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Celebrating and Recognizing Amazing Individuals of the Comox Valley. PHOTOS BY McKINNON PHOTOGRAPHY

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Celebrating Heroes The Record’s inaugural awards creates a platform for those powerful people stories that make our community strong. Terry Farrell

The word “hero” has many connotations. There are those who wear uniforms, such as firefighters, policemen, and first responders, all working to make our lives safer every day. For doctors and nurses, saving lives is part of their regular routine - it comes with their career choice. There are those who go to war for our country, helping to shape the landscape of our nation. And there are also heroes within every

community, who work behind the scenes every day to ensure their home is as good as it can be. In the Comox Valley, we are blessed with many different kinds of heroes - from those who accept heroic acts as part of their job description, to those showing great instances of bravery and courage, and those who spend their entire lives making life better for others: all Local Heroes. This year, the Comox Valley Record, under

the guidance of our publisher, Chrissie Bowker, introduced the Local Heroes Awards as an opportunity to recognize those in the community who go the extra mile to make our home such a special place to live. The response received from the community was overwhelming, and every nominee was worthy of recognition. The following pages are dedicated to the winners of the inaugural Comox Valley Local Heroes.

Congratulations to all of our Community Heroes DON MCRAE, MLA Comox Valley

Constituency Office: 437 5th Street, Courtenay BC V9N 1J7 Phone: (250) 703-2422 Fax: (250) 703-2425 Monday to Friday, 9AM - 4PM Email: |

Clockwise: Our Military Wives Choir singing O’Canada, Andy Everson with the Kumugwe dancers performed a welcome dance, emcee Don McRae, Comox Valley MLA, Kelly Rusk of Comox Fire Dept., Ocean Varney of Yana and Sue Finneron, Finneron Hyundai. Guest speakers Gord Johns, Courtenay Alberni MP and John Bowman, President of North Island College spoke about community and collaboration.


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Local “Oscar” handcrafted for Local Hero Awards Lynn Branson, three time world champion carver lends talents to Local Hero Awards Scott Stanfield

World champion carver Lynn Branson donated some works of art that were awarded to the winners at The Record’s firstever Local Hero Awards. The Comox Valley resident is a multi-award winner at the annual World Wildfowl Carving Competition in Maryland. By winning a gold medal in 2010, she became the first woman to win a title at the event. It also earned her the honour of judging in the interpretive division at the competition, which honours carvers in more than 40 categories. Branson has been described as an interpretive sculptor of wood who develops forms and shapes that portray living

Cascadian Woodtech collaborate This year’s Local Hero Award plaques are placed in wooden cases handcrafted by Cascadian Woodtech Co-Founders, Cyrill Werlen and Reto Schnyder. “It’s part of our business philosophy to give back to the community,” Werlen said. Part of Werlen’s enthusiasm for the project is being part of a program that recognizes community spirit. “We appreciate all of the work these nominees dedicate to the Valley,” Werlen added. It’s the first creative, small-scale undertaking

creatures. Call it a love affair with wood. “For me, it is about the wood. It’s about nature, but it’s about honoring the wood,” said Branson, whose partner, Greg Pedersen, is also a wood carver. “Every piece is different. Each person has a different way of interpreting a subject. There’s a certain format you follow as an artist, but for me it’s somewhere between abstract and contemporary. One person can look at something and see something entirely different. I look at wood and I guess I’m fortunate that I see things in wood that I’m able to bring out.” Branson has always loved the outdoors and nature, which inspires her work.

“The older you get the more I think you become more aware.” What made her want to become involved in the Local Hero Awards? “I don’t think there’s anything more important in life than people that do something for somebody else,” Branson said. “I think those people who go beyond are the best.”

Danielle Cunningham

that Werlen and Schnyder have been involved in since Cascadian Woodtech’s inception nearly four years ago. The boxes take roughly two-days to design and are constructed from locally-sourced maple from the Valley. “For an award like this, we see value in using only locally-sourced materials,” Werlen said. Each case will be stain-free, and sealed with a natural oil-based wax to leave the wood in as natural a state as possible. Werlen and Schnyder take part in all stages of development, such as design, manufacturing and

installation for large-scale projects. Recent events include stage set up for Ted Talks in Vancouver, and an installation in Toronto for a running event hosted by Nike. Currently, the duo have partnered with Courtenay’s Mountainaire Avian Rescue Society (MARS), and are in the planning stage of creating a new hospital and flight pen for eagles and other wildlife to take shelter in.

Proud to represent a community full of heroes Member of Parliament // Courtenay—Alberni 1-844-620-9924 //

Member of Parliament // North Island—Powell River 1-800-667-8404 //

4 | Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record



Proud Supporter of the

Local Hero COACH AWARD Thank you to all of the coaches who are exemplary in developing skills and confidence in our local athletes.

