Gregory Ould, Founder
While walking out of a movie theater in downtown Vancouver on a chilly October night in 2006, 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.
October 15th, 2005, I came across a man who was shivering outside of the Tinseltown Theatre in downtown Vancouver. He was a man no older than 55 but looked so weathered he appeared much older. Wearing nothing but an autumn coat, jeans and holy shoes, he was sitting in an alcove shivering. As I was walking by him, our eyes met. I felt compelled to speak to him to ask him if he needed anything. Expecting to hear him say he needed money, cigarettes, or food, that’s when he said he “could use a blanket to survive the night.” It was the fact that said “survive the night” that shook the fabric of my being. My heart sank. So, I took off looking for an open store to purchase a warm blanket. The Army & Navy store was open, and I purchased the warmest blanket I could afford. When I came back to the area the gentleman was still sitting, shivering, and alone. When I offered him the blanket, no words were spoken. The look he gave me cemented itself in my mind, heart and soul forever. The look in his eyes conveyed to me that this was the first time that anyone had acted to fulfill his requests, and that he no longer felt alone. Although no words were spoken, what he gave back to me was something far greater than the words ‘thank you’ could ever give.
When I got home late that night, I found my 22-month-old son Benjamin, wide awake and wanting to play with his daddy. Prime Minister, I know how you love playing with your own children as much as I do, and even at 11:30pm, when its time to play, it’s a time for great father/son bonding. As I played with Ben, my mind was still thinking of that man I encountered earlier in the evening. I felt compelled to share my story with my son and as I did, he stopped what he was doing, and seemed to pay close attention to my every word. Although not yet 2 years old, I felt as if he completely knew what I was saying and so I asked “Ben, how would you like to go out with daddy and help people stay warm? We would be like Batman and Robin, only instead of fighting crime, we would fight the cold and homelessness. Together, would give the warmth from our hearts.” Ben looked at me with his sky-blue eyes, smiled with his cute plump cheeks, and enthusiastically said “yeah!” It was the beginning of something which has today grown into something I could have never imagined.
So, Ben and I started collecting blankets and warm clothing from family, friends, and colleagues at work. That winter we collected 67 blankets. The following winter, however, I asked Ben if he wanted to continue and again, he enthusiastically said yes! We set a goal of 2007 blankets of which we were proud to have accomplished. After meeting more people on the street, we found that many organizations and shelter programs usually stop receiving items of warmth after the winter holidays. Ben and I decided to continue this journey as a year-round project we called Blanket BC. The ‘BC’ stands for Beautiful Communities; by giving of yourself, volunteering your time, and providing the warmth from your heart, we can all create a beautiful community.
As the years passed, my beautiful daughter Emma came into our lives, and let me tell you, she was born to lead. Emma came with Ben and I everywhere from Hope to Squamish, all throughout Vancouver Island and all parts in between. She even created her own PSA video at 7 years of age, to encourage others to #SpreadTheWarmth! Blanket BC has organically grown from a family project to a small but meaningful non-profit organization that has delivered over 500,000 blankets to date. Much of these donations go to shelter programs, families in need, and First Nations communities. We have also helped communities overseas; in the Philippines, after Typhoon Haiyan devastated regions of that country, and to orphanages in Zimbabwe, Africa. A blanket isn’t just for warmth, it’s a symbol of security and love.
Our continual goal is to raise awareness to homelessness, poverty and social-economic issues alongside promoting volunteerism at a young age set by examples by my own children. We encourage families to come together, work side by side with each other, and help others in our community.
Every November (other than 2020 due to the COVID Pandemic) we host North America’s largest blanket drive called Blanket BC’s “Drive on the Line”. It’s our annual winter campaign (10 years strong) that takes place over two-days at my regular place of work, the Canada Line (a transit system that takes passengers from Richmond to Vancouver). We utilize 8 of the busiest stations by setting up large bins where the travelling public drops off their monetary donations and items of warmth and are met and greeted by over 175 of our amazing Warmth Warriors (name given by the late Stan Lee) and Blanketeers; our version of volunteers.
Throughout our years of service to our community, we have encountered some amazing people. Individuals locally and from around the world who have graciously shared their personal stories of which have given us the encouragement to continue working everyday. I’m so proud of the work we’ve done together and prouder still, to know that we have encouraged others to help spread life saving warmth, and love.