Mobile home goes up in flames in Hedley Sunday night

Trailer goes up in flames

A mobile home in Hedley went up in flames Sunday night.

The structure behind the Nickleplate Restaurant, believed to have been unoccupied, caught fire about 8:30 p.m.

The trailer was engulfed in flames and was a total loss.

Hedley volunteer firefighters kept the fire from spreading to nearby structures, including the nearby restaurant and gas station.

It's not yet known what caused the blaze.


Plenty of family fun left to be had in Penticton this spring break

Plenty of family fun

"Four seasons of fun" is an ongoing collaboration between Castanet and Visit Penticton showcasing what Penticton has to offer all year round. Watch for it every Monday morning.

There’s no shortage of family-fun activities this spring break in the South Okanagan.

Just 40 minutes out of Penticton, there’s plenty of family-friendly activities to do at Apex Mountain Ski Resort.

General manager James Shalman said the mountain was able to open one week early and has been experiencing fantastic weather all season, with spring break looking like great skiing and snowboarding conditions.

“This year spring turned about two or three days ago for us as far as temperatures above freezing, that beautiful spring skiing conditions … super easy to carve and fun, playful snow, and of course blue skies and sunshine and above zero temperatures,” he said.

And there are a variety of events coming up, including both a girls' snowboarding and young children's snowboarding event the weekend of Mar. 25, and a pajama day to be held on Mar. 25 for all ages.

“So wear your onesie pajamas up there and have fun as a dress up event,” encouraged Shalman, adding the Gun Barrel Saloon still has some scheduled live music dates.

Night operations cease on Mar. 25, however the tube park will remain open.

Apex Mountain’s final day of the season will be Apr. 2. For more information, check out their website at apexresort.com

Not far from Apex visitors will find Nickel Plate Nordic Centre, which offers one of the longest running cross country ski seasons in all of Canada.

“The variety [of terrain] up here is the South Okanagan’s best kept secret,” said Tricia Wilson, Nickel Plate Nordic Centre general manager.

“Nickel Plate has a variety of kid friendly trails and what’s most unique about our centre is that all of our green trails start form the lodge.”

Family lessons can be booked online at Nickel Plate’s website and Wilson added if skiing isn’t an activity for the family, there are plenty of snowshoe trails suitable for all ages, with children’s snowshoes available for rent.

With 56 kilometres of groomed trails for classic and skate skiing, and 22.5 kilometres of marked snowshoe trails, there’s no shortage of exploring to be done.

And because Nickel Plate sits at a higher elevation than other ski areas, Wilson said the weather doesn’t suffer as much from slush caused by warming spring temperatures, meaning visitors are likely to experience favourable conditions.

Trail grooming will take place daily until Mar. 26, with Wilson adding the last week of March will only see grooming on Mar. 29, Friday Mar. 31, as well as Saturday, Apr. 1. and Sunday, Apr. 2, which is the final day of the season for the centre.

Social events are picking up each season at Nickel Plate, with Wilson adding that it’s best for guests to check out the online event calendar, with the centre hosting lunch-and-learns and an annual cross country ski race, which typically takes place in March.

Wilson said Nickel Plate’s members are just one of her many personal favourite things about the Nordic Centre, as well as the “terrain … [and the] current up to date rental equipment” for those looking to try a new sport all while “getting the best experience.”

For those looking to stay indoors, however, Sociale Enoteca Ristorante on Lakeshore Drive will be hosting an Easter cookie decorating event on Mar. 22 at 11 a.m., with tickets available for purchase on Eventbrite.

Also happening Mar. 25 is the Freestyle Motocross event held at the South Okanagan Events Centre, with tickets available for purchase starting at $20 at soec.ca.

Be sure to check out the Penticton Vees’ game schedule as well, as catching a hockey game is also a perfect night out for the family. Tickets for kids under 18 are free.

And for some guaranteed laughs, check out Jackpot Comedy at the Penticton S.S. Sicamous, happening on Mar. 25, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. The event is for those 19-years-old and up, and doors open at 7 p.m., and seating is first come first served, with beverages available. Tickets can be purchased for $35 online at sssicamous.ca.

This is just a taste of what Penticton has to offer. For more options, check out Visit Penticton online here.

Long journey led to new home for young Penticton immigrant family

Long journey to new home

“Community Champions” is a media campaign led by the South Okanagan-Similkameen Local Immigration Partnership (SOSLIP) and supported by SOICS & Castanet. We share stories that raise awareness about the contributions that immigrants make to the community while introducing the small businesses of new Canadians.

