More than $1 million is on its way to the Central Okanagan’s Grade 12 grads.
Kelowna entrepreneurs Lance and Tammy Torgerson were behind the previously anonymous donation announced Thursday, June 17, that will see each local graduate given $500. Lance said his philanthropic action is intended to offer some relief to a difficult COVID-influenced final year of schooling and acknowledge what lies ahead for a younger generation about to be saddled with the accumulated debt in response to the pandemic’s economic impact as they get older.
“This is about helping a part of the population that could use some goodness, could use a helping hand,” he said, adding there are no restrictions on what the young adults can use the funds on.
“Some parents will force their kids to spend it on school and others may get to do what they want with it. Hopefully, they all will give some thought into what goes into something like this and recognize, ‘Hey, there are some people who are behind us.’”
The Torgersons initially wanted to remain anonymous so as not to place the attention on them instead of the student recipients. However, a personal letter sent to each grad’s parents this week from ‘Lance and Tammy’ made their identities easy to uncover on social media.
The two had a front-row seat to the impact of COVID on the final school year for 2020-21 grads, as their son is among those grads.
The couple recognized the challenges the pandemic imposed on grads’ school experience — diminished grad ceremonies, course limitations, no extra-curricular activities, no sports and being unable to see their friends.
Lance said the whole experience has left many students “shellshocked” as they move forward with their lives and career opportunities.
“This is not about scholastics. This is about instilling something positive for kids that have faced a difficult year and will face challenges going forward,” said Lance.
“If you look down the road, these kids are going to take it on the chin. Once they have gone through colleges or universities or start working, they are going to be faced with paying for this pandemic and are likely going to face some difficult times.”
The Torgersons’ generosity comes from the fruits of his financial success in the northern Alberta oil and gas industry along with industrial lodging.
Lance and Tammy both grew up in Alberta and made family vacation treks to the Okanagan, able to move here later in their lives 12 years ago.
His corporate interests include Vantage Living seniors’ residences and Vantage Hemp, based out of Colorado, employing more than 1,200 people in his various businesses.
Lance said he and his wife have been talking for a year about giving back in some way.
When they came up with the idea of the $500 gift, they contacted a friend of theirs who is a Kelowna principal to get his feedback.
“He was kind of taken aback when we said how much we wanted to give,” Lance acknowledged.
While it wasn’t their primary intent, Torgerson said if their donation sparks others who have the resources to give back to their communities to do so, “then that’s all fine.”
“What we have done is a ripple in a big pond but if it causes more ripples, it could lead anywhere,” he said.