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Local vets remember

Each pew of St. Michael church in Kelowna displayed the name of one of 29 Canadian warships that were lost at sea during the Battle of the Atlantic.

May 1 marks the 71st anniversary of the end of the Battle of the Atlantic – the longest continuous battle in the Second World War, spanning from 1939 to 1945.

To commemorate that solemn time, and remember lost shipmates, the Kelowna Naval Veterans Association holds a commemoration event each year on the first Sunday of May, joining similar events across the country.

From the singing of O'Canada to the prayers, hymns and stories shared, the one-hour-long ceremony gave naval veterans and their families a chance to remember.

“As we reflect on our lives in the navy, we look at the youth of tomorrow and we pray they too, if called upon, be brave, they will be 'Ready, Aye, Ready', to take hold where we left off,” shared veteran and Chaplin Erv Schmidt.

Ready, Aye, Ready is a pledge to face today's 'security challenges with pride and professionalism'.

Approximately 2,200 Canadians died in the battle to keep the sea lanes to Great Britain open in the face of attacks on merchant vessels by German submarines.

“We remember each ship, and their officers and men, who braved the sea and the enemy.”

Dean Nissa Basbaum of St. Michael and All Angels Cathedral spoke at the event. She said memorial events like these allow us to witness the past and remember.

“Each year I read the stories and I am reading the same things, the story hasn't change, it was what it was, but I read it every year because what I read is a witness to something that happened,” said Basbaum.

“We do simply do not understand why we, as human beings, get tangled in these kinds of things. On this day, in this place, every year, we witness it. It doesn’t mean we explain it, it means we continue to tell the story and stand in awe of the people that are part of that story.”

The Kelowna Naval Veterans began holding Battle of the Atlantic ceremonies in 1967 with a large membership of seamates and outdoor ceremonies upon the Fintry Queen.

Now, their numbers have dwindled and they prefer to hold the ceremony inside, but with the help of younger navy veterans and the sea cadets the ceremony is still held each year.

There are currently five members of the Kelowna Naval veterans who served in the Second World War and the Battle of the Atlantic, all now in their 90s.

Ronald Rhine, 90, Dick Fletcher, 90, Joyce Hardcastle, 95, Bill Kieper, 91 and Gordon Aidy, 91.

Rhine served through the entire Second World War, not even 18 years old when his service began.

He says he is still 'very surprised' he survived the war given the death and destruction he witnessed.

“I once saw a tanker hit with a torpedo and it just turned into a torch, the guys didn't have a chance, the guys in the merchant navy,” said Rhine.

As just a teenager, Rhine was often given wounded soldiers hopped up on morphine and told to help them heal.

“They told me to fix em' up, care for them,” said Rhine. “I was now 18, I had no first aid training, I learned a lot about first aid the hard way.”

He said while the annual events are hard, they are important.

“I think a lot of people do not know what the navy did. I think it is a good thing to find out a little bit about it and it is awfully, awfully important to remember those 29 ships that went down, hundreds and thousands of people who lost their lives during those days.”

From its early stages of ten warships and about 3,200 officers, the Royal Canadian Navy would grow to 400 warships and nearly 10,000 personnel in uniform.

By 1945, the RCN was the fourth largest navy in the world.


Fire on Hartman

UPDATE 8:23 P.M.

Witness Kaleigh Allan tells Castanet firefighters seem to be bringing the blaze under control. Police are directing traffic away from the area. 

"At first it looked like a yard waste burn, but then the smoke turned black and we could see the flames, they looked to be really high, like as tall as the house beside the fire," said Allen.

"The water truck had to fill up at the bottom of the hill and then they seemed to get it under control pretty quick."


Emergency crews are on the scene of a fire in the Rutland area of Kelowna.

Details are sketchy, but witnesses told Castanet the large blaze is in the 800 block of Hartman Road.

Unconfirmed reports say a barn is fully involved and nearby structures are being threatened by the flames.

Castanet will have more information as soon as it become available.

Send you pictures and information to [email protected].

Triathlon swimmer dies

Participants and organizers of the Cherry Blossom Triathlon are in shock following the death of an athlete Sunday.

James Young, one of the organizers of the event, said in a press release a woman was rushed to hospital following a heart attack during the swim portion of the event at the H2O Aquatic Centre.