McDonald’s is Committed to Supporting Atom House League Hockey Across Canada McDonald’s® Canada is proud to continue its support of minor hockey in Canadian communities. atoMc® Hockey builds on McDonald’s Canada’s 25-year relationship with Hockey Canada with the goal of providing support to Atom house league teams across the country. atoMc® Hockey is the only Hockey Canada-endorsed minor hockey sponsorship initiative in Canada. atoMc® Hockey goes above and beyond a traditional sponsorship by providing participating teams a full set of primary game jerseys and socks. The jerseys feature the Hockey Canada logo - the very same logo worn by Canada’s men’s and women’s national teams. Comox Valley Minor Hockey Association is supported by local McDonald’s owner/operators Stuart and Jess Aldred.


f m c C

f b t c b a l

a t l


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photo by McKinnon Photography

Sponsored by Comox Valley McDonald’s Passing along his passion for sports to young athletes makes Peter Parke a great choice for top coach in the Comox Valley. When he’s not working full-time at his Tsolum Mobile Veterinary Health practice in Merville, Parke is coaching young athletes in basketball, rugby, lacrosse and other sports at both the local and provincial level. He was an accomplished athlete in his own right, particularly in high competitive levels of rugby and lacrosse.

“What I enjoy most about coaching is giving back to kids and seeing them improve,” said Parke. “To teach them how to compete and maybe getting them to think about going to the next level after high school.” Parke moved to the Comox Valley in 2003 to purchase a veterinary practice, and in 2013 founded the Comox Valley Athletic Association (with the support of fellow sports enthusiasts and business leaders) to help assist athletes who

faced financial challenges in pursuing their sport. The CVAA helps subsidize travel, training and equip-

››The Parke File Age: 52 Workplace: Tsolumn Mobile Veterinary Health Lives in: Courtenay Family: Single

ment and has a 24-passenger bus that is used to transport teams to tournaments, athletic training and other events. Although he has no children of his own, Parke has coached thousands of Comox Valley athletes, including standouts such as Thyssen deGoede (Canada 7s and 15s rugby), Adam Backular-Evans, Alec Molander and Tanner Jones (lacrosse scholarships to top U.S. universities) and Max Maund (soccer stalwart for

St. Francis Xavier University, Halifax). If all that work and volunteering makes it seem as if Parke is on the go 24/7, he happily agrees. “It seems like that sometimes,” he says. “I’m all about the next play. How to quickly switch or maintain focus about the next play. Or the next play might be what you’re going to do once you get out of high school. ‘Next play’ pretty much summarizes everything we’re about.”

6 | Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record


Crown Isle congratulates


thank you Education and learning provides benefits to both the individual and the larger community, and we salute our educators guiding the way for the Comox Valley’s future leaders.

including the

EDUCATOR AWARD NOMINEES Greg Kochanuk Charlotte Hood-Tanner Maureen Wagner Nicole Kerkhoff Kara Dawson Patrisha Reader

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photo by McKinnon Photography

Sponsored by Crown Isle Resort Being named the Comox Valley’s top educator was a pleasant surprise for Maureen Wagner. But it is not the only honour she has received recently. On May 12 she was in Ottawa to accept a Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Early Childhood Education. Wagner was one of five recipients from across Canada to be presented with a Certificate of Excellence by PM Justin Trudeau. Wagner teaches at Brooklyn Elemen-

tary and has been with the StrongStart BC program for nine years. StrongStart allows families with young children (under five years) to participate in play-based early learning activities – including stories, music and art. At no cost to families, the drop-in program helps prepare children for success in Kindergarten. “I have a strong belief in family and community. A big part of my job is helping those families feel like

››The Wagner File Age: 54 Workplace: Brooklyn Elementary and StrongStart BC Family: Husband Raymond and three grown and married daughters Jocelyn, Samantha and Meghan

they have a place to belong,” she says, adding her family was the inspiration for her 34-year career in education. “I come from a very large family and my parents fostered a lot of children. We just had children around us all the time, and I knew I wanted to be in education somehow.” Wagner was born in Ontario and moved to the Valley 10 years ago, after spending 14 years

in the Okanagan. “I find the Comox Valley so friendly. I walk a lot, and it’s nice (that) people look you in the eye when you’re walking down the street.” While Wagner appreciates being acknowledged by her peers, she has no trouble pinpointing the real highlight of her teaching. “It’s daily when families come and show up at the door of the classroom and they look for me. And when they see me how their faces light up that’s the best feeling ever.”

