For Garth Paley, REALTOR® with RE/MAX in Niagara, and his wife Jennifer, riding motorcycles and supporting local charities is a way of life. Every summer, they’d participate in annual motorcycle rides to support their community. But when COVID-19 saw many of Niagara’s charities struggling to stay afloat, businesses closing, and residents unable to leave their homes, the Paley’s wondered how to bring people together safely and ensure charities wouldn’t be left behind.
That’s when they came up with the idea for the Hog Shed Scavenger Hunt – a 50-destination scavenger hunt that took participants around Niagara to complete various tasks. The scavenger hunt was an instant success, raising over $18,000 for local health centres in the two years it’s been running. The Hog Shed Scavenger Hunt has now become a staple of the Niagara community, offering a way for local residents to explore their own communities, while also supporting a great cause.
A: Prior to COVID-19, my wife and I would often participate in in-person charity events for our local health centres. From group motorcycle rides to galas, these events put money back into the community to support the programs and services we need. Our community has given us so much support over the years, so when COVID hit, we knew we wanted to do something to help. That’s when we came up with the idea for the Hog Shed Scavenger Hunt.
We felt a scavenger hunt that people could do independently would be a great way to safely support our local health centers. Because we’ve done so many trips in the past, Jennifer and I already had a map with dozens of motorcycle routes through Niagara.
So, we looked through the routes we had taken and chose 50 of our favourite destinations along the way, building the first-ever scavenger hunt list. As we were finalizing the list, we realized the scavenger hunt would be more than just a fun way to pass time and raise some money – it was also the perfect opportunity to showcase mom-and-pop shops, points of interest, and other attractions that make our region special.
A: We’re lucky to have so many great businesses and attractions to see in our area, so it was definitely tough to narrow it down. But we knew when we started this that we wanted to make sure we were supporting local businesses, so all the businesses we included are family-owned, and all the points of interest are unique to the Niagara region.
We also wanted to make sure there was lots of diversity in our selection, so we picked a variety of different restaurants, antique shops, museums, and some of our personal favourite spots to visit that we thought the participants would enjoy.
We even included historic sites like the Painted Ladies in Grimsby Beach and the Battle of Ridgeway in 1866. Almost every participant pointed out one destination they never knew about. Sometimes when you’re used to visiting the same few places over and over, you forget how incredible they are. Hearing feedback from the participants really made Jennifer and I remember how amazing it is to live in a place that’s so vibrant with so much history.
A: Their reaction was overwhelmingly positive. The first year, we had over 150 participants and raised over $4,200, with the money going to Pathstone Mental Health, an organization that offers youth mental health resources, and the Hotel Dieu Shaver Health and Rehabilitation Centre, the only rehabilitation hospital in Niagara. In 2021, it grew considerably with over 270 participants helping raise $14,000 for the Women’s Place of South Niagara, a domestic violence shelter in the community.
Although our main goal was to raise money for the community, we also wanted to find a way to help our community members feel connected during this time. So, we created a Facebook group for participants to post pictures and share their favourite memories from the scavenger hunt. The group had everything from parents sharing stories about how the event brought them closer with their children, to pictures of newlyweds on motorcycles. Lockdown was hard on everyone, and the Facebook group blossomed into a thriving online community where people could connect with each other, even when they couldn’t go outside.
A: In the Facebook group, we read about a daughter who took her mother to Fort Erie. The Fort played an important role in the Underground Railroad for those looking to escape from slavery in the United States. Not many are aware, but there’s a cemetery at the Fort celebrating those who were brave enough to travel the Underground Railroad.
The daughter shared a video of her mother’s reaction to visiting the cemetery and talked about how important this location was to her family’s heritage. She shared that the event brought them closer together and that she was thankful to have these memories with her mom. This opened our eyes to how special this initiative really is.
A: Jennifer and I are kicking into high gear for 2022. The scavenger hunt helped the community rediscover unique destinations in our own backyard, but we’d like to expand the initiative to also include tourists. We’d like to showcase these destinations for those who think Niagara is only about wineries and waterfalls.
Our goal is to keep uncovering the places that make our region special. The memories made during the scavenger hunt are the most important part for us. We want tourists and locals alike to remember the scenic routes, unique historic locations and the charming local businesses that encompass Niagara.
And we want them to have fun while doing it!
For more information about the Hog Shed Scavenger Hunt, please visit: https://www.hogshed.ca
To help support the charities mentioned in Garth and Jennifer’s Real Heart story, please visit:
Pathstone Children’s Mental Health: https://www.pathstonefoundation.ca/donate/
Hotel Dieu Shaver Rehabilitation: https://www.foundation.hoteldieushaver.org/site/donate-online
Women’s Place of South Niagara: https://de.womensplacesn.org/donations/donate