Turkey’s feel-good event is a fun, runaway success

Zany golf, wacky snail races are part of a winning fundraising formula for charity.

Rob ‘Turkey’ Kielesinski and Rachel Mitchell

Ask Rob ‘Turkey’ Kielesinski – the man with Cloverdale’s most distinctive laugh – how many years his charity golf tournament has been going and he’s genuinely stumped.

“Honestly, I really don’t know. That has never meant anything, how many years I’ve done it,” says Kielesinski, pausing to do a little quick arithmetic. “The whole point is, ‘Let’s keep the funds going.’”

He’s talking about Turkey’s Party Makers Marion Cancer Fund event, an annual fundraiser that combines wacky golf, fun prizes, zany snail races with an evening of dinner and dancing, all in support of the B.C. Cancer Foundation.

He thinks it’s been around 14 years. Wait. It’s 19. “Holy crap!” he says, clearly surprised, launching into his trademark giggle. Time flies when you’re having fun.

Held the Saturday following the Labour Day long weekend each September, the charity event is a

runaway success.

“They have donated $104,010 to the B.C. Cancer Foundation, which is just unbelievable,” according to Rachel Mitchell, development officer for the B.C. Cancer Foundation. Mitchell says it’s also the longest running community event that has been donating to the Fraser Valley Cancer Centre in Surrey.

It all started in 1994, and has grown from there. Proceeds go to the Marion Cancer Fund, created in memory of Kielesinski’s late mother-in-law.

The fundraiser is a labour of love that takes about 23 volunteers nearly 800 hours to organize each year.

Turkey’s Party Makers donates staff time, rentals, and matches the cash guests help raise.

Rain or shine, they play nine holes of golf in the afternoon. The best part? Every hole is a “novelty” hole, says Kielesinski, meaning players must use a hockey stick or tennis racquet to drive the golf ball.

“It’s fun golf – everybody’s guaranteed a prize.”

Then it’s back to the warehouse in Cloverdale for a dinner and dance.

“Just before dinner, we always mention the names of the people that were associated with the golf tournament, that we’ve lost. It’s just a reminder of why we’re here,” he says simply.

Then they dance the night away, but not before placing a friendly bet at the snail races, featuring 20 arthropods with numbers painted on their backs. Each one has a name, such as Slick as Snot, “so everyone is cheering for their snail,” says Kielesinski.

This year, about 150 people attended – all friends, making it one of the most coveted invites of the year on the Cloverdale social calendar. The proceeds from this year’s event  – the most ever at $12,860 for the home-grown fundraiser – will be donated to prostate cancer this year.  “It makes me feel good,” he says. “To me, it brings people together.”