8 | Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record


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photo by McKinnon Photography

Sponsored by Comox Valley Dodge The unthinkable might have happened had Andrew Payne not been in the right place at the right time. Last August, the Courtenay man jumped into the rapids at Nymph Falls and saved two young girls who had slipped into a dangerous part of the river known as the grotto, where water funnels in from the top and stirs inside like a washing machine. Payne was with friends, Cole Howey and Steve Tobacca, but had separated. Tobacca was with his daughter Austyn, 11, and her

friend Jayden, seven. They were walking across the river when one of the girls slipped. Both were sucked into the grotto. “They had been underwater (chest level) about five minutes,” said Payne, a retired member of the military who did tours of duty in Afghanistan and Dubai. He dove underneath the current and came up underneath the rocks. When he reached an air pocket, the girls were holding each other and screaming, huddled in a spot the size of a car tire. “That’s the

only thing that saved them,” Payne said. “All around them, it’s just undertow with water shooting in.” He managed

››The Payne File Age: 33 Workplace: Retired member of the military Lives in: Courtenay Family: Single

to reach the girls on his second attempt. The back of Jayden’s head was split open. As she bear hugged Payne, he went underneath the water, and back up and under the falls, grabbed a rock and walked part way across the rapids while holding her. Then he jumped out of the waterfalls, where Howey and others could grab them. Payne jumped in a second time and rescued Austyn using the same procedure. By risking his own skin, Payne has won a Local Hero

award in the courage and bravery division. He was also awarded a silver medal of bravery from the B.C./Yukon branch of the Lifesaving Society. Payne was to receive a second silver medal of bravery from the Royal Canadian Humane Association at a May 31 ceremony at the RCMP headquarters in Vancouver. “I’m super grateful,” Payne said. “I’m just glad I was able to help. Just having them healthy and injury-free — that’s all you can ask for.”

10 | Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record



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Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record | 11

photo by McKinnon Photography


Sponsored by First Credit Union & Insurance For Trish McPhail, going Above & Beyond means doing what needs to be done. As PAC treasurer at Queneesh Elementary School (where her three children attend), this year she saw a need to improve the Breakfast and Lunch Club program, and fulfilled the need. “We have quite a few highneeds, at-risk children attending the school. Rather than complain about the food they were giving them I just stepped in and changed it. “We started serving healthier choices - mainly whole

fruits and vegetables what they were lacking from home.” McPhail said the change went over huge with the kids and added, “The support staff that works with them said the children were happier… and of course not getting a big sugar crash. They saw an improvement in behaviour, and that was exciting.” McPhail, who was born in Nanaimo and moved to the Comox Valley with her family in 1986, is a member of the Kumugwe Cultur-

››The McPhail File Age: 41 Workplace: Part-time at Tria Fine Catering & Gourmet Eats, and Lush Valley Food Action Society Family: Husband James 44, children A.J. 9, Oliver 7, Serina Joy 4

al Society and was one of the Kumugwe dancers who recently entertained and educated all the Grade 4 classes in School District 71 at the Komox Big House. The next day she was part of a conference call (along with other PACs she has networked with) to B.C. Minister of Education Mike Bernier to discuss “how to get forward momentum going on how we can help our failing education fund-

ing system.” Weekends are also busy for McPhail as for the past four years she has coached her children’s house league teams in the Comox Valley United Soccer Club. But there is time to relax. “I like yoga, and our family’s just getting back into the cycling scene. And there’s always time to go to the beach,” she said. Anything else? “My plate’s pretty full,” she laughed. “But you do it for the kids. As soon as you see them light up, then it’s worth it.”

12 | Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record


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Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record | 13


photo by McKinnon Photography

Sponsored by Vancouver Island Insurance Centres Ryan Thorburn’s career has taken him across the world to Tokyo and south to Haiti and Mexico. The Comox Valley paramedic and G.P. Vanier grad has participated in countless activities to put the Valley on the world stage, but he has also contributed to strengthening resources at home as well. Because of this and more, Thorburn is receiving the top honour Local Hero award for Emergency Services. “I have always had a way of just doing things that would not be possible without the

support of my family. I don’t go out to be a hero, I go to help somebody accomplish something that they just needed a hand with,” he said. Thorburn moved to the Comox Valley in 1985, and while finishing school and starting a construction business, he became a volunteer firefighter for the City of Courtenay in 1989 and joined the BC Ambulance service in a parttime capacity in 2004. He credited his position as a volunteer firefighter as his introduction to

emergency services. “The camaraderie there was invaluable.”

In 2007, he assisted in the creation of the Comox Valley Volunteer Bike Squad - a unit that provides free medical coverage to events such as Nautical Days, the Canada Day parade and the Terry Fox Run. Age: 47 In 2010, Thorburn volunteered with the CanaWorkplace: Various locations dian Medical Assistance around the world Teams, working in Haiti following their catastrophLives in: Comox Valley ic 7.0 magnitude earthFamily: Wife, Janice; 23-year- quake. old daughter, 19-year-old In March 2011, following the devastating 9.0-magson. nitude earthquake (and ensuing tsunami) in Sen-

››The Thorburn File

dai, Japan, Thorburn was a member of CMAT’s rapid disaster assessment team, to assess the need for medical services. In December 2015, he drove a donated ambulance full of wheelchairs, walkers, crutches and canes to El Tuito, Mexico - a village about an hour south of Puerto Vallarta - with the goal of helping residents with safe and comfortable medical transport. Last year, Thorburn was recognized as one of the ‘Citizens of the Century’ by the City of Courtenay.

