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OUR WHY

Gregory Ould, Founder

While walking out of a movie theatre in downtown Vancouver on a chilly October night in 2005, Gregory Ould noticed a man lying in an alcove at the side of a building. Ould went up to the man, whose appearance looked weathered and rough, and asked the man if there was anything that he could do to help him out. Expecting he would ask for money, cigarettes, or coffee, Greg wasn't prepared for what the man did say to him.

“I could use a blanket…
to survive the night.
 

“I could use a blanket to survive the night”. This sentence from a stranger, a man without a home, cold and alone, changed the course of my life and with it, the lives of my family and so many Canadians and other citizens around the world.  
 

On October 15th, 2005, I encountered a man outside the Tinseltown Theatre in downtown Vancouver. He appeared weathered, much older than his actual age of no more than 55. Dressed in nothing but an autumn coat, jeans, and worn-out shoes, he sat shivering in an alcove. As our eyes met while I walked by, a strong urge compelled me to ask if he needed assistance. I expected him to request money, cigarettes, or food, but instead, he said, "I could use a blanket to survive the night." The words "survive the night" struck a deep chord within me, and my heart sank. Without hesitation, I set off to find a store that was open to purchase a warm blanket.

 

Thankfully, the Army & Navy store was open, and I bought the warmest blanket I could afford. Returning to the spot where the man remained shivering and alone, I offered him the blanket. No words passed between us, but the look in his eyes etched itself into my heart and soul. It conveyed the profound realization that this might be the first time someone had responded to his pleas, and he no longer felt alone. In that silent exchange, he gave me something far more meaningful than mere words of gratitude could ever express.

 

Later that night, upon returning home, I found my 22-month-old son Benjamin wide awake and eager to play with his daddy. Even at 11:30 pm, when it's playtime, it's an opportunity for precious father-son bonding. As I played with Ben, my thoughts still lingered on the man I had met earlier in the evening. I felt compelled to share the story with my son, and to my surprise, he stopped what he was doing and listened attentively to every word.

 

Though not yet two years old, it seemed as if Ben fully comprehended what I was saying. So, I asked him, "Ben, how would you like to go out with Daddy and help people stay warm? We could be like Batman and Robin, but instead of fighting crime, we would combat the cold and homelessness. Together, we would share the warmth from our hearts." Ben, with his sky-blue eyes and a radiant smile, enthusiastically responded, "Yeah!" It marked the beginning of a journey that has since grown into something beyond my wildest imagination.

 

Ben and I embarked on a mission to collect blankets and warm clothing from family, friends, and colleagues. That winter, we gathered 67 blankets. The following winter, Ben's enthusiasm remained undiminished as we set a goal of 2,007 blankets, a goal we proudly achieved. Meeting more people on the streets, we realized that many organizations and shelter programs received fewer donations after the winter holidays. Thus, Ben and I committed to making our efforts a year-round project, which we named Blanket BC, where 'BC' stands for Beautiful Communities.

 

As the years passed, my beautiful daughters Emma and Zoë joined our mission. Emma proved to be a natural leader, accompanying Ben and me as we expanded our outreach from Hope to Squamish, all across Vancouver Island, and everywhere in between. At just seven years old, she even created her own PSA video to encourage others to #SpreadTheWarmth! Zoë, now 3 years old, always checks to see if it’s cold outside so she and her “dada” can hand out warm blankets. What began as a family project has organically evolved into a small yet impactful non-profit organization, which has now delivered nearly 700,000 blankets. Our donations primarily support shelter programs, families in need, and First Nations communities. With generous contributions, we've also been able to aid communities overseas, from the Philippines to Zimbabwe, and most recently, families affected by war in Ukraine.

 

A blanket isn't merely for warmth; it symbolizes security and love. Our ongoing goal is to raise awareness about homelessness, poverty, and socio-economic issues while promoting volunteerism, starting at a young age, as exemplified by my own children. We encourage families to come together, work side by side, and help others in our community.

 

Every November (excluding 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID Pandemic), we host North America's largest blanket drive called Blanket BC's "Drive on the Line." This annual winter campaign, now in its 13th year, spans two days at my workplace, the Canada Line, a transit system connecting Richmond to Vancouver. We set up large bins at our busiest stations, where the public generously drops off monetary donations and warm items. They are greeted by over 200 of our dedicated "Warmth Warriors" (as affectionately named by the late Stan Lee) and "Blanketeers," our version of volunteers.

 

Throughout our years of community service, we've encountered incredible individuals, both locally and from around the world, who have shared their personal stories, offering us the motivation to continue our work every day. I take immense pride in our collective efforts and am even prouder to know that we've inspired others to spread life-saving warmth and love.

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