Celebrating civic duty

I attended the 2017 City of Kelowna Civic Awards the other night as a finalist for the Fred Macklin Man of the Year Award and was blown away by the incredible community leaders who were awarded for their leadership, stewardship and community support.

From teens making the world a better place, rising athletes putting the Okanagan on the map, to every-day citizens going the extra mile, I was proud to be a part of what makes our city so special.

What struck me was the common theme of selfless service, commitment to a cause and a passion for doing good.

It's true that nobody who volunteers sets out to win awards or be recognized, they do what they do for a love of community and to give back, but it sure was nice to see our fellow citizens recognized, and it inspired me to do even more.

Kudos to the City of Kelowna for this 43-year-old tradition of celebrating civic duty.

Their dedication helps you

A big Heroes shout out goes out to all the dedicated personal trainers and fitness instructors who are keeping Kelowna in shape. 

There are many out there who can head out for a run, bike or workout without anyone reminding them, but we all know that nothing beats the motivation, planning and sometimes even downright fear of a super fit personal trainer yelling at you to drop down and give them 30 push ups or another two minutes of bicycle abs.

 he trainers I know are often up at 4 a.m. to workout themselves prior to a day and often night of training their clients. At Oranj Fitness, where I train, not only are the trainers fit, fierce and funny but they are really knowledge of body movement and the balance It takes to become fit and stay healthy. 

For everyone who works with a trainer you know what I mean and for those who don’t, try a session, a group class or boot camp; you will sweat, maybe even curse, but your body will thank you later.

Black-and-white stripes

It dawned on me on a recent rainy Saturday morning as I high-fived a young teen in a black-and-white uniform that what he was doing was rare and special.

We had just wrapped the first game of a new soccer season and after the chaos of six year olds racing around a mini field had worn off, I had an epiphany.

I realized this teen volunteer was the most nervous kid on the pitch and it was his role to keep three kids and 20 plus parents, including four enthusiastic coaches, in check, and it was his first game as a junior referee.

Imagine how hard it is to officiate any game when parents are hyper aware of the rules, the standings and, of course, want their kids to excel, win, achieve.

Sometimes we forget that a game at the age of six on a soggy, bumpy field in South East Kelowna means fun, friendship and maybe a moment worthy of talking about in the car ride home. It wasn’t about the missed call, the final score or any one player, it was about a skinny 13-year-old boy and his six-year-old peers having fun together.

So the next time you see a volunteer youth ref in any sport your kids play, high-five them and say thanks.

To share your Ordinary Hero story, please contact: [email protected]


Mom-and-dad heroes

On a recent escape to Big White our family realized just how lucky we are.

No, it wasn’t because we had a powder day as my good buddy, Michael J., likes to shout out on the radio, and it wasn’t even due to a great time at the Bullwheel or Blarney Stone after a day of runs.

It was a photo we took, a photo of my parents, Pat and Jim, ages 76 and 74 sitting in the goofy oversized wooden chair in the village. You know that chair, right? Who hasn’t taken that photo.

It wasn’t about the photo, but about what that photo represented, it triggered a flood of memories, memories of coming home for lunch from school, of shooting hoops well after dark, of long summer road trips, singing to ABBA tapes.

A mom and dad are never really known as heroes, and they rarely get any recognition for the tireless work they do to raise, encourage and keep a family together in these busy and connected days of 2018.

But here is a serious shout out to moms, dads and families everywhere.

Take a moment, take a photo and remember.

Good old days

I heard a hip new song the other day, it was  Macklemore featuring Kesha, Good Ol Days, the song went like this:

  • I wish somebody would have told me, babe. Some day, these will be the good old days.

All the love you won't forget. And all these reckless nights you won't regret. Some day soon, your whole life's gonna change. You'll miss the magic of these good old days.

The song got me thinking about some folks doing a great job here in the Valley.

A hero’s shout goes out to a group doing their best to preserve some of our gorgeous homes and heritage buildings,  from the famous Abbott Street, to some of our downtown treasures, churches and even those rural or farm buildings that help define the early years here in the Okanagan.

The Central Okanagan Heritage Society, Lori Dauncey and her team of volunteers and homeowners that care passionately about heritage buildings are heroes in my book, and as much as I love technology and planning for the future, I can’t help but remember the good ol' days.

Innovative Arts

Many of us know about the shiny new building on the corner of Ellis and Doyle downtown Kelowna, but did you know the amazing work of the dozens of technology companies housed inside the walls?

How about the amazing connectivity of Raghwa Gopal and his team at Accelerate Okanagan that continues to help put the Okanagan on the national and international map? Well, I bet you didn’t know that the Okanagan Innovation Centre has a very cool arts program called Arts in the Atrium.

The inspiring space is now being used to display the work of local artists, musicians and artistic performances to inspire staff and those that wander in over lunch time to just enjoy the creativity and inspiration that an Innovation Centre stands for.

To share your Ordinary Hero story, please contact: [email protected]

Golden Girl

Who wasn’t excited last week when Kelsey Serwa landed a gold medal at the 2018 Winter Olympics?  

Her thrilling victory was the crown on her stellar career and without a doubt will help foster more Olympic hopefuls from in the Okanagan.

