Willowstone Academy location will become Kelowna Christian School's third campus

Local Christian school sold

This could be Kelowna's Willowstone Academy's final school year, after the property was recently sold to Kelowna Christian School.

Last month, Willowstone chair of the Board Ross Langford announced the private Christian school was struggling financially due to increasing rental and operational costs and reduced enrolment. As a result, Langford said he did not expect the school to continue operating after June 2022.

Friday, Kelowna Christian School announced it has purchased the First Lutheran Church and Willowstone Academy property at 4091 Lakeshore Road.

As a result, the First Lutheran Church will continue to operate as it has, but the current Willowstone Academy location will now become the Kelowna Christian School Lakeshore Campus.

“The acquisition of the FLC building provides the opportunity for KCS to move our Middle School (Grades 6-8) to the new Lakeshore Campus,” KCS Head of School Mike Campbell said in a press release.

“KCS is excited to consolidate further, streamline, and grow Christian Education in the Central Okanagan, creating more space for faith-based families to enter Christ-centred education and increasing ways for students to find profound belonging at Kelowna Christian School.”

First Lutheran Church opened the First Lutheran Christian School on Bernard Avenue in 1994, which became Willowstone Academy when the school moved to the current Lakeshore location in 2004. The school currently offers Christian-based education from infant/toddler ages through to Grade 9, and about 230 students are currently enrolled there.

Campbell says KCS will “look to extend opportunities for the [Willowstone Academy] staff by providing reasonable efforts to offer employment where available.”

Willowstone students who who wish to join Kelowna Christian School will have “priority admission” provided they meet admissions criteria, Campbell says.

“With this exciting news for the KCS community, we also recognize that this is a significant change for Willowstone Academy,” Campbell says.

“While we hope that many Willowstone families will join us, we also want to work with and support the WA community if other opportunities for their students arise.”

Kelowna Christian School has been offering Christian-based eduction from Kindergarten to Grade 12 since 1979. With over 800 students over its two campuses, it's B.C's largest “brick-and-mortar” independent school outside the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island.


Kelowna woman reunited with her stolen dog after early-morning car theft

Stolen dog and car found

UPDATE: 12:20 p.m.

After a stressful morning, Emily Meyer has been reunited with her dog Bruno Saturday.

Meyer's car was stolen from Highway 33 in Rutland early Saturday morning, but later that morning, her car was spotted near downtown.

A woman named Heather noticed the blue Honda Civic parked on Lawrence Avenue near Lakeview Street, and noted it was odd it was still running.

She then saw a post about the stolen car and dog online, and contacted police. Bruno was found inside the car.

Police called Meyer just before noon to let her know that Bruno and her car have been recovered, and she's now been reunited with her little buddy.

Meyer says she doesn't know if police have found the culprits in the theft. She says she's incredibly relieved to have Bruno back, and thankful for all the people who shared her story online.

ORIGINAL: 10:35 a.m.

A Kelowna woman is heartbroken after her car was stolen with her dog in it Saturday morning.

Emily Meyer is housesitting at a home on Highway 33 near Kneller Road this weekend, and she swung by the house at about 5:45 a.m. Saturday morning to check in on her friend's dogs.

“I just left my car running because it's pretty chilly this morning ... I left the car running for two minutes,” Meyer said.

“When I went back outside, my car was gone and my dog was in there.”

Her car is a blue 2004 four-door Honda Civic with the licence plate NV9 48N. The car has a white scratch on the back end of the vehicle, and a dent on the passenger side. Meyer says the car squeals quite loudly in first gear.

Meyer's dog Bruno is a one-year-old golden-brown shih tzu/yorkie cross, with a black collar and a blue name-tag with “Bruno” on it.

“I had to clean my whole life up to get this dog, this dog means a lot [to me],” Meyer said, choking back tears. “He's the main reason I'm sober.”

Meyer has spoken to police about the theft, and anyone with any information can contact the Kelowna RCMP. Meyer also said she's willing to give a reward for the return of her dog.

