Vikes cross country keep up holiday tradition with heavy hearts

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It has become a December tradition for the University of Victoria Vikes cross country teams to sell Christmas trees at Centennial Stadium as one of the program’s major fundraisers. The team began selling trees in 1999 and starting in 2001 they began to purchase their trees from Woodstock Evergreen Inc. a company owned by Elk Lake native Mike Fleming.

Fleming established his business 1968 and watched his company gain a reputation for growing the best Christmas Trees in western Canada. Fleming opened the Saanichton Christmas Tree Farm in 1981 in partnership with his sister Joan.

On October 27, 2018 Mike, at the age of 66, suddenly passed away from a heart attack while harvesting Christmas trees in the Kootenays. Despite the shocking loss, the Vikes cross country team kept the holiday tradition going.

“In 2011 we approached Mike to go into partnership with our varsity cross country team to allow us to provide a better selection and service to our customers,” said Vikes cross country head coach Brent Fougner.”Mike liked the idea of partnering with us because he enjoyed being around the student-athletes and appreciated the fact all the funds from the sales were going back to the students.”

Fleming visited the lot on a regular basis during the month of December.

“He always had a story or a tree that was unique and loved educating all the students about the different types of trees,” added Fougner.

The generosity of the former President of the B.C. Christmas Tree Council didn’t end there. Fleming donated a large tree to the B.C. legislative building for the last 48 years.

“We certainly miss Mike’s presence on the tree lot this year. He was always smiling and with his grand beard you would think it was Santa driving the delivery truck.”

Tree sales are ongoing now until Dec. 22 at Centennial Stadium every day of the week from 10a.m. until 6 p.m. All the proceeds go towards supporting the Vikes men’s and women’s cross country teams.

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