It takes a special kind of person to teach. If you’re teaching in the public school system, you’re likely signing up for hours of unpaid overtime in homework reviews and report cards, heart-wrenching moments of student counselling, and the occasional ardent vent from a frustrated parent. Teachers wake up early and often stay late. Most don’t have much left to give at the end of the day, but Kyle and Sarah Leigh are generous exceptions.
With humility and a healthy dose of dry sarcasm, they finish each other’s sentences as they share mutual descriptions of their passions beyond the classroom. The same spirit that makes them good educators—the way in which they give themselves to the school and its students—is part of what inspires their non-profit work.
Both Sarah and Kyle credit their parents for a legacy of giving back that has also fostered creative ways to keep the benevolence alive in their marriage. They both happen to like beer, quite a lot as it turns out, and have taken that passion beyond the bottom of an empty pint.
For them, beer is a point of connection, culture, and community. Through tasting and travelling, they’ve both developed a palette of experiences and relationships within the growing BC beer industry. Through their @bcbrews Instagram account, and as ambassadors for the Canadian Brewing Awards, they’ve curated serious beer knowledge and clout that is now helping generate new revenue for Campbell River while also funnelling dollars to worthy charitable causes by the keg-load.
In 2019, the pair spearheaded the inaugural North Island Craft Beer Festival (NICBF). A sold-out event held at the Campbell River Community Centre drew crowds of like-minded beer culture aficionados to taste the offerings of 15+ British Columbia breweries. After a couple of years of recess, the second NICBF was held this past spring—drawing even more interest from breweries and attendees alike.
Tickets sold out on the first day and, although only in its second year, a handful of breweries had to be turned down because of how quickly spots were filled. Kyle and Sarah pushed this year’s event even further—delivering a well-rounded experience beyond the beer with a silent auction, photo booth, and delicious catering. The Coast Hotel was full for the weekend, the mayor attended, and associated businesses like Beach Fire Brewing and Session Taproom were slammed.
“We essentially worked two full-time jobs each for about six months to make it happen again,” Kyle explained. Anyone who’s been involved in non-profit work for a significant amount of time can understand the number of hours that are required, and a charitable craft beer festival is no exception. “We know what’s being done with the money and that makes it worth it,” says Sarah. The couple doesn’t keep a penny from the beer festival. Dollars earned go directly to charity—three generations of Leighs have now been involved in the Campbell River Community Foundation, which supports non-profit and charitable organizations in and around Campbell River.
To date, the organization has distributed over $1.4 million in grants to more than 60 other charities that support art, culture, education, youth, health, and the local environment.
For the sake of transparency, funds raised from Kyle and Sarah’s first beer festival were expended on operations at the Foundation, which in non-profit terms is the hardest type of funding to come by. The second year’s festival funds were used to create a permanent endowment fund for the Campbell River Community Foundation. Now every year, forever, all income earned on the investment from the North Island Craft Beer Festival Society Fund will be used to support operations—allowing continued charitable impact in our community.
As their enthusiasm to educate and inspire has spilled out of their respective classrooms and into the broader community—generations of philanthropic family cheering them on, excited friends, and a thirsty public to encourage them—this feels like only the beginning of the Leighs’ exploits into beer and benevolence.