Adrian Chu (Chu Ming Yan), his partner Gloria and their son moved from Hong Kong less than a year ago. It was a long immigration journey.

Adrian applied to the BC Provincial Nominee Program (BCPNP) Regional Pilot in Penticton and met all the requirements of establishing a viable business in Penticton. Then, it was a waiting game.

It took Adrian around two and a half years to receive his work permit in the midst of the pandemic.

Back in Hong Kong, Adrian worked as an IT professional for over 20 years, after completing his studies in the United States. He worked a lot but tried to find time to play basketball and golf, swim and cycle. He used to participate in running marathons as well. But his favorite activity has been gaming.

“I met Gloria online. It took a while...but we get along pretty well”, chuckles Adrian. Gloria worked as an Office Manager and now is helping Adrian with his business.

Adrian’s decision to immigrate to Canada was influenced by many factors besides the obvious desire to provide safe and secure life for his family. He really enjoyed his life in the U.S. while studying there and appreciated life/work balance and multiple opportunities for sports and recreational activities.

While exploring various immigration programs, Adrian found that there were very few provinces and communities that offered opportunities for IT professionals. Penticton was the first choice because of its beautiful environment and development allowing to establish a sustainable business.

“It was a long process to settle here. Through online search we found out that housing was the hardest part – not many places were available at the time. But we got lucky. Because of the time difference, I had to make multiple midnight calls to property managers in Penticton, and somehow, we found a rental apartment. It was really lucky because we would have spent thousands staying at an Airbnb for weeks looking for a permanent place”, shares Adrian.

When the family arrived to Penticton in May 2022, they didn’t know anybody, and had to figure out a lot of things on their own – how to apply for IDs, where to buy a car.

“We needed local IDs to buy cell phones and those took weeks to get. We didn’t have a car, so we walked everywhere. Sometimes it took hours. Luckily, it was nice and warm," Adrian adds.

Purchasing a car made their lives much easier. They found a nice bright office on Martin street, and the property manager connected them with the contractors to help renovate the office. “The hardest part was ordering furniture. Delivery was just horrible. They had to deliver twice because they said there was no parking, so they just left. And then I had to re-arrange the delivery again.”

Adrian’s advice to newcomers is to do a lot of research about Canadian systems before arriving, which will speed up the settlement process.

Adrian created the name for his company ACZZLE, to sound like axel – an integral part of a vehicle that works in the background. It is not visible or flashy, but without it, a car won’t move. Just like Information Technology solutions. Businesses can’t function without them.

ACZZLE offers system integration, cloud solutions allowing you to access your files anywhere anytime, technical supports for home and office, servicing hardware and servers, as well as security systems.

“I am also pretty good at physical security systems, such as cameras, alarms, detection systems for retail. I heard there are a lot of thefts going on in the retail sector. So, I hope to use my knowledge and over five years of experience working with Ralph Laurent to help local businesses protect their assets and reduce losses.”, continues Adrian.

It’s been a slow start for ACCZLE, but Adrian has been actively working on building his professional network by joining the Penticton Chamber of Commerce and attending business events. “These events are a great opportunity to meet other business owners I’ve been able to practice talking about my company and what I do. And through this, I hope I will be more comfortable talking about my business”, shyly admits Adrian.

Adrian misses his family and friends, and, like most newcomers, he misses ethnic food – the authentic tastes and a wide variety of cuisines.

“I don’t know why people say that living in Western countries is boring. I have no time for anything”, adds Adrian with a big smile. “But I still find time to play sports and have fun gaming with my friends online. Our child is definitely much happier here as well. He’s made a lot of friends, plays sports, and doesn’t have homework. Every day he goes to school to play and enjoy his childhood, which is lovely.”

“This is the life I want. I imagine myself getting retired here. Maybe having a vintage car that I could work on, and drive around. Have fun and enjoy life.”

Highly visible smoke from fire in Pine Hills Drive

Hedges up in flames

A number of hedges reportedly went up in flames Sunday afternoon.

A Kelowna resident who was driving home from Penticton came across the blaze just after 4 p.m.

The resident tells Castanet smoke was highly visible and the fire is believed to be along Pine Hills Drive burning in multiple hedges.

The resident says the Penticton Fire Department is on the scene.

