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Hell Yeah Prince George! Facebook page marks decade of positivity

Prince George's Mr. PG mascot holding a 'Hell Yeah Prince George' flag in March 2016. (Chuck Chin - image credit)
Prince George's Mr. PG mascot holding a 'Hell Yeah Prince George' flag in March 2016. (Chuck Chin - image credit)

On March 1, members of the Prince George, B.C. Scouts Canada troop discovered their Camp Hughes, which was created in 1960, on West Lake had been vandalized.

The camp's buildings had been broken into, windows were smashed and it was estimated that about $25,000 worth of damage had been done.

But within days, the bad news became good. The camp received all the support needed to make the fixes — thanks largely to a post in the community Facebook group 'Hell Yeah Prince George!' where individuals and businesses offered up cash, volunteer time and free or at-cost replacements for the broken items.

Currently celebrating its tenth anniversary, Hell Yeah Prince George, or HYPG, was created for exactly this purpose: To offer a counter-narrative to the stories of crime and destruction that more often garners the city headlines.

At more than 46,000 members in a city whose official population is just over 76,000, it is also one of the most important places for people to share news and views about the community — so long as it has a positive spin.

When HYPG started, Prince George had just been named the "most dangerous city in Canada" for the third year in a row by the nationally published Maclean's magazine, which in one edition included a graphic indicating the city was where a resident was "most likely to be murdered."

That sort of attention meant much of the online conversation in and about Prince George was negative, recalls one of HYPG's founding administrators Dave Mothus.

"We live in a community where people love to bash Prince George," he said in an interview with CBC Radio West host Sarah Penton.

"People who live here and people outside of it talk about the negatives. And when we said, 'You can only bring up positive stuff,' it really resonated with people because it shone a spotlight on it."

Which doesn't mean managing the page is easy: A dedicated group of volunteers spend hours a day moderating the page for hateful content and occasionally its size has been a source of controversy, with people complaining their free speech is being stifled if they aren't allowed to post about certain topics.

Mothus spoke to Penton about the page, how it's changed his perspective and why he and other administrators devote so much free time to keeping it going.

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

LISTEN | Facebook group marks a decade of good deeds:

How did Hell Yeah Prince George! get started?

Basically, one fellow named Scott McWalter, who I met in university in Prince George, and I went skating one day on the ice oval in Prince George. There was no one on it. We have this beautiful ice oval, and he said, "Do you think it's wild that the most popular social media page in Prince George is 'WTF Prince George,' which is all about bashing everything you hate about it?"

And I said, "Yeah, it's really tragic, actually."

And for me, that would have been the end of it. But then Scott said, "What if we created a page that was the opposite of that and called it, 'Hell Yeah Prince George!' where you were only allowed to say nice stuff?"

And I said, "Great, let's do it!"

He messaged a couple people who we knew and said, "Do you want to help us run this?" and literally hours later it exploded. Within a day it went from zero to 12,000 people.

Can you tell us a little bit more about some of the good work and the help that has been given to people in the community?

We sometimes guess, somewhere like $5 million to $10 million has been raised on the page.

We had this one child named James Torraville, and he's fought leukemia or cancer four times, really aggressive forms of it.

The first time he got sick, 10 years ago, we immediately did a fundraiser.

In 2021, several media outlets, a city councillor and members of the Hell Yeah Prince George! admin team posted an April Fool's Day story stating that Ospika Blvd. in the city was being renamed HYPG Blvd. The group was so popular that many people believed the news to be true.
In 2021, several media outlets, a city councillor and members of the Hell Yeah Prince George! admin team posted an April Fool's Day story stating that Ospika Blvd. in the city was being renamed HYPG Blvd. The group was so popular that many people believed the news to be true.

In 2021, several media outlets, a city councillor and members of the Hell Yeah Prince George! admin team posted an April Fool's Day story stating that Ospika Blvd. in the city was being renamed HYPG Blvd. The group was so popular that many people believed the news to be true. (James Doyle/Hell Yeah Prince George)

And every time he got sick, we did another fundraiser.

The last time, he was told he has almost no chance of survival.

So we got the entire community out and did a parade with thousands of vehicles going past his place where he was bedridden, and James, that little fighter, all of a sudden his body beats the cancer and so he's trucking along and still here with us.

He's what started it — It was James, trying to help him, and now there are dozens of fundraisers on the page.

I mean, I see posts all the time from your page.

It's beautiful, it's awesome. It's also overwhelming. You have this huge amount of responsibility with the page.

Back when we started, we call it the Dark Ages, and we said, 'You can't post anything you want,' it actually led to points where there were death threats toward admins, saying, 'How dare you restrict me?'

When city council wanted to change the name of Fort George Park to Lheidli T'enneh Memorial Park, named for the local First Nation, man, did people care.

Some people just didn't want the historical name change and they felt that that issue should be on the page, and we said, "No."

A lot of those types of things happened over the years, and that made a lot of admins just take stress leave, basically, and walk away.

But for the most part, now, the sense of value and ownership every single person who's on the page has, and the recognition of what it accomplishes, has eliminated that conversation.

Now people are just grateful that it's there and solves all these problems.

It's one of the most valuable things for me in my life, apart from friends and family.