Healthy Living in the North

Regional Spirit of Healthy Kids program launches October 1

Prince George Cougar hockey players interact with school kids as part of the Spirit of Healthy Kids program.

Using local hockey players as role models, the Spirit of Healthy Kids program helps kids to be as active, kind, and as healthy as they can be. (photo credit: Prince George Cougars)

“Dad! I met the Hockey Cougars! I could win a chance to meet the whole team! I need to read and exercise every day!

These words, from a young participant in the Spirit of Healthy Kids program, sum up what makes the program successful and important: the program gives kids positive role models to look up to and rewards them for making healthy choices, and it can have a tremendous impact on their lives. Up until recently, Spirit of Healthy Kids was only available in Prince George, but now it’s going regional, to communities throughout Northern BC!

Program now available to all of Northern BC

The first ever intake for the Spirit of Healthy Kids Regional Program will be open from October 1 to October 31, 2019. Here’s how it works:

  • Interested schools in Northern BC can apply, and six schools will be selected to participate in the challenge, based on healthy kids’ projects they want to accomplish (see Criteria).
  • Students will view a video that has health, wellness, and philanthropic messages from the PG Cougars, then record their healthy activities in tracking sheets for the next two weeks.
  • At the end of the challenge, the school with the highest level of participation will receive a $5,000 grant from the program to complete a project in their school that will help students make the best possible choices every day.
  • The other competing schools will each receive a $1,000 grant.
  • Kids from schools that weren’t selected can still complete activity forms and enter a random draw for a $500 grant.

While this funding is important, the real win is getting kids to be active, kind, and as healthy as they can be. It’s no secret that building healthy habits in kids leads to healthy habits in adults. By supporting schools to encourage these habits in their students, the Prince George Cougars, the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation, and Northern Health aim to build a happier and healthier Northern BC for years, and generations, to come.

Spirit of Healthy Kids background

In 2015, the Prince George Cougars wanted to give back to the community. They introduced Read to Succeed, a program focused on getting elementary school children to spend more time reading and being physically active. The program was a hit and, in 2016, a new partnership between the Cougars, the Spirit of the North Healthcare Foundation, and Northern Health came together, and the Spirit of Healthy Kids program was born.

This new program built on the foundation of Read to Succeed, adding new areas of focus including philanthropy, smoke and vape reduction, and injury prevention, among others. Since the program began, over 4,100 children have participated and read their way to rewards, like enjoying Cougars hockey games.

For more information

Visit the Spirit of Healthy Kids program for more information, and application details and forms.

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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IMAGINE Community Grants: Keeping safety simple in Houston

The installed Public Access Lifering is beside a sign that explains how to use it.

A Public Access Lifering was installed in Houston, BC in May 2019, after the District of Houston applied for and received an IMAGINE Community Grant.

The beach at Irrigation Lake is a popular destination for residents of Houston to cool off in when the weather gets hot, or to do some ice fishing when the mercury dips low. Located just West of town in a thriving forest, the beach is one of those hidden gems that makes a community special. The park features picnic tables, fire pits, and change rooms, but doesn’t have lifeguards on duty. To address this, Tasha Kelly from the District of Houston’s Leisure Services department made a plan to install a Public Access Lifering. As part of her plan, she applied for and received IMAGINE Community Grant funding.

A Public Access Lifering, or PAL, is exactly what it sounds like: a buoyant plastic ring that’s accessible to the public. It’s a safety measure you hope you’ll never have to use, but in an emergency, it could mean the difference between a happy ending and a tragedy. The ring that’s installed at Irrigation Lake features durable, weather-resistant housing. Its presence will help aquatic activities at the beach stay safe for years to come!

Northern Health IMAGINE Grants

Every year, the IMAGINE Community Grants program supports a wide variety of projects that help make Northern communities safer, healthier places. Projects like this one in Houston help to keep communities active by keeping them safe. Northern Health is proud to partner with communities to make the North a healthier place to live!

Apply for an IMAGINE grant in September

The application window for IMAGINE Community Grants opened on September 1 and closes September 30, 2019. The program accepts applications that promote health in a wide range of areas, including:

  • Physical activity
  • Healthy eating
  • Community food security
  • Injury prevention and safety
  • Mental health and wellness
  • Prevention of substance harms
  • Smoking and vaping reduction
  • Healthy aging
  • Healthy schools
  • …and more!

For more information, visit the IMAGINE Community Grants webpage today!

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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IMAGINE Grants: Making space for youth in Quesnel

Youth play a variety of tabletop games, like air hockey and a basketball game.