Castanet has reached out to the fire department for more details.

The Critteraid Animal Sanctuary in Summerland has rambunctious little kittens for adoption

Playful bonded cat brothers

Casey Richardson

Kittens have started to appear in bundles to adopt from the Critteraid Animal Sanctuary in Summerland.

Two rambunctious little boys named John and Paul, are excited about the possibility of an adventure with their new forever family.

"These incredible boys are just two of the abundant pairs of brothers that we have available," Animal Care Team Member Jess Byer said.

"We have so many wonderful kittens coming up who are available for adoption and we are just looking for the right people who want to take home to wonderful new friends."

If you are interested in meeting these two wonderful boys or some of the other cats and kittens available, reach out to Critteraid at [email protected]

'I felt betrayed': Penticton doula victim of fraud by an Ontario woman now facing more than 30 charges

Doula: 'I felt betrayed'

Casey Richardson

A Penticton woman describes herself as "traumatized" after her work as a doula was taken advantage of, alleging she was conned as part of a nationwide fraud.

Ashley Palmer has been working as a doula in Penticton for the last three years, emotionally and physically supporting families with childbirth. She said she connected with a woman named Kaitlyn Braun in January to provide services.

Braun, 24, was arrested by Brantford, Ont. police on Monday. Braun is currently facing more than 30 charges ranging from criminal harassment and fraud to sexual assault, according to the Brantford Police Service.

Police said between June 19, 2022, and February 17, 2023, the accused is alleged to have sought the assistance of registered doulas across Ontario for false pregnancies/stillbirths.

Doulas are non-medically trained professionals who provide continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to a mother before, during, and shortly after childbirth, different from midwives.

Brantford police spokesperson Robin Matthews-Osmond told Castanet that they have been flooded by calls from other potential victims.

Palmer was one of the doulas who called the police to report her experience with the bizarre emotional scam.

Palmer recounted that the accused scammer reached out by originally posting on a Facebook page looking for a doula in Penticton to deal with a stillbirth, and Palmer sent her a message offering support.

“We had [around] an hour-long phone call of her explaining her story about how her pregnancy was the result of a sexual assault," Palmer said.

Palmer said Braun told her that she was 20 and didn’t have any family in the Okanagan area after recently moving from Ontario.

Then Braun said she was COVID-19 positive, requesting virtual support, and despite that being outside of Palmer's normal scope, she agreed, wanting to offer help to a woman in need.

“She didn't have anybody here, there were no other doulas that were available. I'm also not a bereavement doula, meaning [...] I haven't ever supported a stillbirth or a loss,” said Palmer, whose specialty is birth, postpartum and education.

Palmer recounted that Braun said she was out of work, and Palmer offered to take her case on at no cost, which she does once a year to help families in need as what she calls a ‘karma birth.'

They agreed to the virtual support and Palmer said she got a text from Braun the next day at 5 a.m. saying she was starting to have contractions for the stillbirth.

Palmer said that their interactions seemed very normal to her at the start, including the sounds Braun was making being consistent with Palmer's long experience with labours.

“There were no red flags, there was nothing that popped up on my radar as not normal,” she added. “The messages were quite intense and very vulnerable. And obviously, for someone who was, at that time, I thought she was experiencing a loss.”

Palmer said Braun dodged her requests for information for necessary paperwork, and she let that go in the moment because she thought there was a trauma and loss being experienced and didn't want to add pressure.

Over the next eight hours, the two conversed, as Palmer talked the woman through the birth. Palmer recalled hearing intimate personal stories from Braun, including about her name for the stillborn baby.

But inconsistencies started to pop up. Palmer said Braun repeatedly refused offers of in-person help including dropping off soup or a ride to the hospital. Braun claimed to have been sexually assaulted at the hospital, causing her to be wary of returning, but Palmer's contacts at Penticton Regional Hospital had nobody ever registered under that name.

Then Braun called and said she was at the hospital, and once again, Palmer confirmed through contacts that that was untrue.

“She said that she was walking into labour and delivery. And she was having full-on fake conversations with emergency staff and nursing staff," Palmer claimed.

Braun then claimed to have headed back home, and Palmer called in a wellness check.

“RCMP got to the address that she gave me and confirmed that she didn't live there. And then that's when I messaged her and I [said] ‘Okay, I know you've given me a fake address. I know you weren't at the hospital, what's going on? If you can tell me that, maybe I can get you the proper help that you need.’”

