Like a lot of pirates, Julie Desroches will be raising the roof this Halloween. But the timbers this Burnaby buccaneer wants to shiver are atop a children’s school in Uganda.
Desroches is transforming her Burnaby bungalow into a pirate house for Halloween to raise money for a new roof for the Saint Stephen’s Children Centre in Uganda. Visitors to 5970 Portland St. will be treated to an interactive display that includes a pirate ship, graveyard, games, a treasure hunt and more. The decorations are handmade by Desroches and friends from as far away as Switzerland and Uganda.
Desroches is hoping to raise $2,500, and so far, she’s already reached the $800 mark (or 100 pieces of eight). It’s her way of giving back to the African community where she worked as a volunteer in 2000. There she made friends with Ben J., a young man who desperately wanted an education.
Once she got back home, Desroches helped pay for Ben J. to go to college, where he earned his diploma in animal husbandry. The two have remained in touch over the years, comparing notes about life – and the state of the school.
But for Desroches, the pirate project is more than just her own paean to privateers or ordinary fundraiser.
It’s a celebration of life.
Five years ago, she fell gravely ill and nearly died. Doctors were unsure what she had at first but have since treated her for fibromyalgia, a disorder that often leaves the body’s pain receptors in hyper drive.
During her illness, the 38-year-old Desroches was inspired by her friend Ben J.’s struggles.
“When I was sick he was in my thoughts because he had overcome so much,” she said. “He inspired me to do the same.”
Desroches is still recovering but felt strong enough to take on the pirate project this year. She says the theme fits the often-stormy seas of life she and her family had to navigate during her illness.
But really – why pirates?
“The kids asked me, ‘Why are you doing this?’ I said, ‘Because when you almost die, you realize it’s important to do the things that make you happy, and this makes me happy,’” she said.
Despite the challenges life has thrown at her, Desroches remains an unabashedly Jolly Roger and can’t wait for Halloween. Her house will be open to trick-or-treaters from 5 to 8 p.m.
And by the way, you can try telling a pirate joke at the door, but chances are Desroches has heard it.
“Yes, ‘Aaaar house is a very, very fine house!’ I think we’ve done every pirate joke there is,” she laughs.
For a preview of the pirate house project, you can visit Desroches’ website, www.piratehouse.ca.
© Copyright 2013