The 57-year-old woman from Saskatchewan was taken to Kelowna General Hospital where she was pronounced dead.

“Organizers are extremely sad to announce that despite the best efforts of all involved the athlete did not regain consciousness,” Young said.

Young said the incident took place inside the pool at H2O and “reports indicate that the lifeguards were particularly expedient, in both observing the issue and getting the athlete out of the water, before performing initial care."

“Medical professionals were on the scene administering CPR prior to paramedics arriving. The organizers would like to offer their sincere condolences to the family and also pass on the many well wishes sent by fellow athletes at the race.”

When contacted by Castanet Sunday evening, Young declined further comment.

Const. Jesse O'Donaghey said RCMP and the BC Coroner's Service continue to investigate the incident.

O'Donaghey said on May 1 shortly after 9 a.m., emergency crews responded to a report of a drowning incident at the H20 Centre on Gordon Drive.

“Police have learned that the victim was quickly pulled from the water by lifeguards who immediately began CPR. Preliminary information indicates that the woman may have been in medical distress prior to going below the waters surface,” said O'Donaghey


Jaycees clean up food bank

Following a weekend of inspiration and professional development, members of the Kelowna JCI (Jaycess) gave back to the Central Okanagan Food Bank.

“We are a group of young people that provide development opportunities to create positive change in our community, and this is one of the ways we are doing that,” said community project organizer and JCI member Corrie Oman .

Sleeves were rolled up and clothes were casual as the Jaycees cleaned the food bank inside and out, from top to bottom.

“We have a group of volunteers doing a cleaning project,” explained Oman. “The food bank doesn't have a budget for cleaning, a lot of it is done by volunteers. So, every once in awhile it is good to do a really thorough clean on the days that they are closed.”

Once the food bank shelves were shinning, the Jaycees volunteers teamed up for a competitive scavenger-hunt food drive, collecting donations for the food bank throughout downtown Kelowna.

“We are giving our time, there have been donations so there is giving of money and there is also giving of food today,” adds Oman.

Teams raced the clock to hit food drive stations at August Luxury Motorcars car, Edgecome Builders, Safeway, Interior Savings, Valley First, EcCompass, Castanet and back to the food bank.

Teams collected items desperately needed by the food bank including toilet paper, baby food, tuna, fresh produce, dry pasta and food hampers.

To add to the incentive, the winning scavenger-hunt team was treated to a special ride in an August Luxury Motorcars Ferrari.

Sunday's community project was the final event of the the JCI Regional Convention held over the weekend.

Saturday night a gala and awards dinner was held featuring speakers including Kelowna mayor Colin Basran and W. Brett Wilson from the Dragon’s Den.

“It was a phenomenal presentation last night,” added Oman.

The Kelowna Jaycees are affiliated with Junior Chamber International (JCI); a worldwide federation of young leaders, between the ages of 18 and 40.  

Tackling Alzheimer's

“The most important thing we can do is to raise awareness about Alzheimer's, and the impact it has on families,” said premier Christy Clark at the event in Mission Creek Park on Sunday.

“More than 60,000 British Columbians suffer today from Alzheimer's, they are our parents, our grandparents, our brothers, our sisters and sometimes our children.”

Clark announced the funding for the First Link program run by the Alzheimer Society of B.C. that provides people with advice about planning for the future and tips for day-to-day living.

The province says the program is offered in more than 80 communities and is currently accessed by more than 12,000 people throughout B.C.

"First Link provides ongoing support for British Columbians living with the disease," said Maria Howard, CEO of the Alzheimer Society of B.C.

"The society applauds the province's continuing commitment to ensuring that families in the province have that support when they face the changes and challenges that come with the diagnosis."

Former premier Bill Bennett's family was also on hand at the walk committing their time and money to fighting the disease.

Bill Bennett passed away last December after suffering from Alzheimer's disease for years. His son, Stephen Bennett, and widow, Audrey Bennett, spoke at the event.

“Today is such a great day, Dad would have loved this,” shared Stephen. “He would have led us on the walk. I am just happy and proud to be on board and that I can get out and start talking about Alzheimer's. The Bennett family will make a substantial donation.”

