THRIVE HERE campaign kicks off with record-level support

By College Relations | October 25, 2023

A rendering of the Recreation and Wellness Centre

Okanagan College Foundation launches campaign to build a new Recreation and Wellness Centre at its Kelowna campus; Folk family makes record-setting gift

KELOWNA - It’s ‘Game Day’ at Okanagan College! Today, OC students, donors, leaders, staff and community members came together to celebrate the launch of the Thrive Here campaign to build a new Recreation and Wellness Centre on the Kelowna campus.

Making the announcement to the approximately 100 people in attendance, including members from the OC Coyotes basketball and baseball teams, Okanagan College President Dr. Neil Fassina shared that many people are surprised to learn that the Kelowna campus does not have a gym or recreational facility today.

“As our Kelowna campus continues to grow with new student housing and learning centres, we want to be able to offer the best College experience possible – including one that prioritizes student health, wellness, and active lifestyle opportunities,” said Fassina.

Already, key influential community donors have stepped up to the plate to support the $14-million Recreation and Wellness Centre Thrive Here campaign, through generous leadership-level gifts.

The Folk family, driven by their belief in the power of sport to transform lives, has donated an incredible $5 million to Thrive Here. Their transformational gift is the largest one to Okanagan College in its 60-year history, and one of the largest-ever single donations to any college in B.C.

Don Folk, a long-time philanthropist and until 2015 the owner of Don Folk Chevrolet in Kelowna, said that playing sport and staying active is crucial to physical and mental wellbeing.

“No matter the level – whether you are chasing a gold medal or playing for fun – sport teaches life skills, teamwork, and risk taking. It builds confidence and resilience, and forges bonds that last a lifetime,” said Folk.

Folk’s wife Karen passed away in August. She was a passionate golfer, played racquetball and curling and shared the family love of football.

“Karen’s passion for sport and community will live on as thousands of students compete, play and connect in the new Centre. Through sports and recreation, these students are building the skills and strength to become the next generation of community leaders and skilled professionals,” said Helen Jackman, executive director, Okanagan College Foundation.

“The Folk family’s gift is the driving force behind this invaluable Centre, and we are truly grateful for their generosity, trust and vision. They have inspired us and they will inspire many others to support this campaign.”

To date, the Okanagan College Foundation has raised $9 million towards the Recreation and Wellness Centre at the Kelowna campus. To get across the finish line, the Foundation is calling on the community to help raise the remaining $5 million.

Cliff Serwa spoke at the event, and shared his enthusiasm for the project and its impact on community. Cliff, along with his wife Lois, have given $500,000 and are honorary campaign chairs for the Thrive Here campaign.  

“Without basketball, I would’ve quit school early and driven a tractor and been quite happy,” said Serwa. “If I had done that, then there may not have been a Big White [ski resort] and I certainly wouldn’t have been in politics. It was education that enabled me to be able to get involved in a variety of different fields – but it all started as a focus from my activity in sports.
“We believe firmly that access on campus to recreational sports and fitness will enhance the quality of life for the students at OC, and ultimately these students are critical to the future of our community,” said Serwa. 

Rebekah Dingwall, a fourth year Business student at the College, spoke about how the project will help foster a stronger sense of belonging for students.
 “It is key to have connections when you come to college,” said Dingwall. “The Recreation and Wellness Centre is going to create an environment where students can go and meet people and connect.”

When built, the modern facility will be centrally located on the Kelowna campus, creating a space for intramural sports for students to enjoy, and a venue for the OC Coyotes teams to train. Community events and large celebrations, including College convocation and commencement ceremonies, can also take place inside the Centre.

“We know the new Recreation and Wellness Centre will be a place that benefits OC students and our broader community,” said Fassina.  “Sports, wellness and recreation are essential in bringing people together to stay connected, learn and thrive.”

Construction on the new Centre is anticipated to begin in Spring 2024 with doors opening in 2026.

The facility will include a gymnasium, walking track and fitness suite.

To learn more about the Recreation and Wellness Centre and how to donate visit:

Tags: OC Foundation



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