Sometimes teenagers get a bad rap. Maybe it’s the loud music, or the tendency to travel in packs, but they’re often regarded with undeserved suspicion. And even when they do get into trouble, they often aren’t bad kids, just bored kids. When Rebekah Harding of Reformation House in Quesnel looked at the youth in her community, she saw that many of them had barriers to accessing sports like hockey or soccer, and no safe place to hang out. To keep young people from drifting into substance use and other potentially dangerous choices, she decided to take action.

Reformation House’s youth lounge: creating a safe space for teens in Quesnel

In fall of 2018, Reformation House applied for an IMAGINE Community Grant to establish a youth lounge in downtown Quesnel. The safe, clean space where kids could gather and hang out would offer games, activities, and snacks. The group purchased a variety of game tables, installed a TV and a concession, and opened their doors in January 2019.

The response was amazing. From the beginning, it was clear that kids were responding to having a space to call their own. Youth from Quesnel and other communities came to play pool and foosball, watch movies, sing karaoke, and just chill. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive – more than one visitor said that if it wasn’t for the lounge, they likely wouldn’t leave their home at all except to go to school.

Improving the health of teens and the community: the work continues

While there’s still lots of work to be done, Reformation House is committed to continuing their work on the youth lounge. Future plans include developing new partnerships in the community, expanding marketing, and making the space available for event rentals. The IMAGINE Community Grants program is proud to support groups who take steps to make their communities healthier places!

IMAGINE grant applications open in September

The application window for IMAGINE Community Grants opens on September 1 and closes September 30, 2019. The program accepts applications that promote health in a wide range of areas, including:

  • Physical activity
  • Healthy eating
  • Community food security
  • Injury prevention and safety
  • Mental health and wellness
  • Prevention of substance harms
  • Smoking and vaping reduction
  • Healthy aging
  • Healthy schools
  • …and more!

For more information, visit the IMAGINE Community Grants webpage today!

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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IMAGINE grant: Guiding learning through imagery

Two computer monitors show materials from the Guided Imagery course.

Guided Imagery is a mindfulness practice that uses the connection between the mind and the body to promote relaxation, concentration, and performance.

Guided Imagery is a mindfulness practice that uses the connection between the mind and the body to promote relaxation, concentration, and performance. By imagining every detail of a peaceful setting like a beach or alpine meadow, you can relax the body and allow deeper concentration.

A well-known example of the effect of guided imagery is to picture a lemon, and imagine opening it. Imagine the colour, the texture, and the smell. Then, imagine taking a bite of that lemon. Many people will experience physical responses to this exercise, demonstrating that the mind is a powerful part of how the body functions.

Guided Imagery practitioners making an impact in the classroom

As practitioners of Guided Imagery, Megan Knott and Bev Berg of Fort St. John knew that the practice could help school-aged children achieve their full potential in the classroom. Their company, Rosy Window Productions, had already developed the Imagine If You Had a Cloud Program, which includes a book, guided imagery script and audio, instructions, and best use advice. They also developed an online course to give educators the tools they need to deliver guided imagery in the classroom. All that was left to do was apply for an IMAGINE Community Grant to help make their vision a reality!

Rosy Window shares resources with IMAGINE grant money

Fast forward to summer 2019, and 25 schools in School District 60 have received Megan and Bev’s resources, free of charge. Three teachers have completed the online workshop since it launched in June, and one school is fully committed to implementing the program in September. Rosy Window is now exploring ways to make their resources available to schools throughout the North, and all of BC. Rosy Window is a great example of how, with a little vision and determination, anything is possible!

Apply for an IMAGINE grant in September!

The fall 2019 intake of the IMAGINE Community Grants program opens for applications on September 1 and closes September 30, 2019. The program accepts applications that promote health in a wide range of areas, including physical activity, healthy eating, community food security, injury prevention and safety, mental health and wellness, prevention of substance harms, smoke and vape reduction, healthy aging, healthy schools, and more!

For more information, visit the IMAGINE Community Grants webpage today!

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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IMAGINE grant: Discover Daycare

The outdoor play equipment and safety surface at the Discovery Childcare Centre.

It’s no secret that active outdoor play is important for children. In a recent paper on the benefits of outdoor active play, the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and their partners state that kids who are outside move more and sit less, which contributes to a wide variety of health benefits.

The importance of outdoor play was clear to the Discovery Childcare Centre in Prince Rupert, but they just didn’t have the equipment to support that active play outdoors. And so, when the Board of Directors for the centre identified a new playground as a priority, they turned to the IMAGINE Community Grants program to help make the vision a reality.

More of the outdoor play equipment at the Discovery Childcare Centre.

Through years of focused effort, the daycare fundraised almost $40,000 to put toward the purchase and installation of new playground equipment for the 32 kids in their care. Their efforts took dedication and commitment, and in fall 2017 they were very close to achieving their goal!