Our local pride came shining through on Friday morning when I witnessed a parade of Canada flags on skis as it made its way around Big White in honour of Kelsey’s medal in South Korea.  

I also took a speedy run down Big White’s ski run Serwa’s with local country music radio personality Casey Clarke where we tried to match Kelsey Olympic speed.

Casey beat me, but we didn’t come close to her record. Kelsey will be the first to tell you that it takes a team of heroes to win a gold medal — family, friends, coaches, sponsors, teammates and more.

She is the sum of the greater parts that made her win even sweeter for all the locals who have supported her amazing career and rise from the slopes of Big White.

For you kids out there and parents supporting their dreams, keep up the hard work, commitment and you can always overcome obstacles.

As Serwa knows, you can come back from anything to be on top of the world.

Doggy Dog

Stop barking, no biting, down boy.

Likely everyone with a dog tends to say these words fairly often. But when was the last time that you stopped to think what your furry friend really does for your family and even the community.

For our family, it hit home the other day as we walked our son to school.

In the five-minute walk, 15 kids must have said hi to the unofficial mascot of Kettle Valley.

Buddy, a 22-month-old golden retriever, seems to have struck a chord with the kids.

When I asked them why they liked Buddy so much, almost all of them said because they always see him around the neighbourhood and in front of the school. He always seems to be smiling.

I am not sure if dogs can smile, but it makes me think of those olden days where everyone looked out for each other and all it took was a cute dog and a wagging tail to get kids excited.

Here’s to local pooches everywhere, strutting their stuff and making us all smile.

Chill out

We love the work going on down on or maybe better said going on in Okanagan Lake.

Led by Manitoba born, but now Kelowna’s own Kendra McFarland the #lakedipchallenge is where kind hearted souls with an ability to brave the freezing winter have gathered to take a dip in cold water to push past their limits and to empower each other to really feel alive.

Those participating have decided to fundraise for charity and have a great time in the process.

Maybe the Manitoba blood made it easier for McFarland to launch her and her friends into this icy challenge, but we think it’s a great idea to take advantage of a long winter to do something fun and for a good cause.


Teacher a big hero

Homegrown hero

The next time your son or daughter comes home from school, ask them how well they know their teacher.

On a recent open house at our son’s school, Chute Lake Elementary, we not only fell in love with his teacher and how hard he worked, but couldn’t believe the effort and care that Mr. Achambault put into his work.

From his ability to remember detail about each of the kids in his class, to the collection of building and learning toys that his parents saved from his childhood and that are now made available in the classroom, this is one ordinary hero that shows up every day to make a difference in the lives of impressionable little people.

We place our kids in the care and trust of our schools for over 1,000 hours a year and its wonderful to learn of such a caring teacher.  

I think most of us can agree that teachers in our schools have a significant influence in helping shape our kids into the citizens we want them to be and to that we thank you teachers, for the joys, the tears, the breakthroughs and the extra miles, you know who you are, thank you from parents everywhere.

College kids doing it right

College kids often get a bad rap. I have a real time example of local Okanagan College students doing it right. 

On Jan.25, the Okanagan College chapter of ENACTUS, a community of student, academic and business leaders committed to using the power of entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a better more sustainable world helped the 100 Kids Who Care Kelowna chapter.

They put on a fun, educational and impactful charity event. They not only discussed what it meant to be a leader, what community meant to them, but helped the kids in raising $1,000 for charity.

The kids narrowed down their nominations to the top three:

  • KGH Foundation’s  Joanna’s House
  • World Wildlife Fund: Living Planet initiative
  • The Central Okanagan United Way’s Child Safety Initiative 

The $1,000, which came from the kids, Odlum Brown, a campaign sponsor in the ICan app, and matching funds from the Reston James Deacon: A Living Legacy Fund, was donated to the three charities.

Make a call to save the planet

We came across one of the coolest products last week called Pela, an eco-friendly cell phone case. 

As you would expect, the case has amazing protection from drops and scratches. But it's also BPA-free, child-safe and get this, 100 per cent compostable case and plastic free packaging. The Pela team even makes  donations  to environmental initiatives from each sale.

Not only is this a made-in-Canada story, the founder is from Saskatoon and the product is made with Saskatchewan flax straw, but we hear that Pela was recently in town meeting with the UBC Okanagan lab to talk bio-polymer research and innovation. 

Sounds like another win for Silicon Valley North here in the Okanagan.

To share your Ordinary Hero story, please contact: [email protected].

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About the Author

Richard James Deacon is a passionate philanthropist and volunteer and is dedicated to making a lasting impact on the community. Richard has been a director on a variety of not for profit boards across Canada, but is most proud of his role as the founder of 100 Kids Who Care Kelowna, as a co-creator of The Ron+Clair Deacon Leaders Pay It Forward Program, being a Scouts Canada Beaver leader and coaching his son in Central Okanagan youth soccer.

Richard, his beautiful wife, MaryAnn, and their young sons, Reston and Parker, along with golden retriever Buddy live in Kettle Valley and they love to travel the planet extensively. What they love most about Kelowna is that everybody says hi to each other and it still has that small town feel.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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