14 | Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record

McDonald’s owner/operator Stuart Aldred (r) presents Peter Parke with the 2016 Local Hero - Coach of the Year award.

Tony Hayes of Insurance Centres (r) presents Ryan Thorburn with the 2016 Local Hero - Emergency Services award.


“This is quite an honour,

just to be nominated. And to win, it’s hard to put into words. I am really bubbling over. I love what I do, and I am glad it shows.”

“It’s not so much an

individual award as it is a symbol of what we are trying to do with youth.” PETER PARKE

MAUREEN WAGNER Jim Gardiner of Crown Isle (l) presents Maureen Wagner with the 2016 Local Hero - Educator award.

“Very surprised, but really,

we are just one board and there have been so many volunteers in the past 28 years that came before us that allowed our kids to feel the magic of theatre and what it does for kids. So it’s our privilege to be part of the board”

“It was a surprise. It

didn’t feel like I was doing anything out of the ordinary at the time. I just have a lot of free time and I try to keep out of trouble..” RYAN THORBURN

Frank Van Gisbergen from the Comox Valley Airport presents Rainbow Youth Theatre board members Karae White, Teresa Coates and Lisa Grant and with the 2016 Local Hero - Arts Advocate award.


“There were so many good

Sue Finneron of Finneron Hyundai (sponsor) presents Ethan AshleyCheetham with the 2016 Local Hero - Youth Volunteer award.

nominees. But there are so many unsung heroes at the hospital. It’s amazing what they do every day. For me, it doesn’t even feel like volunteering. It’s amazing the feeling I get when I see the old people smile. It’s like visiting 60 grandparents every Wednesday.”



“It’s an absolute privilege

to be nominated for an award like this. I never expected anything like this. I’m just thankful I could help and hopefully someone would be there to help me if I was ever in a similar situation.”

Roger McKinnon from the The Old House Hotel and Spa (sponsor) presents Chantal Stefan with the 2016 Local Hero - Hero of the Year award.

“This is quite an honour.

There are so many amazing people in this community, so to be recognized in this sea of goodness is a good thing.”

ANDREW PAYNE Mike Marchi of Comox Valley Dodge (r) presents Andrew Payne with the 2016 Local Hero - Courage and Bravery award.

Kevin Kelly of Sunwest RV (sponsor) presents Bob Scales with the 2016 Local Hero - Service Organization Volunteer award.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record | 15

TRISH McPHAIL Craig Keeping of First Credit Union & Insurance (r) presents Trish McPhail with the 2016 Local Hero - Above and Beyond award.

“It’s such a great honour.

But the organizations I volunteer with - the Comox Valley Daycare Society; the Rotary Club of Cumberland Centennial and the Cumberland Community School Society, they are the real heroes in all of this.”

“I’m very surprised. There were some very strong nominees.” BOB SCALES

“We are going in the right

direction, we are being able to connect the youth with those unseen and allow them to understand that they can make change, and that’s important to me. I am so grateful.” CHANTAL STEFAN

CHRISTOPHER BECIR John Bowman of North Island College presents Dr. Christopher Becir with the 2016 Local Hero - Community Builder award.

Shane Philip from Island Soul Films created a short film of the inaugural Local Hero Awards. Go to: video-online

photos by McKinnon Photography

16 | Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record


Congratulations to our Local Heroes. Your community spirit makes the Comox Valley a wonderful place to call home.

Photo Credit: Boomer Jerritt Photographer

We are proud to sponsor the category of Arts Advocate.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record | 17


ARTS ADVOCATE: RAINBOW YOUTH THEATRE Sponsored by COMOX VALLEY AIRPORT YQQ In a community as artistically vibrant as the Comox Valley, coming up with one specific Local Hero in the Arts Advocate category was a chore. One entry stood out, however, and winning the inaugural Local Hero: Arts Advocate is the Rainbow Youth Theatre. The purpose of the Rainbow Youth Theatre is to enable children and youth to gain confidence, artistic skill, and friendships through theatre.

