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The butterfly effect

On July 17, at The Vibrant Vine, the Central Okanagan Hospice Association (COHA) will host the 4th Annual Butterfly Effect.

The Butterfly Effect is a spectacular butterfly release to honour those we have lost and other special people in our lives. It’s a fun few hours for the whole family with a Kids Zone, local entertainment, local artisans, and fun in a spectacular orchard and vineyard setting.

The event runs from 10:00am to 1:00pm, with monarch butterflies being released at approximately 11:30am, depending upon the heat of the day.

Monarch butterflies, may be purchased for $35 each or 3 for $90 by calling the COHA office at 250 763-5511 or by ordering online at www.hospicecoha.org. Every butterfly will be released even if the purchaser is not able to attend. A keepsake card will be presented to the purchaser with their loved one’s name and a list of honourees will be printed in the program.

The proceeds from this event will go directly to COHA to ensure that our mission of offering compassionate care, comfort, support and learning to those dying or grieving in our community is carried out by our trained volunteers and professional counsellors at no expense to individuals and their families, throughout the Central Okanagan.

Don’t be disappointed, order your butterflies today.

“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.”

#Getloud for mental health

This year’s Mental Health Week was the biggest one yet thanks to middle and high schools from School District 23 and the passionate work of students and school staff, with over 5000 students pledging to #GETLOUD for mental health.

It all began last year, when student leaders had the opportunity to work together to create and plan mental health initiatives at their schools. The School Board also endorsed the Canadian Mental Health Association’s #GETLOUD Pledge, identifying the pledge as an opportunity to get staff, students, and parents talking about mental health.

“The #GETLOUD Pledge is an initiative where individuals make the commitment to talk openly about mental health, show empathy and support, and share the pledge with friends and family, all to help break the silence that keeps many people from getting the help they need,” says Candace Giesbrecht, Director of Community Engagement at CMHA Kelowna.

Bolstered by a grant by Okanagan KidsCare and the generosity of the Thomas Alan Budd Foundation, CMHA Kelowna was able to support schools in bringing their creative mental health plans to life and implementing the pledge in 12 middle and high schools from West Kelowna to Lake Country.

“As educators, we see every day how much mental health issues impact our students.  Following these young people’s leads as they developed and implemented their own #GETLOUD campaigns has been inspiring to all of us and we intend to continue this important conversation in the years to come,” says Vianne Kintzinger, Director of Instruction with School District 23.  

If you’d like to take the #GETLOUD Pledge, or bring it to your workplace, it isn’t too late. Visit www.cmhakelowna.org for more information. 

Marathon of Sport

In spite of the rain on Saturday, Kelowna’s 5th annual motionball Marathon of Sport, presented by Interior Savings, raised just over $70,000 net for Special Olympics BC and Special Olympics Canada foundation, surpassing it's 2015 total of $50,000. Teams had a blast throughout the day with many participants expressing their plans to return again next year. 

For the organizing committee — made up of a group of local volunteers — seeing smiles on the faces of the Special Olympic athletes and hearing the laughter coming from teams throughout the fields of City Park made all the hard work worth it. 

“We are proud to be a part of this worthwhile event,” says co-event director, Donnie Ungaro. “Hearing stories of the Special Olympic athletes and seeing how happy they are to be involved is what brings us all together. Many of the athletes return year after year and it has been amazing to see their confidence grow from beginning until now.” 

For one local athlete who participated in the event, being a part of the Special Olympics is what she credits for her improved health. Jeneka was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy at the age of three and had a bit of a rocky childhood because of it; however being a part of a community that cares made all the difference. 

“This is my third year seizure free,” explains Jeneka. “I think being a part of Special Olympics — being in a positive environment and having all of the support — has decreased my seizure activity and boosted my self esteem. It is sort of like a family, no one is better than anyone else, everyone is equal and it is just a big team.”
In the six years that Jeneka has been a part of Special Olympics BC she has competed in two Summer Games, one Provincial Games, one National Games and just recently the World Games in Los Angeles, California. At Worlds she was a second, third and fourth place winner. Like the many other athletes who participated in motionball Kelowna on Saturday, Jeneka is grateful to be a part of Special Olympics BC and is looking forward to coming back to motionball Marathon of Sport Kelowna again next year.

