How a simple park bench united a fandom and raised almost $7k for Vancouver’s Stanley Park.
Any fan of Arrow is familiar with the Olicity pairing, whether they love it or hate it. It’s been a central part of the show’s mythology since season one and the introduction of Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards) in episode three.
Fans Olicity are a passionate group, propelling the pairing from a mere afterthought to a major couple in The CW show. Moreover, they love their ship so much, they’ve decided to gear their collective energy toward doing something not only to honor their favorite character pairing, but to benefit Vancouver’s Stanley Park as well: a park bench with a dedication plaque that reads “In celebration of the unthinkable Olicity ‘We found ourselves in each other.'”
We sat down with one of the campaign’s co-authors to get the inside scoop on the park bench, how it all got started, and why this was so important to her.
What made you want to do this?
There were a lot of reasons behind why we decided to do this project (which was discovered by my partner in all of this. She ran the twitter account as well. I handled the gofundme, raffles and worked with Vancouver Parks on the installation/payment side of things). Mostly, the project was in response to how terrible season 5 of Arrow was for a good chunk of us. It was a dark time for the Olicity fandom for a variety of reasons and at the end of the season, it seemed like the perfect time to run the project as a way to unite the fandom behind something fun and positive and to show just how much we believe in and love Olicity and Arrow. Hiatus, or as we call it ‘hellaitus’, can really take its toll. The project was designed to help alleviate the tedium and boredom that can settle in as we wait from May – October for new episodes or even just behind the scenes content as well as bring the community of fans together in a positive way.
What did the money raised go for?
The money raised went directly to the upkeep and preservation of Stanley Park. This includes maintenance of the iconic seawall, bee pollinator gardens and park upkeep. This park, which is a national historic site in Canada, sees over 8 million visitors a year so any money that can be raised goes to very good use. The part of the donation that went toward the bench helped pay for the plaque dedication (the plaque itself is bronze and was made in a foundry – which is really cool) but the money really does go to the park for preservation and upkeep.
Just a note: we expected to raise the $4000 necessary for the plaque dedication over the course of the summer. We actually raised it in less than a week. It was AMAZING.
Where exactly is this bench and how long is it there for?
The bench is located on Brockton Point, just a short walk from the lighthouse. The bench is permanent but the plaque is only there for ten years.
How much money was raised?
$6971 was raised (we round up to $7000 because it is easier to remember lol)
What made you choose Olicity to mark the bench?
This project was all about Olicity, the fandom, the show and the actor and actress who play the characters we love, from start to finish. The name of the campaign was “Olicity Leaves Its Mark”, so we wanted to show just how important they are to us and do something positive for the environment and Vancouver in the process.
Olicity created a community of fans who love them, the characters and their story. Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) is on a true Hero’s Journey story, which means Felicity is on that journey as well, making their love story both mythic and iconic. It really is such a powerful story and the way fans of it rally around different causes and charities all because of it is outstanding.
What made you choose that particular quote to go on the bench?
Through a Twitter account (@OlicityBench) we kept the fandom updated and in the loop about all the stages of our fundraising. It was also the mechanism we used to run polls with a series of quotes from the show.
We chose the most iconic ones and let the fandom decide. The one decided on is probably the most iconic one and so perfect for both the show and us as a community of fans. I really love how multilayered the quote is and how it applies to Olicity and the fandom.
What has the response been to the bench?
The response has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s been covered by a number of different blogs and media outlets (like JustJaredJr.com, syfy.com and comicbook.com) and Stephen Amell himself deliberately found it when he was out on a run through the park and did video that he put on every social media platform he has as a way to say thank you (which was super cool). One of Arrow’s showrunners, Marc Guggenheim, has also posted about it on Twitter.
There is a small subsection of the show’s fandom that has not reacted positively to it for incredibly childish reasons. They have threatened to destroy or vandalize the bench but so far it has remained unharmed and several fans (some from Brazil) have gone to see it, making it a real tourist attraction for the park. Someone even tied a white ribbon on it as tribute (which is just so lovely). It is so much fun to see pics of the bench being taken by fans who find it.
Do you plan on expanding the project to other public places?
There is nothing in the works now but that doesn’t preclude something from happening in the future. We are all always thinking of ways to give back.
If you had the chance to do this again, what other location would you pick?
We looked at Crab Park, the location where the first proposal happened but another bench dedication closer to Hallelujah Point, which is a five minute walk from the bench’s current location, would be a lovely idea. That is the part of the park where Oliver and Felicity actually got married.
What was your favorite part about this project?
Overall, as a fan of the show and Olicity, it was watching how the fandom united together and really just ran with it. We raised the bulk of that money in a 4 or 5 day period. We even ran a raffle through twitter as a way to reward everyone who contributed. Olicity fans donated prints, Funkos and I knit a green afghan (basically the same one from the show that Felicity has wrapped herself in) all as raffle gifts to say thank you. It was just a really fantastic time to be in the fandom.
For me, personally, it was a lifesaver. I was home visiting family in Winnipeg (I currently live in Victoria BC) and it was a difficult one as I knew I was seeing my mom for the last time. So between visiting with my mom at her care home for 6 -7 hours a day, looking after my dad, cooking, cleaning, you name it, I needed something fun to do. So the project came along at just the right time and helped create moments that I can look back on fondly. I cannot even begin to express how grateful I am to the fandom for how their excitement for this project really brought me so much joy during such a painful, emotional time. The day I actually paid for the bench was the last day I saw my mom alive (she passed away two months later). Being able to look back on doing something so positive during such a bleak time really buoys my spirit.
Do you have any other cool projects in the pipeline?
I do but I’d like to mention one that is ongoing (and being run by ‘Felicity Smoak’) with all donations going to the Anne Frank Centre
This came about after the mega-crossover of all 4 CW superhero shows. The emphasis on Nazis and their inevitable normalization through a ‘Nazi love story’ really did not sit well and this campaign came about because of it and few other reasons mentioned in the campaign’s backgrounder. It is a really worthwhile charity and so needed given the rise of extreme right-wing/Nazi ideologies in the states and overseas.
Photo Credits: Olicity Bench and The CW