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United Way's Billboard Rescue hits 25

Organizers hope to raise $150,000 at this year's event, scheduled for May 18.
Shawn Christie
Lowery's partner Shawn Christie on Thursday, April 20, 2017 helps launch the United Way of Thunder Bay's Billboard Rescue campaign (Leith Dunick,

THUNDER BAY – For the past 25 years the annual Billboard Rescue event has been the biggest single fundraiser for the United Way of Thunder Bay.

It returns next month and organizers on Thursday said they want to make it their biggest yet, setting a target of $150,000 and asking participants to start poring through their contact lists to begin fundraising efforts well ahead of the always popular event.

Donna Yocom, a regional director for Investor’s Group, which is a co-sponsor of the Billboard Rescue along with Lowerys, said it’s come a long way over the past quarter century.

“It started back in 1992 with eight teams and they raised over $10,000. Now, I am pleased to say, 25 years later we have registered over 30 teams and we raise over $100,000,” she said.

“I think this event is so popular because the United Way touches so many lives in our community. This is the event that brings everybody together.”

In Thunder Bay, about one in three people is impacted in some form by the United Way, funding 29 different agencies and 59 programs.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s your neighbour, your child or a sibling or just an acquaintance, somebody is using the services that are provided by the United Way.”

The event, which began atop an actual billboard, sees teams of four attempt to raise at least $2,500. On the day of the fundraisers, teams that have not hit their goal are raised to the sky in a scissor lift to jump on their phones and finish collecting pledges.

This year will be a little different in honour of the special anniversary.

“Every time we get to a $250 donation they will get to drop down on their scissor lift a little bit,” Yocum said.

“The whole idea is a little bit of a race against the other lift.”

Lowery’s Shawn Christie said the money goes a long way.

“It’s important. The need in the community is more than what we bring in,” he said.

To take part, contact the United Way of Thunder Bay at

A charity barbecue will also be held in conjunction with this year’s event, which will be held on May 18 outside the Investor’s Group’s Jade Court offices.