Of the over 800,000 individuals in Canada with an intellectual disability only 40,000 are enrolled in Special Olympic programs. Funds raised through motionball Marathon of Sport will help impact the lives of even more individuals in BC and across the country.

Three different motionball Marathon of Sport events took place throughout Canada this past Saturday including one in Kingston, Ontario and one in Calgary, Alberta. Between all three events, over $210,000 was raised for Special Olympics Canada Foundation. 

For more information about motionball Marathon of Sport visit www.motionball.com.


Survivorship celebrates life

Maureen Lutz remembers the first time a group of Penticton area breast cancer survivors struggled to carry their 800-pound dragon boat into the water of Skaha Lake. It was the year 2000 and a group of inexperienced paddlers had decided to form a dragon boat team under the direction of newly-hired coach Don Mulhall.

Lutz said the first few times this group of 20 women managed to get their craft out of the boat-shed and down to the water, it was quite a spectacle in itself, turning heads of passersby.  Being the first dragon boat in Penticton, others were just as mystified about what they were doing out on the water.

“We were just a bunch of middle-aged ladies out on the boat, trying to pretend we knew what we were doing,” she chuckled. “None of us knew what we were getting into.  All of us were beginners, so we kind of stood out.”

The Survivorship experience grew from there, in tandem with the sport of dragon boating. There are now 10 dragon boat teams in Penticton.

Survivorship has since become one of the best known Dragonboat teams in the province and donates to charities promoting women’s health issues. This includes a $30,000 donation to the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation’s campaign to provide medical equipment for the new tower at Penticton Regional Hospital.

Lutz recalled her initial response to the call for breast cancer survivors interested in dragonboating. “I went the next night. ‘I don’t have a clue what I’m getting into,’ I said to my husband, ‘but I’m going to go and find out.’ For most of the other women there, it was the same thing.”

Teammate Carol-Ann Browne, the team’s treasurer, said Survivorship now has 35 members and provides a key element of support for those who have battled breast cancer. “When I was finishing my treatments, if it hadn’t been for Survivorship, I would have stayed home and felt sorry for myself,” Browne said. “Now I feel I’m healthier than I’ve ever been thanks to this group of women. They were my inspiration.”

The annual Penticton Dragon Boat Festival includes a separate category for breast cancer survivors.  Many people consider the emotional Sunday morning carnation ceremony to be the highlight of the three-day event, as hundreds of breast cancer survivors wave carnations in the air, in memory of those who have passed away.
This message is never lost among members of Survivorship.

“We go back to our mandate.  It’s not to win – although that’s lovely – it’s to show women there’s life after breast cancer (diagnosis),” Lutz said. “The camaraderie is so important and the support as well.”

At times, some people may question who gets to paddle in an important race. Lutz recalled one member of the Survivorship crew in last year’s festival who had been unable to practise much with the team during the season. 

“I remember going to the back of the boat and helping her out and asked: ‘How was that?’ She just grinned from ear to ear and she said: ’That was wonderful!’”

That team member passed away just a couple of months later.

Browne said donating to the PRH tower campaign enables Survivorship members to leave a legacy for future generations. “The community has given us so much, with our treatments and their support for our dragon boating.  Now we can give back,” she said. “I see this as our legacy.”

Survivorship puts aside 10 per cent of their total annual revenues to make donations to local organizations that assist women’s health.

It hosts an annual golf tournament in Summerland in May and runs the beer garden at the Penticton Dragon Boat Festival in September. Their newest fundraiser is the Boob Tour Comedy Show, which attracted a sold-out audience and raised about $5,000 last October.  The show will be back for a second year this fall – Oct. 6 at the Penticton Lakeside Resort.

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