Entries up 50% for Sovereign 2 SilverStar Ski Marathon

Race entries up 50%

Vernon's Sovereign 2 SilverStar Ski Marathon is returning for a second year – and has already seen a 50% increase in registrations.

The races return April 1-2.

"After an extremely successful first year, the second year is looking to be even more successful," says organizing team member Marcus Doyle.

The event runs from Sovereign Lake Nordic Club to the SilverStar Mountain Resort village.

There is a skate technique race on Saturday and classic on Sunday, with 40 and 20-kilometre distances available on both days.

Registration closes Sunday at 6 p.m.

"The event is striving to provide an event that is accessible to anybody by focusing on being a participation-style cross-country event," says Doyle.

Its motto is 'Finishing is Winning.'

Organizers encourage anybody to try their hand at one of techniques or distances.

The event raised enough money to make an $8,000 donation to Kidsport Vernon last year to help kids who would otherwise not have a chance to participate in sports.

The Sovereign 2 SilverStar Ski Marathon is the last of a four-event loppet series.


Fire near Desert Cove was not a scheduled burn, says OKIB

OKIB fire unplanned

Desert Cove residents might have been spooked by the sight of fire and smoke Tuesday night.

The Okanagan Indian Band Fire Department confirmed the fire was not a scheduled burn.

“That was a fire set by a landowner to burn the grass in the field, and it kind of got away on him. So we responded from the fire department and put the rest of the fire out that got away on him,” says Fire Chief David Lawrence.

Fire in this area can be particularly nerve wracking to residents, who endured evacuation and the massive White Rock Lake wildfire on the doorstep two years ago.

Lawrence says the band's forestry department has been speaking with the member about conducting controlled burns to get rid of debris from that fire.

The chief says the burns shouldn’t be conducted when it’s too dry out, something that might be the case right now.

Unrelated slash pile burning was happening in the Six Mile Creek area recently as well, the band says.

Grief expert to live stream talk in support of Vernon's Compassionate Friends

Grieving can be good

Good grief!

Vernon's Emily Dahl Foundation and the Compassionate Friends group will host a live streamed event at the Towne Theatre with noted grief expert Dr. Joanne Cacciatore.

Helping others understand and work through the loss of a loved one is a goal of both organizations.

Cacciatore, a bereaved mother, is founder and chair of the MISS Foundation, which serves families whose children have died, and the Selah Carefarm, a sustainable restorative community that provides aid to anyone suffering traumatic grief.

She is also a professor and senior scholar at the Wrigley Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University, spearheading its graduate certificate in trauma and bereavement.

Her book, Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief, is an award-winning bestseller that has helped change the way society thinks and feels about grief.

The much sought after speaker counsels families from around the world.

She served on Oprah and Prince Harry's mental health advisory board for several years and was featured in their docuseries The Me You Can’t See.

Good grief is "when we allow ourselves to feel that which is legitimately ours to feel, we rebel against the rigid grief-denying structures of society," says Cacciatore, who has published more than 80 studies on traumatic grief and effective grief support.

Her carefarm brings bereaved humans together with rescued animals, both having known trauma, loneliness, fear, and and deep sorrow.

The Vernon event takes place on June 22 at the Towne Theatre. There will be a wine and cheese reception along with a fundraising auction. Tickets are $25 and will be available online.

All proceeds will go to the Vernon chapter of Compassionate Friends.

"This is something we have been working on for a number of months," says organizer Sherman Dahl, who was given one of Dr. Jo's books - Greiving is Loving.

"It was not long after that that Joanne and I met and began to share our stories of the loss of our children. It took a few months for Joanne to fit this in her schedule, but she did, even thought she was already fully booked for 2023.

"This will help so many people. Everyone has story of grief and the loss of a loved one, and many suffer because of a lack of proper support in this area of our lives."

Case pushed back in 2017 Vernon murder of Willy Bartz

Murder case pushed back

The man charged with second-degree murder in the death of Willy Bartz has had his case adjourned to next month.

Richard William Fairgrieve is charged in the brutal slaying of Bartz at the Sundance Suites on June 19, 2017.

Fairgrieve will next appear in court April 17 to fix a date for the next stage of the case.

Fairgrieve was previously found unfit to stand trial due to a medical crisis.

However, last year, Crown counsel stated it believes the case is still viable, should Fairgrieve recovery sufficiently – and the B.C. Review Board agreed.

The board concluded in November that, "in its opinion, the accused is fit to stand for trial and has ordered his return to court to retry the issue of fitness.”