That is when Braun told Palmer she was actually in Victoria.

“This was the part that really didn't sit well with me, is then she goes, ‘I saw your Instagram and I saw your website and I just loved the way you are as a doula and I really wanted to feel like what it was like to be supportive, but I was scared that you wouldn't support me virtually being so far away," Palmer added.

“That gave me a very uneasy feeling.”

Palmer, frustrated and annoyed, still wanted to help this woman if she was in genuine distress. Then, she said, Braun somehow called from a Victoria number and faked a conversation as a labour and delivery nurse, though Palmer could tell it was still her.

Victoria General Hospital confirmed no one was there under Braun's description or name.

“I felt betrayed and I felt taken advantage of," Palmer said.

After a sleepless night, Palmer said she messaged Braun in the morning, wanting closure.

Palmer said Braun finally admitted that she was in Ontario and was not currently pregnant or experiencing a stillbirth.

“[She said] 'I have experienced it in the past and I just wanted to feel what it was like to feel supported,'" Palmer added. “I tried to give her extra resources for social workers, grief counsellors and bereavement doulas in her area.”

As Palmer went on with her work the next week and met with new families for service consultations, she said she started to realize how much her interactions with Braun had impacted her.

“I was like sitting in front of new parents, real parents, who were inquiring about doula services and I could hear in the back of my mind ‘Oh, are these people actually pregnant?’”

"It took counselling, it took even energy work and seeing other professionals in my community because I knew I didn't want to let that impact my work. Because I love my job and I love what I do. So I wanted to make sure that I'm still serving my community and my family in the ways that I always have.”

A few weeks later, another doula sent Palmer a public announcement from the Ontario Doula Association warning others to be aware of Braun approaching them. Palmer connected with a group of roughly 20 Ontario Doulas who all claimed to have been manipulated by her.

There was some relief for Palmer in knowing she hadn't been individually targeted.

“It was really sad. I started to realize the overall picture was so much bigger than what I was a part of. And I don't understand how she hadn't received help," Palmer said.

Palmer said the doulas shared stories of their interactions, some of whom had supported Braun in person for days.

“I'll always trust someone's story. There wasn't a second in my head that doubted her story up until later on in our conversations,” Palmer said.

“I was like, no one would lie about this. It's such an emotional situation to go through [...] You hear about these situations happening, but then to live through it? And to be so deceived was the traumatizing experience in many different ways.”

Virtual support is now off the table entirely for Palmer, at least for the foreseeable future.

Palmer continues her in-person care out of Willow Midwives Clinic in Penticton.

The investigation in Ontario is active and ongoing at this time.

Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen celebrates 30 years of helping

Years of community building

To mark its 30th anniversary, the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen is hosting two celebratory events.

The first event will be held on April 20 at the Penticton Lakeside Resort, and the second Regional Celebration Event will be held on May 25 at the District Wine Village in Oliver.

Community leaders, builders, and supporters are invited to these free events to celebrate the combined achievements.

Established in 1991, the group of the volunteer board of directors has been working to help those who are seeking funding as a granting foundation.

According to the South Okanagan Similkameen branch, the Foundation manages over 150
Endowment Funds, $16 million in assets, and have directed more than $8.6 million to various projects and programs across the region.

The Foundation distributed over $1 million in grants and bursaries in 2022.

“We’ve really grown in both shape and size over the past decades,” Aaron McRann, CFSOS Executive Director, said.

“But the core of our work has always been about connecting local people with local charities and this event is a celebration of how far we’ve been able to come, thanks to this amazing community."

These celebration events, in partnership with venues that have been steadfast supporters of the community, will showcase several local musicians.

“When it came to partnering with the Community Foundation for this community celebration, it was an easy yes,” Brannigan Mosses, General Manager at Penticton Lakeside Resort, said in a press release.

“We’re in the business of tourism, however, our local community is integral to our day-to-day operations and helps shape our guest's experience. Having worked hand-in-hand with many charities throughout the years, we’re so excited for this celebration and encourage you to go get your tickets!”

Tickets are free or by donation and can be reserved by:
Phone: 250-493-9311
Email: [email protected]
Online: www.cfso.net/cfsos-30th-anniversary/

Local business donates more than $3K to South Okanagan Children's Charity

$3K donated to help kids

A Penticton store presented a $3,180 cheque to the South Okanagan Children's Charity this past week as a part of their ongoing work to contribute to bettering their local community.