Heavy snowfall forecast across B.C. Interior overnight

Heavy snowfall on the way

While there are sunny skies above Kelowna Saturday morning, a storm is coming.

Environment Canada upgraded its winter storm watch to a warning Saturday morning, calling for up to 25 cm of snow to fall on the Okanagan Connector, Coquihalla Highway, Allison Pass and Rogers Pass Saturday evening.

Webcam footage shows snowy conditions at the Coquihalla Summit Saturday morning.

While rain is forecast to fall at the Valley bottom beginning this afternoon, it could turn into snow through the evening.

“A strong Pacific frontal system is forecast to move into the southern interior late today bringing snow and strong winds,” Environment Canada says.

“The snow will be heaviest tonight with up to 25 cm expected. However, the Okanagan Connector will see the heaviest snow after midnight with up to 15 cm forecast. Strong westerly winds gusting to 60 km/h will cause blowing snow and near zero visibility.”

The snow is expected to end early Sunday morning. Environment Canada is recommending postponing any non-essential travel during the storm.

While the heaviest snow is forecast to fall on the high-elevation highways, up to 10 cm could fall across much of the Interior through the night, even at lower elevations. A special weather statement has been issued for all of the Okanagan, including Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon, along with most of B.C.'s Interior.

“A band of heavy snow and strong northwest winds associated with the front will cause poor visibility for about two or three hours,” Environment Canada says. “Many areas will see 5 cm of snowfall while higher elevations could see as much as 10 cm.”


Donated tow truck will make keeping Okanagan forests clean much easier

Tow truck a 'game changer'

This is typically the offseason for Kane Blake, founder of the Okanagan Task Force. But this winter he's busy fixing up the latest addition to the OFTF vehicle fleet.

"One of our members has decided to give us his 2002 f450 tow truck. After seeing all the work we do and attending clean ups, he felt we would be able to put it to good use," Blake says.

Blake tells Castanet he's lost count of how many vehicles he and his team and volunteers have hauled out of the backcountry this year alone.

"We pulled out... I don't even know, I lost track. This will make it so much easier even for cleanups when you're pulling heavy refrigerators out of these steep ditches."

Blake says the truck needs some transmission work and other minor repairs but he says the addition is a huge "leap forward."

Blake says he will repair what he can himself and he is making plans to hold a fundraiser in an effort to raise the money necessary to get the truck road worthy.

"It has issues, right now it only has reverse. So it needs some transmission work. But you know, at the end of the day, the hydraulics and everything else on the truck works."

Blake hopes to have the tow truck up and running for the spring.

Salon owner says she watched a client die waiting for an ambulance

'Stupid' response time

The Owner of Kelowna Hair Design has high praise for paramedics but not for BC Emergency Health Services' response times.

Colleen Woelders says a client of the salon suffered what appeared to be a stroke or a heart attack on Thursday morning. She says staff and other clients jumped into action, doing CPR and using a defibrillator to try to keep the woman alive, but what has her rattled is how long it took for the ambulance to arrive.

“We were on the phone, trying to get 911, trying to get the ambulances here. They are so backed up and so busy, it took them so long to get here that we were panicking basically,” said Woelders. “She died. We watched her die in the chair.”

She says emergency responders managed to restart the woman’s heart, but she fears the long wait may have left her brain dead.

Woelders estimates it took at least 20 minutes for an ambulance to arrive at the salon, which is located at 1525 Gordon Drive.

“The response time was just stupid.

“I think these ambulance people are so overworked, so busy saving street people’s lives right now they’re not there for the elderly, the regular Joe that needs them immediately.”

She’s upset with recent cuts in service in the Kelowna area.

Earlier this month, B.C. Emergency Health Services explained to Castanet why it cut three ambulances from its Kelowna service.

In an email response, a service spokeswoman says while the three ambulances are still in Kelowna, they are not being staffed at this time because language in the collective agreement with the paramedic’s union prevents that. But she also states Kelowna is not eligible for funding that could pay for their operation.

Woelders says the first responders did a tremendous job once they got there, and took the woman to Kelowna General Hospital with a heartbeat.