In 2020, co-accused Jacqueline Leavins pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of manslaughter in the death of Bartz.

Former CEO sues OKIB for wrongful dismissal

Former CEO sues OKIB

The former CEO of the Okanagan Indian Band's OKIB Group of Companies is suing the band for wrongful dismissal.

A notice of civil claim filed in BC Supreme Court in Kelowna on Tuesday by Trevor Thera seeks damages from OKIB Management Services Ltd. Partnership and OKIB Management Services GP Ltd.

The two operate as the OKIB Group of Companies.

Thera was hired as the limited partnership's CEO in March 2022 and relocated from Alberta for the $159,000 job.

In July of that year, the partnership's board of directors was terminated.

On Jan. 30 of this year, Thera was advised by Byron Louis, chair of OKIB Holdings Group Ltd. board and chief of the OKIB, of "unspecified allegations of sexual harassment and erratic, potentially threatening and unprofessional behaviour."

The following day, he was placed on paid administrative leave, pending investigation of the unproven allegations.

An interim CEO was put in place almost immediately, and on Feb. 23 a board was established.

In early February, Thera claims his wife was collecting personal items from the office when staff suggested "he would not be returning and to collect all of his belongings."

On Feb 10., he was terminated without cause, effective immediately.

Throughout the process, Thera says he was provided no further information or asked to provide his own version of events. He suggests the band failed to carry out an investigation in good faith, amounting to his constructive dismissal.

He says the band also failed to keep the allegations confidential.

Thera says his reputation has been negatively impacted, damaging his ability to seek alternative employment.

He was paid one month's salary in lieu of notice and has been unemployed since.

He's seeking damages for severance in lieu of notice for wrongful dismissal, loss of salary, aggravated and punitive damages, plus costs and interest.

The band has 21 days to respond to the claim.

United Way Drive-Thru Breakfast draws crowds to Vernon Lodge

Drive-thru a charity success

Tracey Prediger

UPDATE: 9:20 a.m.

Vernon's United Way Drive-Thru Breakfast has brought in more than $20,000 and counting.

Crowds packed the Vernon Lodge parking lot to grab breakfast in support of local charities.

Programs that rely on funding from the United Way support seniors wanting in their homes longer, youth experiencing mental health concerns and making sure people have enough to eat.

“Right now, food security is number one on everybody’s list. Everybody understands there's inflation and a lot more vulnerable people looking for food,” says BC’s CEO, Mike McKnight who adds “Everytime somebody’s hungry in our communities, United Way is there to help.”

Patrick Vance is the treasurer of the Good Food Box, a bulk buying food program that has seen it’s program triple over the last five years. Meeting the demands of that growth is where the United Way has been able to help.

“One of the biggest things that the united Way has done for us is to help us with our capacity building,” Vance says.

Members of the Vernon Vipers lined the street, encouraging drivers on Highway 97 to turn into the Lodge and make a donation to receive a breakfast goodie bag.

The parking lot was transformed into a drive thru, with a suggested donation of $20 getting patrons a hearty breakfast, along with a chance to win many prizes.

Along with the breakfast, many local businesses like Cobs Bread, Total Restoration, Tim Hortons and others sweetened the grab bag with scones, stickers and other goodies.

The drive-thru is now closed, and all money raised will help a variety of local United Way programs, most with a focus on food security.

A total on the contributions has yet to be tallied.

ORIGINAL: 4 a.m.

You may want to skip brekkie at home and come hungry for the United Way Drive-Thru Breakfast in Vernon this morning.

The drive-thru gets underway at 6:30 a.m. in the Prestige Vernon Lodge parking lot and continues until 9 a.m.

Castanet will be there with a booth and staff handing out goodies, and we'll be there to report on the annual charitable fundraiser.

It's the 21st annual event, and will again support United Way programs across the North Okanagan-Shuswap.

Suggested donation is $20, for which you'll receive a breakfast bag stuffed with goodies, a hot coffee, treats, and giveaways.

Hidden amongst the bags are many prizes, including $1,000 to invest at Valley First, a stay at Sparkling Hill Resort, roundtrip flights for two to any WestJet destination, gift cards, and more.

See you there!

Feds, province to sign historic agreement with Splatsin First Nation

Historic deal with Splatsin

Federal and provincial ministers will meet with Splatsin Secwépemc leadership to sign a historic agreement on Friday.

Federal Minister of Indigenous Services Patty Hajdu will join Kukpi7 (Chief) Doug Thomas of Splatsin, and Mitzi Dean, B.C.'s Minister of Children and Family Development to announce a co-ordination agreement related to First Nations children and families.