“We are really focused on life skills,” said RYT president Karae White. “Our motto is ‘building character on and off the stage, since 1988.’ “When our kids get involved in a production, whether they are aged six or 16, they have to do their part, in a timely fashion, and they have to do it well. So there are life skills regarding working with other people, meeting deadlines, being creative, and the key skill is that they all learn to follow direction.” The Rainbow Youth Theatre

››The Rainbow File Age: 28 Alumni: hundreds Quote: “I remember one year, instead of 24 kids we had 48, so Kymme Patrick literally wrote another play, so that every kid could have a part.”

is also a champion of inclusivity; if a child wants to be a part of the organization, that is the only pre-requisite. Physical and mental challenges are simply challenges, not barriers. White said watching the growth of the children in the program is among the most satisfying aspects of the RYT. One sign of a solid youth organization is the retention of parent volunteers after their children have outgrown the program, and

the Rainbow Youth Theatre boasts many such volunteers. “On the present board, there are only three members who have kids in the program. The rest of them, their kids are all grown and gone,” said White. “So they are the type of people who continue to pay it back. She said it’s the closeness of the organization that brings volunteers back. “It’s a huge sense of community; we are like a big family.”

18 | Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record


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Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record | 19


photo by McKinnon Photography

Sponsored by Sunwest RV Centre The name Bob Scales has become synonymous with volunteerism in the comox Valley. Bob spends so much time volunteering, it’s a wonder his wife (Shelley) ever sees him. Simply being an active member for a single service organization for 45 years would be enough to warrant nomination for the Service Organization Volunteer. But Bob’s commitment to the community goes far beyond his involvement with Lions International, which dates back to 1970. “That’s where it really started,” he said. “I was in Sechelt at the time. I’d been involved

with things a little bit up to that point, but that’s where things really started to take off.” He’s rarely had chance to catch his breath ever since. He has served in nearly every capacity within the Lions Clubs, including District Governor, in 1983-1984, when he was in Prince George. Currently Bob and Shelley are both members of the Comox Valley Lions Club, where Bob took over as president three years ago. He has also served in numerous capacities with the Monarch Lions Club. But that’s just a sampling

of Bob’s community service efforts. He has been involved with Scouts Canada, helped start up CrimeStoppers in Dawson Creek, and served on numerous colleges in his various

››The Scales File Age: 68 Workplace: Retired Lives in: Comox Family: Wife, Shelley; son, Robert

communities. He has been an active member of the Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce for the past eight years, serving that organization in many capacities, including chair. He is the immediate past chair for the Glacier View Lodge, which he has served as a board member for nine years - the maximum allowable term. He has also just completed his ninth year on the board at St. Joseph’s Hospital. “You are allowed a maximum of three, three-year terms and nine years is enough. Time for something different.”

That doesn’t mean more time on the golf course, however. He’s moved on to other social causes, such as his involvement with the Courtenay Low Income Housing Society, and d’Esterre Senior Citizens Housing Society. He serves as a director with both those societies - both Lions Club initiatives. Where does he find the time to do it all? “You just make the time,” said the retired banker. “You do what you have to do, and you get things done. Time management is something I learned in 42 years as a banker, and it just carries on.”

20 | Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record


Spark your inner superhero. Partner with NIC to be …

… an Environmental Steward When you partner with NIC on environmental research, you fuel economic prosperity, encourage environmental sustainability and prepare students for employment. NIC student, Jamie Lund’s hands-on research into the distribution of eelgrass beds near the Royston Wrecks involved Project Watershed and a group of K’omoks First Nations students committed to restoring the estuary and effecting positive change. Learn more. “NIC students are bringing science to life - mapping eelgrass, improving estuaries and creating positive change in their own community,” Christine Hodgson NIC Faculty

… a Philanthropist

… an Innovator

Whether you donate a one-time gift today or leave a legacy in your will, your gift helps ensure that NIC continues to provide students with experiences that launch a lifetime of success. With your help, we can remove financial barriers for students, enhance learning resources and ensure exceptional facilities in our NIC communities. Donate now. “There is no way I would have been able to achieve what I have achieved without the community backing and supporting me. My dream is now to give back to my community what they have given me.” Tera Cooper NIC Social Services Diploma Graduate

When you collaborate with NIC to develop innovative solutions to industry challenges, you support advances in education technology while revolutionizing the way you do business. NIC students created a one-of-a-kind bottling process that could revolutionize the way sparkling wine is manufactured, all because a local winery owner approached them for help finding a motionless solution to his super-fine sparkling wine bubbles. Learn more. “NIC students have helped me develop my idea– we’ve gone through the learning curve together.” John Grayson Hornby Island Estate Winery and Farm

… an Employer When you hire a co-op student, you provide learning opportunities beyond the bounds of the classroom. NIC student Sheldon Falk’s co-op experience at the Immigrant Welcome Centre included research and development work that the non-profit organization could not otherwise afford. Hire a co-op student today. “Sheldon works on meaningful projects that are vital to our organization. It’s like getting a consultant for a reasonable rate.” Jim Brennan Immigrant Welcome Centre




Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record | 21


photo by McKinnon Photography

Sponsored by North Island College Those who know him, describe Dr. Christopher Becir as having a warm and genuine demeanour, and note it’s seldom to find a dentist who makes you look forward to appointments. Along with stories of his generosity and kindness, Becir, a Vancouver Island native, works with the Comox Bay Care Society to care for individuals who would otherwise have barriers to dental treatment. He additionally provides work for many other in need regardless of their financial situation, particularly single

mothers and children. He transitioned into the role working with “a wide variety of people who might be struggling with substance abuse or a physical disability which prevents them from seeing a dentist,” from Dr. Bill Armstrong, who worked at the Cumberland Dental Centre. He has been known to drop everything to help those in pain, even if they are not regular patients, including on Christmas Eve and during Thanksgiving dinner. It’s no wonder he is re-

ceiving the top honour in the Community Builder category

››The Becir File Age: 31 Workplace: Cumberland Dental Centre Lives in: Comox Valley Family: Wife, Kelsey; son Alexander, 7 months.

for the inaugural Local Heroes Awards. “I was really shocked and honoured when I found out. I really appreciate (the nomination) because I don’t think what I do is anything beyond and about what a dentist should do,” he said. Becir noted some of his greatest satisfaction comes from watching someone smile, particularly if they have had trouble accessing dental care. “I worked with one woman who all she wanted, was to smile for photos in her

son’s upcoming wedding. Something like a smile is so important; it’s one of the biggest compliments I can receive. It’s really nice to see.” Becir and his practice Cumberland Dental Centre was the primary sponsor for the Cumberland Community School Society’s main fundraiser, Santa’s Breakfast. His love for his community also extends to his active membership with the Rotary Club of Cumberland Centennial. “It’s a great organization that give back to the community so much,” he added.

22 | Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record



Youth Volunteer

Congratulations to ALL OUR LOCAL HEROES

Thank you for being a leading example in our Community and making a difference!

Sue Finneron accepting the award for top Hyundai Dealer in Canada from Don Romano President of Hyundai Canada.











President’s Award of Merit bestowed to the top 15 Hyundai dealerships in the country. AS WELL AS BEING HONOURED AS THE

Top Hyundai Dealership in Canada Of the 15 President’s Award winners, one is selected every year as the top overall dealership.




Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record | 23


photo by McKinnon Photography

Sponsored by Finneron Hyundai Ethan Ashley-Cheetham started volunteering at The Views when he finished Grade 8 at Isfeld Secondary. Three years and 150 volunteer hours later, he continues to spend an hour-and-a-half each week at the seniors’ care facility at St. Joseph’s Hospital. “I’d like to go into health care when I’m older, so I was seeing if the hospital was the right environment for me,” said Ethan, the top youth volunteer recipient at the Local

Hero Awards. “I really liked it there. I keep going back because all the residents, they know my name now. I can relate and connect with all of them. It feels like some thing’s missing if I miss a week.” The 17-year-old had tried volunteering at his mother’s preschool, which he liked, but didn’t turn out to be his age group of choice. “They (seniors) have funny stories, it’s really good. It’s like having 60 grandparents

that I see every Wednesday.” Ethan has two sets of grandparents in England. He

››The Ashley-Cheetham File Age: 17 School: Grade 11, Mark Isfeld Secondary Lives in: Merville

recently attended a ceremony where one of his grandfather’s received a service award for raising money for injured soldiers. Besides The Views, Ethan volunteers nine hours a week with the Sharks swim club, coaching beginners (5-10 years) and advanced swimmers (12-14 years). Before he turned to coaching, Ethan had competed at the BC Summer Games. But when volunteering at the preschool, a Sharks coach

suggested he give coaching a try. “That’s kind of taken my focus. Coaching at the younger age group and the older age group — it’s a good way to watch the kids come up. I’ve had kids that I taught, and now they’ve moved into the competitive side, and I’m watching them win and put all those skills to use.” Ethan hopes to graduate high school in January, and take college courses before attending university.

LOCAL HEROES 2016 photo by McKinnon Photography

Sponsored by Finneron Hyundai


24 | Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record

Kaleb Andrew

Priya Dawadi

At fifteen, Kaleb Andrew is an advocate for solving the social issues facing today’s Aboriginal people. Andrew celebrates his Aboriginal roots and spends time volunteering at the local Wachiay Friendship Center. Andrew sees value in building connections with others and contributing to his local community. “It is very rewarding… a lot can be learned and felt from it,” he said. An impactful experience for Andrew was on a school field trip to Downtown East Vancouver. During his visit, Andrew spent time helping the homeless and felt surprised by the number of Indigenous people he met on the street. He has since felt compelled to draw further attention to the issue of Aboriginal homelessness and inspire others to visit and make a difference. Academically, Andrew is most interested in Humanities and Science, and he delights in the richness of discovery; “It’s fascinating to study our history.” He looks forward to the new learning opportunities and friendships that await him in his senior years of secondary studies. Andrew’s secret to balancing academic, social and volunteer commitments? Rest and self-care; Andrew ensures that he is well-rested to set himself up for a successful week. This summer, he plans on spending time with friends and family while continuing his services at the Friendship Center.

