Driving the dream: Folk family gift of $5M inspired by belief that sports transforms lives

By College Relations | November 24, 2023

A rendering of the Recreation and Wellness Centre
A rendering of the Recreation and Wellness Centre.

It takes vision and trust to be the first to commit to a new project. A belief in the organization behind it and complete conviction in the impact it will have. In this case, it was an unwavering certainty that sports and recreation have the power to transform lives. 

It is this vision and faith that we are indebted to. It inspired the Folk family’s transformational gift. A gift that will result in Okanagan College’s Recreation and Wellness Centre on the Kelowna campus. 

Don, Karen and their son Rodney - a family united by their love of sport. Football was the family favourite thanks to Don’s passion for the game, while Karen also loved curling, racquetball and golf. 

Karen and Don could often be found at the golf course on a beautiful Okanagan day. As competitive as they were, it was the comradery and friendship that they enjoyed most. 

Sport wasn’t just about staying healthy; it was a way of connecting with your community. It was a way of being a part of your community. And being a part of the community, being instrumental in the growth of Kelowna was something the Folk family did through their business vision and entrepreneurship. 

Back in 1971, Don acquired the local Chevrolet dealership. With a discipline learned as a young sportsman, for the next 43 years Don oversaw the growth of the dealership from a 15-car showroom to a major retailer of over 750 vehicles. The Folk Chevrolet dealership grew to be a pinnacle employer in the Okanagan, instrumental in the economic growth and prosperity of the region, with a reputation the community trusted and believed in.

In both a business and personal capacity, the Folks have supported countless sports teams, charity events and deserving causes in Kelowna. From healthcare to education, they understood that philanthropy has the power to elevate everyone to realize their potential. So, it should be no surprise that when the time came to support the community once more, this time by kick-starting a much-needed Recreation and Wellness Centre at Okanagan College, the Folk family stepped forward to ensure students have access to the facility they deserve.

They gifted an incredible $5 million. Their gift is the largest in Okanagan College’s history, and one of the largest gifts ever to a college in British Columbia.

Karen sadly passed away on August 10, 2023. Her passion for sports and community will live on, as thousands of students compete, play and connect in the Centre, building the skills and strength to become the next generation of community leaders and skilled professionals.

“This is not just a gymnasium. It will be the heart of our campus. This new Recreation and Wellness Centre will foster belonging and community, helping our students thrive in their education and their future endeavours,” says Neil Fassina, Okanagan College President.

“The Folk family’s gift is the driving force behind one of our most important classrooms, and we are truly grateful for their generosity, trust and vision."

Tags: OC Foundation



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