“I thank them. I don’t have any complaints whatsoever about their work but I think that if she is brain dead it’s because of the time.”

BCEHS says their records indicate the response time was approximately eight minutes.

“We can confirm BCEHS received a call at 10:36 a.m. (Thursday) to respond to a medical incident in the 1500 block of Gordon Drive in Kelowna. BCEHS immediately dispatched two ambulances and notified firefighter first responders as we do with all life-threatening calls,” said BCEHS in an email to Castanet.

“Our records indicate firefighters arrived approximately 6 minutes later, and the first ambulance paramedic crew arrived on scene approximately 8 minutes after the call came in to our dispatch, at 10:44 a.m.”

The email goes on to say, “we know it can be stressful waiting for an ambulance. We encourage patient families to connect with the Patient Care Quality Office if they have any concerns or questions.”

Woelders points out that part of the delay was the time it took to relay information to the 911 operator before the ambulance was dispatched.

She expressed thanks to the 'angels' who helped including the firefighters, paramedics, staff and other customers who came to the woman’s aid.

KSS hosts volleyball provincials, looks for second title in a row

Can KSS triumph again?

After ending a nearly 70-year drought in 2021, The Kelowna Secondary senior boys volleyball team is looking to repeat as provincial champions, and do it at home.

The Owls host the BCSS 2022 Volleyball Provincials - presented by The Payton and Dillon Budd Memorial Fund - from Nov. 30-Dec. 3.

Last year, KSS battled through adversity to capture their first BC School Sports AAA boys title in 68-years. They were supposed to host but because of COVID-19 and the highway closures due to last fall’s atmospheric river, they ended up having to fly to the Lower Mainland for the tournament.

Then, their starting power hitter, Sebastien Manuel, suffered a broken and dislocated pinky finger in the second game. Still, they managed to pull off a victory over Elgin Park Secondary School from Surrey in the final.

The boys are on a high heading into this year’s provincials. They have won every tournament they’ve entered this season.

KSS will play on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 10:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. and they’re hoping for a big home-town crowd to cheer them on.

The Spike Competition goes Friday, Dec. 2 at 5:30 p.m. It’s sponsored by Kelowna Restoration by Trades, which has put up $500 in prize money.

The gold medal game will be Saturday, Dec. 3 at 3:30 p.m. and KSS hopes to get the chance to win a second championship in a row.

Third annual tree tag program gives to pets in need

Giving to pets in need

Madison Erhardt

Several Kelowna pet stores have teamed up with the Animal food Bank to help animals and owners in need this holiday season.

Total Pet on Harvey Avenue is one of the stores hosting the third annual Animal Food Bank’s tree tag gift program from now until Christmas.

Residents can go into a store pick out a tree tag with the name of a pet in need on it and buy a gift for that pet.

Each tag includes the pet’s name and age, as well as a requested gift.

Requests include dog bones, or wet food.

The animals and their owners in need have registered with the Animal Food Bank.

The Animal Food Bank is a program in Kelowna that aims to help no or low-income people care for their pets.

"Most of our community stores in the area are our donation drops off. So if people would like to drop off to us just to make their lives easier we just say if you put Animal Food Bank or AFB then they will know it comes to us and we go around and pick up the stuff from the different stores and then we just send it out," said Jan Monsoor, branch manager at AFB.

Monsoor says the goal is to focus specifically on the pets needs.

"We focus on the pet not the human. So everything we do is based on their needs, their weight, their age, any allergies... stuff like that."

Community members can visit animalfoodbank.org for more details on the program.

Kelowna's Tree of Hope light up live streamed on Castanet Friday night

Tree of Hope lights up

Madison Erhardt

UPDATE: 7:30 p.m.

Kelowna's 25th annual Tree of Hope not only lit up the holiday season but also raised money for charity.

The tree shines with 25,000 LED bulbs illuminating the Landmark Centre and stands over 120 feet tall.

The Tree of Hope symbolizes the start of the holiday season and this year the fundraising was for YMCA of Southern Interior BC and BGC Okanagan – two local charities that are united in sharing their common goal of raising healthier families and communities.

