The revived December Project raised $21,500 for its chosen cause, Santas Anonymous, while achieving other successes including the strong participation and the unique creative challenges.
Nicole Veerman co-facilitated the project with Joe Urie, who founded the December Project in 2014. The community initiative is designed to motivate Jasperites to get active, stay active and contribute to a worthy cause.
The project ran in 2015 and 2016 too, and after the three-year hiatus, Veerman reached out to Urie on Nov. 30 to see if he wanted to bring it back on Dec. 1. Urie jumped on board, and community participation was just as enthusiastic.
"It took off immediately. People were so excited to have this project come back," Veerman said. "There was so much momentum to raise money this year because people knew Santa's Anonymous couldn't do their ordinary fundraisers."
Participants were asked to donate $20 each to Santa's anonymous.
"On top of that, we had many businesses donated through the December Project," Veerman added.
By Dec. 4, more than 400 people were signed up. Veerman also noted how the cause had raised $1,100 by the end of Dec. 1 with that total reaching to $5,900 by Dec. 4.
"When it kicked off, it didn't take long," Urie added. "The momentum kicked in."
Veerman and Urie did a 10-minute live broadcast each morning, sometimes on location, sometimes in Veerman's backyard. Each broadcast started with a different inspirational challenge, which Veerman and Urie danced to.
"We'd tell people about new challenges, remind people about current challenges," Veerman said. "It was always very, very lighthearted and people were joking (about it)."
Veerman said 20 challenges were issued throughout the month.
"We had things like Jasper Rock & Jade challenging people to do physical activity while wearing a festive outfit. Their names were entered in a draw to win a salt lamp," Veerman said. "We also had a contest from Tekarra Lodge and Tekarra Restaurant together. Their challenge was for people to walk or bike from town to the property, take a photo of themselves above the (Athabasca) River and post it. Their names were entered in a draw to win a meal and a stay at Tekarra Lodge.”
Steph Sophocleous, general manager at Tekarra Lodge, said the December Project "really got me moving this month. This got myself and my husband and dogs motivated to get out and about.”
She said seeing other people's posts was inspiring.
"I really got into it. You got to showcase your creative side."
Urie said the December Project had shone a light on a specific person in years past. This year, he noted the efforts of Pamela Roy.
"She is my hero," Urie said. "She motivated us, and she mobilized her family — cross country skiing, sledding."
Veerman noted another challenge was posted "from Jasper Liquor Store and Wine Cellar, to show your most creative workout with wine bottles. There were four draws for a bottle of wine each.”
“[The Jasper municipal council] challenged people in the project to take a photo with Jasper the Bear downtown, and everyone who did that was entered into a draw for a $175 gift card to a local business of their choice," Veerman said. "Each member of council gave $25 of their own money to make up that $175 gift certificate."
Rico Damota, a municipal councillor, has been a member of the December Project since 2014.
"It made me stay off the couch," Damota said regarding the return of the project.
He and his wife, Kea, took their dog, Piper, on walks that extended at least 20 minutes beyond the usual daily routine. Damota said he's impressed with this year's initiative, although given the way Jasper has rallied for a variety of causes and events in years past, it wasn't surprising.
"I think the timing was really good," he said. "It brought a lot of vibrancy, it brought people together."
Damota said council's involvement was a collective effort to be involved in such a worthwhile effort.
"The credit goes to the December Project and Santa's Anonymous."
Mollie Lynch, who has been involved with the December Project from the start, presented the December Dance-Off Challenge and it was a hit.
"Families danced together, partners danced together, and individuals danced alone," Veerman said.
Another challenge was arranged by Alpine Village where they set up their 1954 GMC truck as a photo booth, specifically for the December Project, as a way to raise money. Local photographer Jamie Robson donated three days of her time to take professional photos of families.
Veerman said the truck window was left open a crack.
"Jasperites put in nearly $2,500 — Alpine Village matched that — almost $5,000 came from that fundraiser."
Another unique challenge came from the Jasper Hockey League.
"The goalie of the JFI Bone Stars, Deryl Kelly, put forward a challenge to other teams in the league (to raise money)," Veerman said. "In the end, the Jasper Brew Pub Barley Kings raised the most money, so they were named the 2020 champions for the JHL."
The December Project now has 560 members.
Veerman described this year’s effort as “the most heart-warming and uplifting initiative that I've been involved with. It's a testament to this community. not every community would embrace this the way Jasper did."
Organizers say the spirit of the December Project will continue in another form.
"As the project was coming to a close, there were people contacting us, saying, 'We don't want this to end'," Urie said. "This galvanized the community. We're all in this together."
As a result, they have rebranded the Facebook page to "December 365."
"We were all so good to ourselves, to each other, to the community,” Urie said. “We want to continue that feeling."
It's about taking advantage of a site that is well known already.
“The act of fundraising is finished for the moment, but if a different cause comes, we'll mobilize the page, even if it's not for fundraising," Urie said. "It would be a place to let people know about events and projects, or a place to create projects. Come Dec. 1, it will revert to the December Project."
For the rest of the year though, December 365 will be a place for community members to share their creativity, offer support and help each other out.
Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh