Langley support group hopes paperclip is parlayed into big bucks

The stroke support group is doing a paperclip trading up campaign to try and raise operating funds.

Marilyn Piticco and Michael Thorne are collaborating on a unique campaign to raise funds for the support group Hope After Stroke. (Michael Thorne/Special to the Langley Advance)

by Bob Groeneveld/Special to the Langley Advance

A red paperclip in North Langley has a date with destiny.

The date is Sept. 1, and its destiny is to turn into something bigger and better – and to improve the lives of stroke survivors.

How much it will improve those lives won’t be known until the end of the month.

“Mike Thorne is a realtor,” said Marilyn Piticco, who runs the Hope After Stroke recovery group in Walnut Grove. “He does cool things to bring people together.”

Thorne runs a Facebook page called My North Langley (, which he says acts as a “kind of digital town square” for his local community.

“We’ve been looking for fun, engaging things for the community,” he said, “but things that also have a win-win with a charity or something.”

Recently, the page has been promoting a campaign of random acts of kindness, involving three Willy Wonka tickets that get “passed around as people do random acts of kindness.”

When he heard about a fellow who started with a red paperclip and made a series of trades, ending with a house in Saskatchewan, Thorne thought the idea could become the basis of a fundraising project that would offer both fun and purpose.

He had also had an idea for a worth charity to benefit from the adventure.

“I’ve known Marilyn most of my life, and the wonderful work that she has done for people with strokes,” Thorne said.

Piticco has been working with stroke victims since her father suffered one 23 years ago. She started Hope After Stroke, a support program for stroke victims, about five years ago. One group, for survivors 65 years and older, gets together on Wednesdays. A group for younger survivors – some have been in their twenties, but most are in their forties and fifties – meets on Fridays.

“The biggest part of it is that they are brought together in a peer-support program,” Piticco explained. “Many of them lose their work, their friends, and it’s difficult for them to find a place again.”

Strokes affect victims in many ways.

“There are different levels,” Piticco said. “Some can’t speak, there are memory difficulties, and others have mobility difficulties, and some have both. Here they meet other people in the same situation. You could have somebody beside you who can’t open their lunch bag, and you can help them but you have problems speaking. There’s very much leaning on each other.”

“We’ve got a lot of our guys who have actually gone back to work,” she said. “They come, they get some confidence, they start doing some training, they get get their driver’s licence back, and we help them to build that up. We are part of that encouragement to get better instead of going home and being depressed and giving up.”

Funding has come mostly from charitable groups.

“The Langley Good Times Cruise-In always helps a lot,” said Piticco. “The Lions have supported us, the Langley Township fire department… we’re hoping for more support from local businesses.”

Participants also pay a small user fee “if they can afford it.”

Thorne has high hopes for fundraising power of the project, but added, “It will be an adventure, because unlike other charity things we’ve done in the past, I don’t know where this one’s going to go… if we’re going to end up with a hundred-dollar item or something substantially larger.”

“The goal is, after 14 trades at the end of September, to have something substantial to auction off for the charity,” he said, “and also bring awareness [for stroke survivors] and have some fun along the way.”

Trading will start at 5 p.m. on Sept. 1st.

“We are going to put up a red paperclip for trade on,” Thorne explained, adding that two other Facebook pages – ThisIsFortLangley and MyLangleyBC, operated by Thorne’s colleagues – will also participate.

“That trade will be open for 24 hours, till 5 o’clock the following day, the 2nd, the even-numbered day. Then Marilyn and I are going to decide what to trade the paperclip for, and then the following day at 5 o’clock, on the odd date, we will put the new item up for trade. And that process will happen 14 times through the month of September. And then, we’ll put the final item up for auction on Oct. 3rd. It will be open for 48 hours, and on the 5th we’ll close it down, and then we’ll announce the final bid.”

Whatever that final auction brings in will go directly to Hope After Stroke.

Piticco is hoping the red paperclip will “escalate to something like a house – then I’ll be able to sleep at night and we won’t have to worry about money ever again.”

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