Donations will be directed to programs such as child care, summer camps, workforce training and leadership development for youth, nourishment for children with breakfast programs, mental health and early-intervention programs and so much more.

The Stober Foundation will be matching all funds raised up to $500,000 and directing them to the YMCA of Southern Interior BC and BGC Okanagan – two local charities that are united in sharing their common goal of raising healthier families and communities.

From Late November until January, the Tree of Hope is a visible reminder to the citizens and visitors of Kelowna that the Christmas season is a time of generosity and compassion, bringing joy to friends and family.

Madison Erhardt

UPDATE: 5:50 p.m.

Following a medical emergency, the Tree of Hope light up ceremony has resumed.

UPDATE: 5:30 p.m.

The Tree of Hope light up and accompanying event has been delayed due to an on-site medical emergency.

UPDATE: 5:15 p.m.

Several speeches will be made prior to the Tree of Hope light up, which is expected to occur at 5:45 p.m.

Check out the livestream above for coverage of the event.

ORIGINAL: 2:30 p.m.

The 25th annual Tree of Hope light up takes place Friday evening.

The giant LED Christmas tree, erected each year to stand as a beacon of hope and goodwill for the community, will be lit on Friday at 5:45 p.m.

The event will be streamed live on Castanet.

Residents are encouraged to arrive at 5:30 p.m. at Kelowna’s Landmark District to grab a good spot.

The Stober Foundation will be matching all funds raised up to $500,000 and directing them to the YMCA of Southern Interior BC and BGC Okanagan – two local charities that are united in sharing their common goal of raising healthier families and communities.

Donations can be made here.

Downtown winter market and light up coming to Kelowna

Downtown winter market

The Winter Street Market and Light Up event is coming to Kelowna with the Downtown Kelowna Association kicking off the holiday season on Saturday, December 3.

From the hours of 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Stuart Park and Water Street will be lined with market vendors and artisans with live entertainment and free activities for the whole family to enjoy.

People who check out the market can expect to enjoy a seasonal beverage for adults, while browsing and shopping local. Hot chocolate will also be available for children, with all proceeds helping out the Central Okanagan Food Bank.

The DKA says the main stage in Stuart Park will feature live music all day long, with plans for Santa Claus to make a special appearance for photo opportunities. Pre-book photo appointments are booked solid, but walk-ups are still welcome.

As well, the Okanagan Science Centre and Let's Talk Science will be hosting other events throughout the day, while lanterns for Light Up can be made at the Kelowna Art Gallery.

The annual light up of the downtown Christmas tree will take place at 4:45 p.m., giving all in attendance a chance to enjoy some holiday cheer with friends and family.

Skating will also be made available at the park, weather permitting.

Water Street will be closed between Doyle and Queensway roundabouts from 6:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m.

Kelowna city crews cleaning up sewage after pump failure at Water Street lift station

Clean up after pump failure

The City of Kelowna is asking residents to avoid Water Street and the Kelowna Wastewater Treatment Facility area while crews respond to a pump failure.

According to the city, the situation is under control, with overflow being contained and site cleanup underway at the lift station at 1831 Water Street. There has been no disruption to service for local residents and businesses.

“Seven vacuum trucks are moving effluent from the lift station to the Kelowna Wastewater Treatment Facility and effluent levels are lowering as a result,” Utility Services Manager Kevin Van Vliet said in a news release. “An alternative pump is being sourced and crews will work continuously to get it in place.”

Runoff into nearby Mill Creek has been stopped and water quality testing in the creek is underway.

The Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change Strategy has been alerted and the city said they will work with them to understand and address any impact on Mill Creek and the surrounding environment.

The cause of the pump failure and the quantity of effluent that ran into Mill Creek is currently unknown and will be investigated once water quality testing is done and the lift station can be drained and analyzed.

The disruption at the Water Street lift station will have no impact on service to Kelowna homes.

Water Street adjacent to the Kelowna Wastewater Treatment Facility is currently open to traffic, but traffic flow is being controlled.

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