The Million Dollar Bus project. Image contributed.

Driving Change: A B.C. man’s charitable trip across Canada

A Kelowna man, his bus, and his mission for positive change across our country

He turned a button into a bus, he drove that bus across Canada and now he’s ready to drive it back.

Last year you may remember the story of Kelowna’s Ryan Lancaster and his Million Dollar Bus project.

Last summer he sold his house and quit his job to move into an old school bus. A school bus he obtained from trading a button up to a bus. His dream was to use the bus as a unique fundraising tool.

And while the bus did hit the road and did make it across the country, there is still lots of work to do to complete his vision.

In the fall, Lancaster and his team of two colleagues, Jamie Cottington and Melissa Sbrega, set out across Canada on a mission to find unknown inspiring community projects that they could support.

After three and half months on the road and multiple bus breakdowns the 2017 leg of the Million Dollar Bus project came to end.

Once winter hit, Lancaster was forced to leave his bus in the hands of a man in Newfoundland who has taken good care of the all-too-important mode of transportation.

“We had a guy reach out, who runs the largest bus transportation company in Newfoundland, who offered to help in anyway. I thought we were fine, but as we were coming into St. John’s our alternator went and I called him,” says Lancaster.

“People in Newfoundland are just the wildest and most amazing people. He left his whole company, came downtown, saved us, took the bus back to his shop, fixed it and then offered to store it for the winter. He said ‘Oh you know it’s just what we do for people around here’.”

The man even sends Lancaster picture updates once in awhile to show the bus is in one piece.

While last year’s near race across Canada to beat the impending snow didn’t allow Lancaster to spend the time in each region he wanted, it did allow him to make the connections, and learn about the projects, he needed to kick off the second phase.

“Now, when we come back through, we can make an impact,” adds Lancaster.

“The project isn’t finished. We got across Canada, which had its own challenges in itself, but the idea is to raise a million dollars and help projects across Canada, so we’re not done.”

This year he is hitting the road with Kelowna documentary photographer and videographer Mandy Glinsbockel.

“Mandy and I are blasting off here on April 23,” says Lancaster.

He says four more six-month road trips, or ‘seasons’ of the Million Dollar Bus project, will hypothetically have the bus pulling back into Kelowna in 2021.

“The goal with season two, three, four and five is to move back westward across Canada. To stop longer in each community, partner with a project and then run a fundraising campaign for them.”

This year Lancaster wants to work in the Maritimes, followed by Quebec and Ontario in 2019, the Prairies and the Territories in 2020 and finally Alberta and B.C in 2021.

While this project had been funded entirely through the sale of Lancaster’s personal home, he is rapidly running out of funds.

To keep the bus on the road and food in their bellies, Lancaster has rolled out a Corporate Social Responsibility Model.

“We are reaching out to businesses that have regional offices across Canada who are looking to connect more within their communities. We partner with them and offer them opportunities to connect with the projects we do and highlight the good they do in the community,” explains Lancaster.

“That will help fund the operating costs and give us the time to run the campaigns for the projects.”

Before they leave town, the Million Dollar Bus team has also organized a concert fundraiser to help them with the costs of their project.

Concert for a Cause will be hosted on April 21st and feature two popular local bands Impavid and Mountain Sound at the Kelowna Forum.

“If you want to support us and also take in an amazing live show please buy tickets and come out to that,” said Lancaster.

After arriving in Newfoundland, Lancaster and Glinsbockel will launch their first fundraiser for an environmental project called The Green.

“I feel really good. I’m over-the-top excited, but a little nervous as I feel like I need to climb Everest again, but it will be easier this time,” said Lancaster.

“As amazing and life changing as last year was, it wasn’t what I set out to do. We connected to the communities and we got to highlight some projects, which is good, but to actually be able to create some positive impact is what I want to do.

“It is exciting because here it is, this is the opportunity, make or break. Let’s go all in and do this!”

Related: A cross-country bus ride with a purpose

Related: The mission: turn a button into a bus

Related: Mission complete: Bus secured

For more information on Concert for a Cause click here.

To report a typo, email:
newstips@kelownacapnews.com
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carmen.weld@bpdigital.ca

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Ryan Lancaster is his Million Dollar Bus project. Image contributed.

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