such a success.
“The livelihood of these types of fundraising events are the sponsors who were very supportive of the drive-thru over the years. But we have something else in mind for (2021) so I am warning everyone now to be ready to get out their pocketbooks,” she said.
“But a lot of people in this community have been very, very generous to me to support charity causes and I just feel lucky to be a part of it.”