It will be the first co-ordination agreement in British Columbia to support the well-being of First Nations children.

Details of the agreement will revealed at the Splatsin Community Centre, with a signing ceremony beginning at 10:30 a.m.

Armstrong Regional Co-op rebranding trio of Husky stations in wake of purchase

Station rebrand underway

The Vernon Husky station on 32nd Street is in the midst of a conversion to Armstrong Regional Co-op branding.

The co-op announced its purchase of the gas bar last summer, along with two other Husky stations in Salmon Arm and Cranbrook.

Work has begun at the Vernon station, switching over signage and branding.

It will remain closed for about a week as the changeover is completed.

Work will begin at the Cranbrook station on Monday, and in salmon Arm on April 3.

"We're excited to bring new co-op locations along with the products and service co-ops are known for to these local communities," the co-op said in a statement on its website.

"We'll be hosting grand openings in May and June, and we look forward to welcoming our community."

The gas stations were purchased from Federated Co-operatives Limited as part of its agreement to acquire 171 Husky retail fuel sites from Cenovus Energy, which was announced in November 2021.

Armstrong Regional Co-operative officially took ownership of the sites on Sept.13.

Marketing manager Jason Keis says co-op members will be able to use their Co-op numbers at the new locations to earn patronage points.

MyHuskyRewards will no longer be collected or redeemable.

Fundraiser launched to help North Okanagan woman get urgent back surgery

Nadine's back is crumbling

Friends are rallying around a North Okanagan woman in urgent need of back surgery that will likely have to happen outside Canada.

Jasmine Jade organized a GoFundMe campaign for best friend Nadine Clements, who has been on a wait-list for surgery in B.C. for three years.

Clements has a disc that is pressing on her spinal cord.

She started having symptoms in 2019 and, having had similar surgery years ago, she knew what to expect.

Clements immediately sought an MRI and neurosurgeon referrals. Due to backlogs, the MRI was going to take nine months, so she paid $350 for a private MRI in Mexico, where her father lives, in November 2019.

Since then, she has seen many doctors, but has not yet been able to see a neurosurgeon in B.C.

Numerous medications have been tried to help control nerve pain from the condition, which started in her neck and shoulder and is now in her arm, elbow and hand.

Clements has hardly any use of her dominate right hand and is in constant pain.

She returned to Mexico last month to get another MRI, see a neurosurgeon — and find out the cost of the surgery she will need.

Degenerative disc disease is genetic, and her father has already had similar surgery in Mexico.

Meanwhile, she is on cancellation lists here in B.C. and follows up with her family doctor monthly.

The best answer she has received in Canada is that she will be seen in two to three months, and surgery could follow an unknown length of time after that.

The neurosurgeon in Mexico has told her she doesn't have a few months.

The risks are considerable the longer she waits, including possible paralysis.

Surgery in Mexico could happen immediately, which would cost $15,000 to $18,000.

"They will go in from the front, move all the organs and replace the C5/6 disc with a titanium disc," says Jade.

Physio would be required to get her neck moving again, and medications will add a few thousand dollars. She can stay at her father's after the surgery.

"The chances of her getting in anytime soon (in B.C.) is slim, while her condition progresses," says Jade.

"We love that our health care is free in Canada, but the medical system is understaffed and backlogged due to COVID-19. Thankfully there is another avenue."

As of Tuesday, the campaign had raised $1,045 toward a goal of $22,000.

Enderby house available for free - with one catch

House is yours for free

As a housing crisis grips the Okanagan and home prices remain out of reach for many, FREE sounds like the bargain of the century.

And a home in Enderby could be the answer – if you can cough up enough money to get the building moved.

Don Koenig owns the George Street property where the home and an old drive-in diner currently sit.

He says he wants to get the corner cleaned up for possible redevelopment.

“Just to demolish the house is quite expensive,” says Koenig. “I thought, OK, if somebody can use the house, take it off the site, then it's an advantage. It's a benefit to us and a benefit to whoever takes it off the site.”

The 105-year-old home was lived in until recently and “seems too good to just be torn down,” he says.

The drive-in will need to be demolished, while he hopes the house will be given a good home.

There has been a lot of interest since Koenig erected a large poster reading 'Free House' on Friday.

He hopes to have the corner cleaned up by the end of the year, so anyone interested won't need to rush the moving process.

As for what will happen with the land, he’s not entirely sure yet.

“There's a lot of services that Enderby needs,” says Koenig.

“We've designed three or four different scenarios on how to develop the site. Anything from retail to restaurants.”

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