Passing on the “King Kan” crown

By Gordon Lambie

After one last collection this spring, Joe “King Kan” Kelly will be stepping back from the fundraising work he has come to be known for in the townships. Now 83, Kelly told The Record that various changes in his life have led to the decision, which he has been working up to for a few years.
“At one time I was collecting for various groups, but in the last few years I’ve narrowed it down to about four groups; the Townshippers Foundation, Camp d’Action Biblique, the Terry Fox Foundation, and the Wales Home,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for seventeen or eighteen years now, I’d like to keep it going, but if I could pass it off to some other group like the boy scouts or some athletic team, that could be good.”
Although he didn’t have exact figures, Kelly estimated that he’s raised as much as $120,000, mainly through collecting cans and bottles, since he got started in 2002.
“It started off in 2002 when Bev (Taber-Smith’s) granddaughter was on the Canadian Trampoline team,” he said, explaining that he thought of the can and bottle drive as a way to support her going on a trip to compete in Australia. “I realized it’s not that big a deal to collect money for causes, and one thing led to another from there.”
Splitting his time between Richmond and Rosemere, Kelly has built up an impressive network of can connections to help feed his fundraising machine.
“Joe has put in a phenomenal amount of work,” said Craig Dewar, the convener of the camp committee for Camp d’Action Biblique (CAB). “We’re going to miss him doing that.”
Dewar estimated that in the ten years or so that Kelly has been fundraising for the camp, he has brought in well over $13,000 to helping kids pay for camp.
“He usually dedicated three months in the spring to collect bottles and cans for the young people going to camp,” Dewar said, “just about every year there were funds put towards supporting camping in the area.”
The camp representative said that he had already been helping Kelly out with other fundraising events by the time he took over at CAB for his father, and that the connection to the camp developed from there. He recalled helping to bring in carloads of over 700 bottles to contribute to the cause.
“They were stuffed in there every which way,” Dewar said. “It became quite an art.”
He spoke very highly of Kelly’s ability to make the most of the bottles and cans available, and also acknowledged how hard it has been for the fundraiser to step away from his mission.
“Joe’s just a spring chicken at 83,” Dewar laughed. “He’s been about five or six years retiring from the collection because he enjoyed the interaction with people and the good that he saw being done with the money being raised.
“Craig and I get along well,” Kelly said, adding that the latter has been a big contributor to the various campaigns over the years.
Asked about his collections, Kelly offered a very methodical system for making the most of the donations coming in that included everything from an exacting knowledge of how many different sized bottles or cans will fit into the bags provided by the local grocery store, to the values of different kinds of returns in different regions. He said that his fundraising for the Terry Fox Foundation represented the biggest piece of the pie, at $5,000 to $7,000 per year, but pointed out that those fundriasers also included the sales of hats and t-shirts as well as general donations.
Not surprising, given his dedication over nearly 20 years, Kelly really believes in the value of the work he has been doing and is very interested in passing the torch to another group or groups to keep it going after he steps back.
“I’m carrying on with the Camp d’Action Biblique right now, but after that I’m going to see if anyone else is interested,” he said, sharing that he has already reached out to a few scout troops but is open to hearing from others. “Hopefully some other people will pick this up.”
The current collection is also stymied by the fact that, with the current restrictions because of COVID-19, no businesses are taking the can returns and many of his usual drop off and storage points are closed.
“I ask people to please hang onto the cans so that when the pandemic is over and things can go back to normal then we can collect them and cash them in,” he said “Right now everything is up in the air, though.”
Anyone interested in reaching out to Kelly about taking on his work is invited to contact him for more information by calling 514-754-4131.
The current collection is planned to continue until the end of June. Those in the Richmond area can bring empties to 588 Gouin St, and leave them under the car-port on King Street, including a name and address on the bags and boxes.
Those in Sherbrooke or other nearby areas are asked hang on to your empties until a local drop-off point can be established.

Published in the Wednesday, April 29 edition of The Record.

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