The farming community of Rich Valley, Alta., is so small that it doesn’t even have a corner store.
But it does have an arena.
That arena complex, which also features a community hall, is located 70km northwest of Edmonton along Highway 33. It’s been a central pillar for the surrounding farming families and nearby Alexis First Nation since it was built more than 30 years ago.
“We celebrate weddings and we mourn funerals there,” said Lisa Mayguard, the director of the Rich Valley Agricultural Society. “It’s the cornerstone of our community.”
The Rich Valley Agriplex is a ‘cornerstone’ of the northern Alberta farming community.
Last fall, the arena’s aging ice maker stopped working. The Ag Society, which operates the arena, scrambled to find a fix, but the cost of replacing the system proved too expensive to be feasible.
“Having to tell all those kids that they wouldn’t have ice for the season was really difficult,” said Lisa.
Complicating the matter was the fact that without the income from the arena, operating the community hall in the complex would also be too expensive. So the Ag Society got to work fundraising for a new ice system. They entered Kraft’s Hockeyville contest—the grand prize of $250,000 would pay for a brand new system—and held multiple fundraising events.
The community ended up as a finalist for Hockeyville and walked away with $25,000.
“We won so much that weekend without winning the grand prize,” said Lisa. “It really showed our community that we can rally together.”
Even so, the Ag Society was still well short of its fundraising goal of $140,000.
A worthy cause
From left: ATB team members Shelly Hove, Jacob Stuchlik and Cristy Levesque.
Rich Valley is Shelly Hove’s hometown; she learned to skate at the arena. She now works for ATB in Stony Plain, where she still sees many of Rich Valley’s residents on a regular basis.
Both Shelly and another ATB team member, Cristy Levesque, nominated the Rich Valley Ag Society for ATB’s surprise and delight program, which empowers branches to recognize their customers and find ways to create happiness through banking.
“We see all these [community members] as individuals in the bank constantly,” Shelly said. “We know them on a personal level, we know their families, we know what they’re going through.”
“The Ag Society had over $33,000 donated personally from the community,” she added. “People are trying everything they can to get this ice back.”
Shelly and Cristy proposed a $25,000 donation to the Ag Society to help the community get back on the ice.
“It was the perfect way to support their fundraising efforts,” Shelly said.
'We have hope again'
Power outages forced the Rich Valley Ag Society to host part of its annual steak supper by candlelight.
Between unexpected power failures and problems with barbeques, the evening of Rich Valley’s annual steak supper was shaping up to be another disappointment for a community that was already facing its share of difficulties. At one point, the dozens of attendees were eating by candlelight.
“It was just one of those nights where everything that could go wrong, did go wrong,” said Lisa.
Towards the end of the evening, ATB presented Ag Society president Steve Borle with a cheque for $25,000. The mood in the room changed.
“It’s rare in our community to get a standing ovation,” said Lisa. She was the only one who knew ahead of time about the donation. “ATB got a standing ovation.”
“It was really neat to be able to sit back and look at the reactions on the faces of everyone else,” she continued. “To have something really positive happen that they didn’t know about...it was huge. We had board members that were in tears about it they were so grateful.”
The donation brings the sum of Rich Valley’s fundraising efforts to around $105,000; Lisa says the goal of $140,000 finally feels attainable. The Ag Society has also applied for two major grants and is planning a few more fundraising events.
“Slowly but surely we’re going to keep picking away at it,” she said. “We have hope again.”
Interested in supporting the Rich Valley Ag Society’s fundraising efforts? Email the Rich Valley Ag Society to support their fundraising efforts.