Priya Dawadi has found herself surrounded by kindness in the Comox Valley since her arrival from South Africa six years ago; it’s a sentiment that the 17 year-old has since returned to the community during three years of volunteer work at St. Joseph’s Hospital in both residential and acute care. Peers and mentors at the hospital describe Dawadi as being reliable, eager and organized – traits that earned her a supervisor position at the hospital in 2015, where she oversaw the efforts of four other candy stripers. “It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life… many patients are an integral part of this community,” said Dawadi. Her volunteer experience has provided her with a sharper sense of compassion and an appreciation for those nurses and doctors who work in such a highly emotional environment. Dawadi is in her final year at Highland Secondary, favouring subjects based in History and English which explores past and present conditions of human experience. “I am also a huge fan of reading, so naturally I am drawn to these subjects,” she said. Dawadi has been accepted at the University of Toronto next fall where she will study Economics and International Relations. She looks forward to the opportunities that will be available in the city and at the institution: “I cannot wait to challenge myself academically and become an adult in such an amazing city.”


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Rory Gentles

Jade Hansen

Kalyssa Henrich

Rory Gentles is a young person who is passionate about spreading kindness and helping others. In the fourth grade at Courtenay Elementary, much of Gentles’ efforts are placed in her position in the school’s Kindness Club, which she joined this year. “I thought they needed more kind people and that’s why I joined,” Gentles said. When she joined, there were only two others involved in the club, and now there are eight. Gentles started recruiting other schoolmates from grades four, five and six to join, encouraging them to make a positive impact in the school; “Give it your all and be as kind as you can be,” she advises new members. Members of the club spread kind messages at student assemblies using videos ranging in subject from sportsmanship, to playground etiquette and expectations in gym class. When asked if she’s had to mediate disagreements, Gentles replied, “many times.” Donna May, her grade four teacher agrees, and commends her for having “such a caring heart.” Gentles is growing her hair for a third time to donate to a Vancouver-based organization that creates wigs for the Children’s Hospital. At her last birthday celebration, Gentles raised funds for You Are Not Alone (YANA) in support of local families. She also volunteers at the Filberg Heritage Lodge and Park, and plans to offer volunteer support to the community this summer. Gentles is looking forward to grade five and another year of participation in the Kindness Club.

Six years ago, Jade Hansen felt inspired to help the less fortunate. Following a family trip to Vancouver, Hansen noticed “many homeless people who looked cold,” which formed an idea of starting a clothing drive. “I wanted to help,” she said, in the second grade at the time. In the first year of Hansen’s local drive, she collected 700 pounds of items including toques, coats, scarves, gloves and sweaters to be distributed from the local Salvation Army. “It was just my Nana and I who started the drive,” she said. Now, Hansen’s idea has grown into an annual tradition that promotes community involvement in the Valley. She challenges minor hockey teams, dance studios and schools to participate and fill their bags. In 2014, Hansen collected 2,500 pounds of clothing, then raised the bar in 2015 to 2,700. Hansen also established a partnership with Cumberland Regional Laundry staff who launder items prior to distribution. Hansen is in the eighth grade was recently awarded the Chamber of Commerce Youth Citizen Award. As the event grows, so do the demands of planning for the event. “We would start planning for next year as soon as the current one finished,” she explained. “Now, we start planning even sooner.” To those considering starting their own charity or volunteering their time, Hansen says, “Don’t be afraid. There’s no age restriction and anyone at any age can help out.”

“There are so many opportunities to help others, on local and global scales,” said Kalyssa Heinrich as words of encouragement to those considering volunteer work. Heinrich has created these opportunities for herself while inspiring others to do the same during her term as this year’s co-president of the Mark R. Isfeld Interact Club. Over spring break, Heinrich travelled to Nicaragua with classmates from her Spanish course as part of a cooperative humanitarian trip. Prior to her departure, Heinrich helped organize a schoolwide bottle drive, successfully raising $3,500 for a Nicaraguan family in need of a new home. In June, 2015, Heinrich and her team began a six-month project to restore a Honduras school roof. Students held fundraising campaigns and exceeded their target by raising $13,000. In April, Heinrich and her mentors visited the site to see the results of these distant fundraising efforts for themselves – “It is so much more powerful being able to see the faces of the kids whose lives we’ve changed,” said Heinrich. Heinrich has also attended Vancouver’s annual We Day event and has volunteered for organizations including End Polio Now, Everybody Deserves a Smile, and the local food bank. Heinrich is keen on writing and exploring new languages and cultures. “I like being able to share my passion with others and the more languages I know, the more people I can affect.”

