Go Frances, Go

May 28, 2013

Del Viento- bake sale

Late in their hours-long sale. The cookies are nearly gone, the second loaf of banana bread is out, the Riki Tiki Tavi kids have left, and lots of rocks still for sale on the table to the right. Pictured are Jonah, Frances, Kai, and Eleanor. Michael Robertson

In the last weeks of her sixth year, Frances’s mind was focused and consumed with one thing: the bake sale she would organize to help stray dogs in the city of La Paz, Mexico. Her interest in the project never wavered and on a Saturday before her sixth birthday, my determined little lady (along with her sister and her friends aboard _Wondertime_ and _Eyoni_) sold cookies and brownies to raise over 1,500 pesos for Baja Dogs La Paz.

In Canada this past January, without having been prompted by the sight of skinny street dogs everywhere, Frances asked us to help her find a Victoria organization for which she could raise money, “One that helps dogs…I want to have another bake sale,” she announced.

Windy took her for a visit to the BC SPCA shelter and I later took both girls to a day-long BC SPCA kids’ camp where they were taught how to care for dogs. Frances was sold and when her seventh birthday rolled around in February, she was ready. She’d made two large signs to advertise her sale and to promote her cause: “Canada of Pets.” She wanted to hold a bake sale for her birthday.


We urged her to wait: “It’s freezing cold out there, the sidewalks are empty. Wait and have your sale in the spring, just before we leave—there’ll be tons more people out and about and you’ll raise a lot more money.”

With only her seven-year-old’s sense of time, our pitch made sense. But for the next couple months she waited neither quietly nor idly. She asked often when the time would be right and she recruited Eleanor to help her to gather and paint rocks to sell along with baked goods. But by April, her requests about the timing were less frequent. By the start of May, they’d stopped. The signs she’d made were no longer handled often, but were folded and lay buried beneath other things. She was occupied with other things in her life.

But the season did turn, her signs were found, and the time was right. We told Frances and with the news, she seemed to grow a bit eager again, though her passion seemed dimmed.


Both girls dutifully let their friends know the date for the sale was Saturday, May 25. This was the date for the start of the Swiftsure International Yacht Race and the Inner Harbour was sure to be filled with boats and vendors and tents and crowds. Frances, her sister, and some of their friends (Liam and Neli from Riki Tiki Tavi and Kai and Jonah from their drama class) gathered outside the marina at noon with cookies, brownies, bagels, and rocks to offer up for donations.
I was gone all day, off taking pictures from a chase boat and interviewing racing crews participating in the Swiftsure race. Windy reports Frances wasn’t as involved emotionally as she was for her sale in La Paz, wondering aloud whether the wait we suggested may have been too long.

When I returned to Del Viento late in the afternoon, Frances was quick to fill me in on all the details of her fundraiser and begged me to guess how much she raised.

“Uh, seven dollars and twelve cents.”
“No-oo! Guess for real,” she pleaded.
“Okay, twenty-one dollars and thirteen cents.”
“Okay, okay…a hundred and fifty bucks?”


She and Eleanor looked at each other and laughed.

“Two-hundred, twenty-five dollars and fifty-two cents!” Eleanor said.



Frances nodded with assurance, her brown eyes wide, her smile broad.

I smiled back at her, wondering about the ways my kind-hearted, proactive little organizer—who somehow emerged from the womb with an extra-long strand of the empathy gene—will benefit the world around her in the years to come, when we’re out of the picture and there’s nobody to hold her back.


I__n our twenties, we traded our boat for a house and our freedom for careers. In our thirties, we slumbered through the American dream. In our forties, we woke and traded our house for a boat and our careers for freedom. And here we are. Follow along at


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