If you see characters from Disney, Nintendo and Sesame Street wandering around in Tri-City parks, don’t be alarmed: They’re there to spread joy.
Inside the costumes are Adam Burley, the co-owner of Happyland Events, a registered charity, and Coquitlam resident Vivian Lee, whose aim is to provide a free service to families as well as a safe space to play.
“It’s an excellent way to put smiles on people’s faces,” said Lee, who has worked for Burley since June. “It’s the little things in life that count.”
In all, Burley has 30 costumes that he bought online from a Peruvian company.
Besides the popular Disney characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck and Toy Story cast members Woody and Rex, Burley also has video game personalities like Mario, Luigi and Bowser; Pokémon’s Pikachu; SpongeBob SquarePants from the TV series of the same name; Bob the Minion from the film Despicable Me; and general cartoon folk like Yogi Bear.
Burley said he doesn’t have the licensing rights for the character use. He said he’s tried to reach to Disney, but has yet to receive a response.
Burley and Lee told the Tri-City News they try to get out daily in their costumes — for at least an hour — at public parks and businesses where they’ve received permission to entertain.
Recent appearances have been at the free community run on Saturdays around Mundy Park as well as at Blue Mountain Park, PoCo Bowl and Lions and Gates parks.
Burley has even taken SkyTrain to Vancouver in costume.
“Everybody wants to take a photo and give a high-five,” he said. “It’s safe, because I’m covered up, and it brings a lot of cheer to people.”
Burley, a Maple Ridge resident who started Happyland Events in 2016 with his mother, Sandy, as a junk removal company and a way to give back to the community, said he often brings large toys to the parks such as a giant inflatable soccer ball or an eight-person bike.
He also spends his spare time cleaning up streams to better the environment.
“What we’re trying to do is build community spirit,” Lee said.
Added Burley, “It’s been a difficult two years with the [COVID-19] pandemic…. We also want to eventually perform in public doing shows to teach kindness and working together plus taking care of our planet.”