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HERO OF THE YEAR: CHANTAL STEFAN Sponsored by Old House Hotel & Spa Chantal Stefan did not create the EDAS project for the accolades. She did it because she cares. It’s what makes her such a special person. For her work with the Everybody Deserves a Smile project, Chantal has been named the Hero Of the Year. “I am so surprised by this. This is so kind of whoever nominated me. Awesome” Twelve years ago, Chantal and three friends came up with an idea, while living in Edmonton. The four of them baked up

some sugar cookies, wrote notes on little pieces of construction paper, added a pair of socks and put all the contents into little Christmas bags. They made 88 bags, went down the back alleys of downtown Edmonton, right before Christmas, and hung the bags where people would see them and pick them up. Chantal moved to the Comox Valley a couple of years later, and introduced the Everybody Deserves a Smile program to the school dis-

trict. She got children involved in a stuffing care packs, making cookies, painting

››The Stefan File Age: 41 Workplace: Ecole Puntledge Park/District office Lives in: Cumberland Family: About 400 children in SD 71

bags and making cards. The project became much more than a project. Its lesson in human compassion has piqued the interest of the local school district to such a degree that philanthropy has become part of the curriculum in many local schools. “I never imagined it would blossom into this,” said Chantal. “I think 12 years ago when we first thought of the project it was very much ‘in the moment.’ Every year I am so captivated with what these kids do… it always

opens up a new door, every year. “It has [grown] in such a magical way we could have never expected this. But the kids really take it to heart. and when you involve children, anything is possible, because they are so pure. “To see a child understand that they have the power to make change in their local community, or someone else’s life, and then see it in the hands-on form, in the classroom… I don’t know that anything gets any better than that.”

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LOCAL HEROES 2016 Clockwise from top left: Trisha and Chef Ronald St. Pierre of Locals Restaurant served up stunningly delicious appetizers for almost 300 guests. Dyan Spink and new Royston Roasting Co. owner served hot coffee and refreshing tea from Hornby Island Tea. Sponsor,Craig Keeping, First Credit Union & Insurance presented the Above & Beyond award to Trish McPhail, and her lovely children.

St. Joseph’s General Hospital is honoured to be a sponsor of the Celebrate Local Hero Awards

Congratulations to this year’s award winners and nominees Local Hero Awards is about celebrating & recognizing amazing individuals for their outstanding service and support of our community. These are individuals of diverse interests and backgrounds who give back to the Comox Valley community in a wide variety of ways. St. Joseph’s General Hospital is privileged to help in recognizing our Local Heroes, who have contributed significantly to our community.

Congratulations to all of our Local Heroes. You make all of us proud. Ronald & Tricia St Pierre, and there entire team from Locals Restaurant.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record | 29


Clockwise from top left: Nominee, Hans Peter Meyer, Nominee, Kalyssa Henrich, a youth Kumugwe dancer, Melinda Knox, K’ómox Economic Development and a peek from behind the scenes of our audience.

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30 | Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record


Clockwise from top left: Sponsor, Sue Finneron handing out the Honourable Mention certificates to the youth finalists, Dr. Christopher Becir (and son Alexander) and Top Honour for Courage & Bravery Andrew Payne.

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Clockwise from top left: Community partner, Paul Berry, Top Honour of Emergency Services: Ryan Thorburn with Community Partner Glen Greenhill, Publisher Chrissie Bowker with RCMP and Community Partner, Jane Murphy, St. Joseph’s Hospital. A special thank you to Chief Gord Schreiner and the Comox Fire Department as host venue and all of your support was incredible.

COMMUNITY PARTNERS Tom Demeo, School District No. 71 • Paul Berry, Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue• Chrissie Bowker, Comox Valley Record • Tom Dunne, Colonel, 19 Wing Comox, Royal Canadian Airforce James Rossell, 19 Wing Comox, Royal Canadian Airforce • Susan Granberg, Comox Valley Record, Glen Greenhill, B.C. Emergency Health Services • Jeff Hampton, Comox Valley Food Bank • Dianne Hawkins, Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce • Brent Hobden, Salvation Army • Sonya Jenssen, Comox Valley Arts Council • Jane Murphy, St. Joseph’s General Hospital • Gord Schreiner, Comox Valley Fire Chief Association • Joanne Schroeder, Child Development Association • Tim Walton, Comox Valley RCMP • Tyler Voigt, Volunteer Comox Valley


32 | Tuesday, May 31, 2016 | Comox Valley Record





Local Artisans Lindsay Branson, Raw Earth Carvings and Cyrill Werlen and Reto Schnyder, Cascadian Woodtech have handcrafted our Local Hero Awards



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Special Features - 2016 Local Hero Awards  


Special Features - 2016 Local Hero Awards