A long-running Cowichan Lake tradition — the Nichole Stock Penny Drive for the Variety Club Telethon — has ended.
Carolyne Austin, one of those who have been looking after it in recent years made the announcement Jan. 23 in a post on Facebook. In it, she gave a history of the campaign.
“Nichole Stock, the original ‘Penny Girl’, was born with a genetic heart condition and spent much of her young life being treated at Vancouver Children’s Hospital. The family lived in Caycuse at the time.
“When Nichole was nine years old in 1989 she was watching the Show of Hearts [the Variety Club Telethon, which was a huge event at the time] on TV with her grandmother, Gloria Carnell. The stories inspired her to want to help other children with health problems by raising funds for the hospital.
“She noticed pennies were often left on tables, dropped in streets, etc. and Nichole, along with her grandmother, decided that collecting pennies could help. That’s when she became the original ‘Penny Girl’. Her grandma was a very big part of this drive and spent many hours collecting, washing and wrapping pennies along with Nichole, other family members and friends.
“The following year Nichole and her family traveled to Vancouver to take the donations to the Show of Hearts and to tell her story on TV. And, because of all the donations raised over the years, Nichole has her name on Variety Club community buses.”
Nichole died in 1999, following another surgery, but her campaign to raise money for the children’s hospital did not stop. Students from Lake Cowichan Secondary School, family and friends kept her campaign alive for several years and then in 2007 the Cowichan Lake District Seniors’ Association and Golden Agers’ Society took it on.
“These days coinage is scarce and other charities in our area are collecting funds to help their causes,” Austin said. “Therefore we have decided to end coin collecting this year, take the containers out of businesses and send all the funds we have collected to this year’s Variety Club Telethon that will be on Global Television Feb. 9.
“Karen Smith and I plan on continuing to fund raise annually in a different format as long as we are able. Thank you to all those who have so generously donated and wrapped coins over the last 30 years. The Stock/Carnell family are thankful,” she concluded.