Ron Trayling still has the first comic book he ever bought.
“It was Silver Surfer No. 1, and I was seven or eight years old,” the 66-year-old collector said. “I’ve gone tons and tons of comics. They’re in tote bags, in boxes, on the walls.”
But his collection isn’t just collecting dust. Every year, the Rogers Sugar employee pulls some issues from his vast trove to offer as prizes in the company’s annual Christmas raffle.
The raffle began three decades ago, by chance. Retired pipefitter Mike Martin and welder Bryon Sinclair set up a Christmas tree in the waterfront refinery. They noticed that their co-workers were taking candy canes from the tree and leaving a donation.
With the company matching the funds, Martin and Sinclair donated the money to The Province’s Empty Stocking Fund. As people began leaving baked goods, homemade wine and other items under the tree, the tradition became a raffle with various prizes. Now retired in Ontario, Martin sends metal sculptures each year. Another retiree, carpenter Bill Day, contributes furniture.
Funds raised by ticket sales continue to go to the Empty Stocking Fund, which helps groups in the Lower Mainland feed and clothe needy families.
“Last year we did $11,000,” said Lisa Harry, who is the health and safety coordinator at the refinery. “I think the year before was similar.”
Harry describes herself as “the rallier.” The plant employs upwards of 180 people, and everyone gets involved, from sales staff to people in shipping and receiving to contractors.
“I don’t start bugging anyone until Nov. 12,” she said.
Clients have contributed gifts like hockey tickets and hotel stays.
The draw takes place the weekend before Christmas using names in a drum and a spinning wheel. Once all of the prizes are gone, everyone’s name goes back in the drum for a final draw to determine who gets the tax receipt.
Trayling, who also contributes comics to a company golf tournament he organizes, displays comic books year-round in the cafeteria.
“I have a feeling for what the guys like down here,” he said. “A lot of them like Spider-Man, Batman, X-Men. If someone comes along and says, ‘Oh, I like that, maybe my son would like it,’ I say, ‘Fine, take it, I’ll just replace it with something else.’ ”
Some of his co-workers want the comic books for themselves.
“I’ve given lots of stuff to guys over the years who have set up their own man-cave. I’ll get an old comic out of the collection and put it into a shadowbox frame and start these guys off. And they keep coming back.”
Trayling credits John LeBlanc, owner of Comics Scene in Surrey, with helping out: “He’s donated quite a bit of stuff. This year he gave us some T-shirts, some Pokemon and some comics.”
His favourite character is Spider-Man, his favourite artists Jack Kirby and Todd McFarlane. Trayling also draws, and displays some of his comics-based work in the cafeteria.
Some of the comics he contributes are professionally graded, a pricey process that adds to their value.
“Every once in awhile I’ll throw in something worth over 100 bucks,” he said. “I mean, I’m not going to take it with me. It’s something I like to do. I like to see people happy. There are a lot of people suffering.”
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