Andrew Sheret Limited donated to continue to help the SOCC's work helping local families with travel costs to and from BC Children's Hospital, and with select medical expenses.

The community-minded, BC-Owned Company said they were very proud of their contributions to their local communities, which include scholarships to apprentice plumbers, hospital donations, community events and health care causes.

Throughout 2022, each of their 33 branches across British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan worked on fundraising initiatives. Penticton branch manager Mark Stephens and his team chose South Okanagan Children's Charity.

On top of helping local families with medical expenses, the SOCC also contributes to local projects that better the lives of children, such as parks, playgrounds and little libraries.

Learn more about the SOCC and the work they do online here.

'It's surreal': Penticton's revived Senior AA Silver Bullets hockey team on their way to provincial championships

'Surreal' first-year journey

Penticton's comeback senior hockey team the Silver Bullets have made it all the way to the Coy Cup provincial championship, after an incredible first season.

"It's definitely surreal, and it feels like a long road to have gotten here," said Matt Fraser, team member and one of the players behind the vision to bring the Silver Bullets back to life.

In mid-2022, Fraser and other fellow local hockey players came up with the idea of resurrecting a senior team.

Senior AA hockey refers to full contact competitive hockey for 20-40 year olds who still want to play at a high level.

The current senior team is named in honour of the last one to come out of Penticton nearly three decades ago, who won two championships and whose banners Fraser remembers hanging in Memorial Arena as a youngster.

The new team took up the Silver Bullets name proudly, joining a BC league with other independent Senior AA teams like the Powell River Regals and Rossland Warriors.

Fraser's dream caught on like wildfire, with overwhelming interest from players and eager community support.

"Fan response has been amazing. We've been getting 300 to 400 [fans] a night at Memorial Arena," Fraser said.

"We go around town, and everybody talks to us about it ... and I think people love having a crowd back in Memorial Arena again."

The new team proved their worth in the league quickly, recently punching their ticket to the provincial championship in the hope of taking home the coveted Coy Cup.

"It's pretty incredible considering that just a few months ago, it was just an idea with me and some buddies on the golf course and at Cannery," Fraser said.

"That was crazy to begin with, but now that we're going to the provincial championship in our first year, it's simply incredible. I mean, we're really can't sum it up. It's just so special for me and everybody involved."

The championship kicks off March 28, featuring the four top men's senior teams in the province battling it out in Quesnel. Fraser is unsure whether there will be livestream options to watch or listen to the games, but one thing is for sure: He knows Penticton will be cheering on the team from afar.

"We couldn't have gotten this far without the Penticton hockey fans and I just say a big thank you from us because they made it all possible."

2 Rivers Remix Society and the En’owkin Centre hosting event to build and bring together the Indigenous community

Building Indigenous bonds

Indigenous community representatives along with a diverse group of Indigenous musicians, artists, academics, and cultural organizers will be gathering in the last weekend of March for the ‘Seed 2 Community: The Confluence’ (S2C) event.

From March 26 – 28, 2 Rivers Remix Society and the En’owkin Centre are collaborating to build on the spirit of the first Confluence, Remix 2 Regeneration, held virtually in 2021.

S2C said the purpose of the event is to build networks, deliver resources, facilitate knowledge sharing, offer mentorship, and inspire and empower both the current and next generation of Indigenous artists, organizers and future knowledge expanders.

“So much has occurred in a short period of time that has affected all of us on such an intense level, the pandemic, the children that are being un(re)covered at residential schools, the continued recovery of the community of Lytton – post fire,Z" 2 Rivers Artistic Director, Meeka Morgan said in a press release.

"And all of the trauma that is compounded by all, that we have had to adapt to our circumstances, press on and continue while bringing that experience into the forefront of our work as well, acknowledging it, bearing witness to it all."

The three-day event will feature different themes on each day – Seeding Our Stories, Seeding Our Tongues, and Seeding Regeneration, Protecting the Sacred.

The event will include a keynote presentation by Indigenous trailblazers Tracey Kim Bonneau, Gregory Scofield and ShoShona Kish.

There will also be workshops, “Bearing Witness Panels,” and artist showcases. The whole event will be accessible through a live stream.

The public is invited to join in the final celebration with a free showcase of contemporary Indigenous talent at the Cleland Theatre on Wednesday, March 29.

For more information, a full schedule and to register for this in-person and live-streamed event, visit the website here.

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