Holiday e.card a gem in Power Pioneers' charity efforts

Holiday e.card' home electricity consumption chart
BC Hydro's holiday e.card is back, and it's designed to bring some cheer to you and — through donations — to the BC Children's Hospital. Click on the above image to view the card now.

Popular annual e.card raises money for the BC Children's Hospital

The holiday season can be busy, frantic and overwhelming. But it's also fun. That's what Lorilee Koltai likes to focus on.

Koltai works for BC Hydro's community investment team, and one of the things she does is coordinate the efforts of the Power Pioneers, a volunteer organization of some 5,000 people.

Power Pioneers live in all communities of the province. They are retirees and spouses going back to B.C. Electric and B.C. Power Commission, which became BC Hydro in 1961.

We're sitting in Koltai's cubicle in the BC Hydro building in downtown Vancouver and she's celebrating her 30th anniversary at the company with a piece of cake.

"Their motto is 'supporting our communities and each other'," says Lorilee.

Sitting beside Koltai, Nancy Ashurst nods in agreement. She's the provincial treasurer for the Power Pioneers and spends a couple of days a week looking at bank statements and spreadsheets. It's something she has fun doing.

It's not that the retired BC Hydro employee doesn't have other things to do. But Ashurst says that the results of the efforts of the Power Pioneers are very tangible.

The annual holiday card — including the just-released 2011 edition — a good example.

Setting a $1 million goal

Money raised by the holiday card goes towards the Miracle Million campaign, a pledge initiated by Power Pioneer members in 1990 to raise a million dollars for BC Children's Hospital within 27 years.

Koltai says the campaign has raised $695,000. Last year, when the economy had a rosier outlook, it looked like they might raise that million in advance of their 2017 target. Ashurst's not sure how the slowdown will affect progress in the next couple of years.

  • See the 2011 BC Hydro holiday e.card and raise some cheer

But the card campaign, already popular, has taken off since it went digital.

The Power Pioneers have always sold boxes of seasonal cards as a fundraiser. They used to sell paper cards printed with artwork created by a member. When BC Hydro began emphasizing conservation and sustainability, the company asked the Power Pioneers if they'd consider an online project.

Moving from paper to pixels

The first interactive e.card appeared in 2007. Visitors clicked on a coin at the top of the page that would turn on lights as it dropped down the animations in the page. Each time the card was viewed, BC Hydro made a donation on behalf of the Power Pioneers, up to a maximum of $25,000.

Children's hospitals from around the world were calling that year, wanting to know how the project had come about and wanting to replicate it in their community. "It was novel," says Koltai, "so that first year was very successful."

The 2008 card was another coin drop.

In 2009, visitors steered a rolling snowman down a hill through ski gates and collected pieces of the snowman along the way. The more complete the snowman at the end, the bigger the donation.

Last year, the card featured a sweater maze.

The cards have been so popular that at no point has BC Hydro failed to make the full donation.

BC Children's benefits the entire province

The hospital was an easy choice to benefit from the holiday card, says Koltai, because even though it is located in Vancouver, it serves the entire province. About half of the visits to the hospital are by patients who live outside the Lower Mainland.

Plus, everyone can connect and relate to kids in their lives, adds Ashurst. "Even if they don't have any of their own, like me."

And the Power Pioneers do more than just raise money for BC Children's. Members from around the province knit and crochet baby toques, slippers and blankets, and three aquariums have been donated to the facility and are maintained by volunteers.

Cheering for dollars

This year's card features a "cheer-o-meter." As visitors raise their cheer level by viewing a video and interacting with the card, a donation is made to the BC Children's Hospital.