Both Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick and premier Christy Clark shared their own personal experiences with dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

“My mother-in-law is in her last stages. Some times she recognizes us, especially my wife, her daughter, but most of the times now she doesn’t recognize who we are,” shared Letnick. “That is part of the disease and it doesn't mean we love her any less, it probably means we love her even more as she goes through these final stages.”

“When my mother was suffering from dementia, I remembering thinking about how much she gave me when she was young and how it important it was as I helped her through her decline, and ultimately her death, that it was a chance for me to give something back to her. To support her and give her back some of the love she had given to me,” said Clark.

“This is one of the hardest things any family can have to deal with. To see your loved one there in body, but no longer in mind. To be forgotten, but to still be so full of love for the person who raised you.”

With today's announcement, the Province and Provincial Health Services Authority have provided $13.4 million to the Alzheimer Society of B.C. to support First Link since 2007.

The society's First Link dementia support assists British Columbians living with Alzheimer's through information, education and support at any stage of their journey. Connecting to First Link means receiving the support when it's needed - through bulletins, support groups, education and one-on-one phone calls.

Clark said the announcement will help the Alzheimer Society better support families struggling with the terrible disease.

Toy gun causes big response

Police responded in force after a report of man with a gun in the Glenmore area Saturday evening.

Const. Jesse O'Donaghey said police detained four individuals after reports were received of a man seen pointing a handgun at a residence in the 2400 block of Longhill Road.

The call came in at 7:48 p.m. April 30.

“The suspect, who was associated to a vehicle, had departed the area prior to the arrival of police on scene. Officers made contact with the owner of the residence and entered the home to ensure everyone inside was safe. A short time later, investigators located the suspect vehicle and detained the four occupants inside,” said O'Donaghey, adding police determined the firearm observed by witnesses was an Airsoft pistol. All four persons detained were released from custody and are not currently facing any charges.

"When reports of this nature are made, police must respond accordingly to ensure both the safety of the public and the safety of the responding officers," said O'Donaghey. "There is always the real possibility that a police officer may perceive a deadly threat and respond with irreversible consequences.

"Appropriate safety measures should always be taken when using firearms, air soft guns, pellet guns, paintball guns or anything that may be perceived to be a firearm.”

O'Donaghey said when being transported in a vehicle, these items should be secured in a case in the trunk of the vehicle and never handled by occupants of the vehicle. Most importantly they should only be used in designated areas only, such as gun club ranges, paintball ranges, etc.

Family fun at YMCA

Thousands of people are expected to visit the Kelowna Family YMCA today.

The facility will be promoting the importance of kids health during the 11th annual YMCA Healthy Kids Day. 

The event takes place from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Kelowna Family YMCA and Rutland Sports Field (375 Hartman Road).

Last year, about 4,000 kids and families enjoyed fun, health-focused activities, including games and crafts, main-stage entertainment, giant inflatables and a BBQ with healthy snacks and refreshments. 

More than 40 activity stations will be set up by the YMCA, along with partners like Kelowna Ringette, SPCA, The City of Kelowna and the Okanagan Gymnastics Centre.

Cleaning up beach's bad rep

Residents in the Lake Avenue Beach area are hoping to help the picturesque slice of sand make a clean break from its more infamous past.

About 100 people gathered Saturday to beautify the park.

They planted more than 100 native plants and painted trees funky neon colours. The group also tidied up the area.

Julie Cancela, one of the organizers with the Lake Avenue Residents Group, said they want people to come and use the park — but in a respectful way. 

She said people are openly drinking, using drugs and smoking, which is stopping others from enjoying the area.

“If you just let it happen, if you accept it, it will continue,” she said. “We don’t accept it.”

Lake Avenue Beach is located near downtown Kelowna. The group said thousands of people walk through it on many summer days, and it’s important that the park puts its best foot forward.

Dayna Margetts, another member of the residents group, was covered in paint from the family friendly event.

“This is the first time we’ve seen kids on this beach,” she said. “Often people just go through as fast as they can because of the stuff that’s going on.”

The group got some help from the City of Kelowna through two grants, the Partners in Parks grant and Strong Neighbourhoods grant — worth a total of $11,000.

They’ve also installed pay parking so people don’t park at the beach all day and sell drugs or drink. There’s now a dog walking trail nearby and they’ve also added a Porta Potty.

