Campus Life  

Serwa Spirit Match to raise $1M for Thrive Here campaign for a Recreation and Wellness Centre

An image of Cliff and Lois Serwa

Cliff Serwa describes himself and his wife Lois as just ‘ordinary people with a fair bit of determination working to make things happen.’ That may be true, but the results and impact of their determination on the community, the province and beyond are far reaching and forever lasting. And now they are leading the way to a better future for students at Okanagan College (OC).

When approached to support the Thrive Here campaign to build a much-needed Recreation and Wellness Centre at the College’s Kelowna campus, not only did Cliff and Lois become honorary chairs, they also committed $500,000 towards the fundraising goal. Now, they’re inviting the community to help the project get underway by offering an incentive to match donations through the Serwa Spirit Match. 

For every dollar donated by the community, the Serwas will match the donation, up to $500,000, raising an additional $1 million for the Thrive Here campaign. 

“The Recreation and Wellness Centre is going to make an incredible difference for students, and these students are our future,” says Cliff.  “With community donations and support we are one step closer to seeing this centre open for students and our community.”

With the match funding, the Serwas are donating an incredible $1 million to the Recreation and Wellness Centre at OC.

Playing basketball was what motivated Cliff to stay in school, providing the focus he needed to persevere. Without his education, Cliff says there may not have been a Big White and he wouldn’t have entered politics. 

Lois adds she is inspired by the potential mental health benefits students will experience when the new Centre opens.

“Having a place for students to connect with each other while burning off stress through sport and physical activity is so important,” says Lois. “This Centre will positively impact the well-being of thousands of students.”

According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, three out of every four mental health problems have been first diagnosed between the ages of 16 and 24, a time when many people are also involved in post-secondary education.

Helen Jackman, Okanagan College Foundation executive director, says many people are surprised to learn that OC’s Kelowna campus does not have a gym or large recreational facility today. There is no “home side venue” for the OC Coyotes’ basketball and baseball teams to train, or a place for students to play intramurals, pick-up games or tournaments. When the College community comes together at the K.L.O. campus to celebrate convocation or new student orientation – they do not have an indoor central hub or gathering space.

“This is an extremely generous offer by the Serwas,” says Jackman. “We all need people in our corner, and this is an opportunity for the community to support a space that will foster student belonging and wellbeing. Your donation to Thrive Here will have double the impact, thanks to the Serwas, and we can begin building this transformational centre this year.”
The Serwa family’s tenure with OC is a long one, and dates to when Cliff’s father Jack Serwa’s heavy-construction firm did the excavation and site preloading for the construction of the B.C. Vocational School, which opened in 1963, and is now known as Okanagan College. Since then, the family has maintained close ties with the College as it has transformed through 60 years of history and community impact.

“It has really impressed me,” says Cliff, of the quality of students from OC. “It doesn't matter whether it's the food industry, trades, sciences or the business programs, the students that have come out of Okanagan College have really enhanced our community, have made it stronger, better, and greater in so many different ways.”

So he says it only makes sense, that as clearly as he saw the vision of Big White Ski Resort, a world class venue, while looking out at the Monashees, Cliff  equally can see the impact of this centre on students and the community at large: a place where students will be able to focus and pursue their studies more effectively, where the physical activity and social connection will reduce and relieve stress, where healthy bodies and healthy minds will go hand in hand.

To donate as part of the Serwa Spirit Match, go to okanagan.bc.ca/thrive-here.

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