Captain Karen Peel takes down cadet information as part of the officer corp at Albert Head Cadet Training Centre in Metchosin. (Photo by Lieutenant Jordan Holmes, Unit Public Affairs representative, Albert Head Cadet Training Centre)

Cowichan Coffee Time: Cadets, cavassers, nature and more

• Karen Peel of Duncan has chosen to spend her summer differently than most.

She is working as the finance officer at Albert Head Cadet Training Centre in Metchosin. In this role, she is taking care of the dollars and cents so that the hundreds of cadets and dozens of staff who will be at Albert Head CTC can enjoy their summer training experience.

Peel was a cadet herself in Chilliwack at 147 Royal Canadian Air Cadet Squadron (RCACS). She enjoyed her time in the program so much, that many years later she encouraged her own children to join air cadets in Duncan. Seeing how important strong adult leaders are to the cadet program through her children’s experience, Peel made the decision to get actively involved again. In 2004 Peel joined the Canadian Armed Forces as a cadet instructor cadre officer to better support 744 Cowichan RCACS. She continued with the squadron after her children aged out at 19 years of age, realizing the important role she could continue to play for local youth.

“I get to watch cadets grow up through the program, watch them succeed,” says Peel. “Sometimes they’ll come back for a visit, years after they left, and share what they accomplish. It’s nice knowing you were a part of that.”

Peel spent 15 years at 744 RCACS before making the move to 257 Parallel RCACS in Duncan.

“They needed the help,” she says. “744 had a lot of staff, and I knew I could make a bigger difference there, and I am keen to serve wherever I can have the most impact.”

Karen will work alongside dozens of other CAF officers at Albert Head CTC this summer delivering curriculum in leadership, aviation, fitness, survival and music.

• More BC families will get outdoors to explore, learn and take action for nature, thanks to a $37,977 grant to NatureKids BC’s Nature Clubs program. The program’s network of more than 25 volunteer-led nature clubs encourages kids and their families to learn about B.C.’s wildlife, plants and wild spaces by connecting with the outdoors.

On Vancouver Island, there are Nature Clubs located in Victoria, Port Alberni, Nanaimo, Cowichan and Comox Valley.

Sarah Lockman, executive director of NatureKids BC, says that strengthening the connection between people and the outdoors is more important than ever, as increasing numbers of British Columbians live in urban environments. Over the next year, more than 1,500 B.C. youth and their families will participate in more than 2,500 outdoor adventures and projects through the Nature Clubs program. Activities include maintaining nest boxes, creating interpretive signage, bird counts and other citizen science projects.

The grant to support the Nature Clubs program was one of 170 provided by the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation (HCTF) this year for B.C. conservation projects.

“HCTF has been a core funder of NatureKids BC for more than 10 years and we are privileged to have them as a partner,” said Lockman. “Relationships like these are critical to creating the next generation of nature lovers and environmental stewards and to ensuring that families are supported to get in touch with nature in their own backyards.”

HCTF Chair Dr. Winifred Kessler agrees.

“Getting youth involved in conservation helps them build a lifelong connection to nature and feel that they can make a difference,” said Kessler. “We fund Nature Clubs and other environmental education projects because we know how important it is to create stewards — people who understand, value and help conserve biodiversity in B.C.”

NatureKids BC also publishes NatureWILD, a quarterly magazine for families and elementary school students. This year they have also launched a citizen science project focused on bat education and advocacy. For more information, or to find a Nature Club near you, visit https://www.naturekidsbc.ca/

• On July 20-21, members of the Cowichan Valley community participated in the annual MS Bike to raise funds and improve the lives of Canadians living with multiple sclerosis.

More than 200 cyclists came together to successfully raise more than $214,000, which will be used to accelerate the pace of MS research breakthroughs and provide programs and services to enhance the quality of life for those affected by MS.

“Each year, we are amazed by the passion and support of the Cowichan Valley community for this cause,” said Carina Stirling, development manager, MS Society of Canada BC & Yukon Division. “We had over 200 cyclists who raised $214,000, which is an outstanding achievement. We wish to thank everyone for their critical support in helping us create a brighter future for people affected by MS.”

Funds raised from this event will support innovative research into the cause, treatment and cure of MS while also providing valuable programs and services such as the Volunteer Legal Advocacy Program, Equipment Provision Program, MS Knowledge Network, community recreation and wellness programs and 1:1 Peer Support Program for people living with and affected by MS in Vancouver Island.

“Through fundraising events such as MS Bike, the MS Society of Canada BC & Yukon Division is able to host free educational events for people affected by MS and wellness programs in Vancouver Island,” noted Katie Ganassin, Community Services manager, MS Society of Canada BC & Yukon Division. “We are also able to support individuals establish and continue to run local MS self help groups in the community through the funds raised,” she added.

MS Bike, the largest fundraising cycling series in North America, is a fundraising event that offers cyclists of all ages and abilities the opportunity to ride through scenic parts of the province — such as the Cowichan Valley — in support of those affected by multiple sclerosis.

For more information regarding programs and services available for people affected by MS in Vancouver Island, please contact Katie Ganassin at katie.ganassin@mssociety.ca or 1-800-268-7582.

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