“Our neighbourhood has invested in making this a place that all of Kelowna can use.”

Recently, a group that refers to the beach instead as Mushroom Beach staged its own cleanup.

A Castanet poll asking whether the beach is called Lake Avenue Beach or Mushroom Beach found the majority referred to it as Lake Avenue Beach. 

Premier cash OK for most

Nearly 60 per cent of Castanet readers have no problem with the B.C. Liberal Party paying Christy Clark up to $50,000 for work she does for the party each year.

In a non-scientific poll, we asked whether the premier's salary should be topped up with political donations.

More than 10,000 took the time to respond to the question.

Nearly 60 per cent of you, (5,993) responded with either 'yes,' or 'it's donated, who cares.'

Nearly 39 per cent (3,886) said 'no,' while 167 people were 'undecided.'

The story broke earlier this week that Clark earned up to $50,000 each year from the provincial Liberal Party.

Clark defended the practice, saying it has been going on since 1993.

The NDP has taken Clark to task, saying she benefits from donations at high-priced Liberal fundraisers.

People can pay up to $20,000 for the opportunity to press the flesh with the premier.

NDP MLA David Eby, who beat Clark in her Vancouver riding during the last election, has complained to the provincial conflict-of-interest commissioner.

He claims the premier is directly benefiting from these dinners.

Readers had their take on the matter.

Kelly writes: :"And people wonder why the general public has no faith in our political system. It's all handshakes and behind closed-door deals. That's how all our provincially-owned utilities etc. got sold off to the private sector. It had nothing to do with "saving" money. Nothing better than creating jobs for friends!"

Woodie guy added: "So, she sells herself access to the Premier at $20,000 a plate functions for the rich and well connected to raise money for the Liberal party, then turns around and pockets money that has been collected ....Something to that is definitely wrong."

While Oyama guy states: "These 'donors' aren't donating to some charity out of the goodness of their hearts - they give this money fully expecting to get something for it."

Others had a different take.

This from time to get it right: "Seriously? A person who runs a province and works as hard as she does only gets a $195,000 salary? For the amount of responsibility she has and all the crap she takes (especially from the NDP), she should be making 3x that!"

Hoover said: "We have the strongest economy in Canada. It's not coming out of the taxpayers' pockets. Leave it alone and let her get back to work running the province."

And, Bo declared: "Hey, if it's not coming out of taxpayers' revenues, who cares, just be sensible.You don't think the unions won't give back door pay to their guys. Be real. Christy Clark and Brad Wall are the two best premiers, both from the west."

Containers of generosity

There’s a small window of time left to help ship containers packed with donations to Cuba.

Kinsley Hettinga has started a Go Fund Me campaign to pay for shipping the containers — which are filled with baseball and sporting equipment, household items, baby clothing and thousands of shoes from Soles4Souls.  

The funds need to be raised by Sunday to have the containers shipped June 1.

Hettinga said her dad, Rick, started by taking duffle bags full of donations on his trips to Cuba and quickly saw the need for more. 

“After spending countless months working with government officials and various communities, the doors were finally opened for aid to go into Cuba,” she said.

For the past  eight years her family has been collecting and shipping sports equipment and household goods in shipping containers across the ocean to Cuba.  

Last October, Rick suffered a major aorta dissection and as a result suffered from a stroke.  

After spending seven days in the intensive care unit and weeks in the hospital, he was finally able to come home — but the effects of the stoke have taken a huge financial toll.  

“Here is where we need help,” she said. “The two containers have already been purchased and they are completely full of donations, but the cost of shipping the containers is still outstanding. Each container costs approximately $6,000 to ship from Canada to Cuba.”

The Go Fund Me campaign has raised more than $4,000 so far, but time is running out.

The containers go through a six-month journey, consisting of a trip across the ocean, time spent in port, a thorough examination of every item in customs, delivery to their established destinations and organized distribution among the community members. 

“Sports promote healthy habits for children in vulnerable communities, where drug and alcohol addiction is a common consequence of those in poverty seeking relief from their high-stress lives,” she said.

“Sports are critical to a child's development and teaches core values such as co-operation and respect. It also brings individuals and communities together, bridging cultural or ethnic divides.”

Donations can be made through their Go Fund Me campaign.

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