The Night of Your Life
by Chris Dias
When Ben Nemtin, the creator and cast member of the MTV series The Buried Life, took the stage at last Friday’s gala, it was only a crescendo within an opus. The evening commemorated The Bucket List Initiative, aimed at raising money for the Prince George Hospice Society. It was a celebration of one’s drive for personal happiness, and that such contentment rarely comes from the acquisition of currency or the flaunting of ornamented accessories, but rather the amassing of cherished memories.
At some point in the past decade, the idea of unfulfilled dreams, five-year plans, and life-long goals became condensed into one concept—the rather morbid notion of a bucket list. Shockingly enough, the idea of a bucket list did not originate with that mediocre Morgan Freeman/Jack Nicholson flick, though that did popularize it. Nowadays, many people have a list, some with only a handful of entries, others with items in the hundreds. A bucket list for many is like a quantum particle—it alters as we measure it. We don’t realize we have one until sitting down in front of a paper—sorry, 2017, I meant our tablets—and enumerate it. We often realize an item has been scratched after it’s been accomplished, and the need to complete a list becomes desirable, that is before it becomes imperative.
On Saturday, September 22nd, the Prince George Hospice Society placed the metaphorical cherry atop a long-running endeavor. The gala was not only meant to celebrate said venture but also as a means of sharing dreams and satisfying a big one for a particular winner.
I…was not that winner.
But before the event concluded, moments before we took our seats, I met with Selen Alpay of PG’s local Canadian Tire and discussed a recent trip to Edinburgh that matched my own a few years prior. For me, that was a bucket list item as it involved a meal at a Michelin-star restaurant. Selen topped my accomplishment by sharing the time he toured behind the paddock at the Montreal Grand Prix with none other than the great Jackie Stewart. I’m not saying it’s a competition, but I started to think it could be. Selen is always adding items to his bucket list, with the new topper including The Rolling Stones and Paris (as one item). Mine returns to the topic of cars--racing a Porsche around the Nürburgring.
It’s a race track.
Yes, it’s real.
We don't always have the resources to scratch certain items off our list, though the obstacles are not always money. For many, it's will. We procrastinate, we prioritize—the coin jar in the opening sequence of the film Up immediately springs to mind. That’s why you mix up a list, a blend of simple and challenging goals. One friend at the gala wanted tickets to a Seahawk game. Achievable. After my crowning item, the other entries pale in gravitas. Learn a card trick from a master magician. Ride a zip line (and I mean a long one). Bake an epic cake start to finish. Go commando.
The keynote moment of the gala was when Ben Nemtin took the stage. He shared about his life, the inspiration for his list. He encouraged others to achieve their dreams while also paying that accomplishment forward. The condition set by his massively successful show was for every bucket list item he or a friend crossed off, they would help a stranger achieve a dream of his or her own. It was touching, that hardly needs to be said.
And then we saw a video of four men streaking at a soccer game. It was censored, thankfully. Like my list, Ben’s mixed modest goals with lofty ones, like #95: Play Basketball with Obama. Wait, that was number ninety-five? What was number one, land on the moon?
Well, it happened…playing ball with Obama, not the moon thing, though after the first part, he might as well go for the other. It proves anything is possible when you make your list and set about finishing it. I was surely not the only one to start adding to their list that very moment. Mine doubled, then tripled. Ben was undeniably inspiring. His entries are not just about meeting someone. There is complexity; there is action.
Ben then turned to the audience, urging them to share their own goals. A husband wants to take his wife to Norway. Another intends to cycle across in Ireland. One woman wanted to go on a date with Sean Connery. Okay, I admit, not every item is attainable. The winner of the grand prize handed out that evening will take a halibut fishing trip on the ocean, thankfully more achievable than Connery.
However, the emotional climax of the night was undoubtedly when Don Wilimont from host sponsor Wood Wheaton Supercentre took the stage to present Dirk Finger and family with an all-inclusive trip to Disneyland in a surprise addition to the prize giveaways. Dirk was a high-school acquaintance I never reconnected with (a regret), and I was stunned when his illness was revealed, a ruthless reminder of how fleeting our lives are, how brief a tenure we can claim upon this potentially infinite universe. Don Wilimont crystallized his thoughts on the need of seizing one’s life.
“People ask me, ‘why are you always outside?’ Because I choose to,” said Don. “If it’s a Tuesday or a Sunday, I guarantee you I have a pack and boots on, and I’m on a mountain someplace. Because work’s going to be there when I get back. But that moment and that sunrise, that sunset, the smell of the leaves in autumn, that’s there right now; I want that right now. That’s what this evening is about.” I couldn’t agree more, and Don’s remarks perfectly describe the purpose of that night. “Make a list and get after it. Life’s about living.”
The Bucket List Gala’s other sponsors included Accent Dental, Carpet Superstore, CBIG – Canadian Benefits Investment & Insurance Group Inc. and Pacific Western Brewing. The event concept and collaboration was courtesy of UNLTD Media & Events. The event raised over $30,000 for the Prince George Hospice Society and next year's Bucket List Gala has already been confirmed for September 21 at the Prince George Civic Centre. If you are interested in supporting next year's Bucket List Gala or would like to donate to hospice, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (250) 563-2551