However, one key piece remained: site preparation, including the purchase and installation of Playfall Tile, a rubberized safety surface manufactured from recycled tires that would cushion the inevitable falls of the hundreds of children who would enjoy the equipment over the years.  The quote for this work came in at roughly $5,000, and so the Board approved the submission of an application for an IMAGINE grant. The application was approved in spring 2018 and work began in June.

After its completion in August 2018, the new playground was an immediate hit with the kids attending the centre. Having a safe place to play outside, and the right equipment for that play, made a big difference for everyone. The centre has already observed that there is room for more growth in the future, with a key focus being the development of a garden area near the playground that will let kids learn about planting, growing, and eating fresh food. IMAGINE is proud to have contributed to this amazing project, and look forward to hearing about the centre’s successes in the future!

The IMAGINE Grant spring cycle is now accepting applications! Get yours in today!

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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IMAGINE Grant: Trail Blazers

Riding a bike is one of those experiences that most people associate with being a kid, but the truth is many kids don’t get the chance to have that experience. The cost of buying a bike is a major barrier for some families, and additional costs like helmets and maintenance can put the activity out of reach. Many students at Westwood Elementary School in Prince George are among those not fortunate enough to own a bike, and this motivated a teacher, Tanja Wilson, to apply for an IMAGINE Community Grant to start the Trail Blazers program at the school.

Westwood school kids on bikes.

“I saw the need for some of our youth to be able to enjoy bike riding, and I wanted to incorporate it into an after school program so that everyone could join,” says Wilson. “I wanted to help kids learn not only how to ride a bike, but also safety rules and basic bike fixes such as how to put a chain back on, and how to lower a seat.” 

With funding in place, Tanja first set out to purchase the equipment: 25 bikes, 25 helmets, and 25 sets of pads, in sizes to accommodate students of all ages. She then arranged lessons about bike safety and maintenance for the kids, including hand signals, crossing roads, and how to replace a broken chain. Once this was completed, it was ride time.

“It was FANTASTIC!! Not only did the students enjoy it, their parents did as well.”

The program ran twice a week for primary students and twice for intermediates. The route between Westwood Elementary and nearby Ginters Park quickly became a fan favourite. At the park, the kids explored trails and were able to enjoy a healthy snack before riding back to school!

The program was a hit, seeing huge growth in participation over time and giving many students the opportunity to engage in fun, healthy, and safe physical activity with their friends.

All kids should have the chance to play, but sometimes barriers they can’t control get in the way. By supporting projects like Trail Blazers, the IMAGINE Community Grants program helps break these barriers down, one ride at a time. The Spring 2019 IMAGINE intake opens to applications on March 1, 2019, with applications due March 31. For more information, visit the IMAGINE Community Grants web page.

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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IMAGINE granting & cultivating community: The Burns Lake Community Garden

The courtyard and fire pit at the Burns Lake Community Garden.
The courtyard within the Burns Lake Community Garden, where people can gather around the fire to relax, socialize, and learn.

Healthy communities are much like gardens – they don’t just happen. They need to be tended, cultivated, and nurtured to grow to their full potential. Community gardens take this metaphor and turn it into real-world success stories. One of these tales of triumph is the Burns Lake Community Garden.

Like many communities in Northern BC, Burns Lake faces challenges with access to fresh, healthy foods. The Burns Lake Community Garden Society (BLCGS) seeks to address these concerns, and in Spring 2018 they applied for funding through the IMAGINE Community Grants program. The project was approved, and they got to work building an “edible environment” for all community members to enjoy.

In addition to planting a dozen fruit trees and a dozen fruit bearing bushes to provide access to local produce, the BLCGS wanted to create an environment for people to come together and enjoy the literal fruits of their labour. They envisioned a courtyard, surrounded by garden, where people could gather around a fire to relax, socialize, and learn. And it’s safe to say, that vision was realized.

Completed in late summer, the upgraded community garden has already hosted a successful workshop on traditional First Nations use of medicinal plants. The workshop brought together a diverse group of 20 individuals who used plants grown in the garden to explore medicinal applications and receive traditional knowledge. Further workshops are already in the works, and the courtyard has seen frequent use as a social gathering place as well.

Access to fresh fruits and vegetables can be a barrier to healthy living for residents of our Northern communities, but groups like the Burns Lake Community Garden Society are working to change that. By growing their communities, they make them stronger, healthier, and more resilient. With a new greenhouse installed in 2018 as well, the BLCGS is excited about an extended growing season and the opportunity to provide local food to their community year-round. The IMAGINE Community Grants program is proud to support this and other projects that make our communities healthy! 

Have an idea that could make your community a healthier place? The Spring 2019 intake of the IMAGINE Community Grants program opens March 1, 2019. Visit the IMAGINE Grant page today!

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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Clearing a path to the future: IMAGINE funding for Pidherny Recreation Site

There’s just something about the sound of tires rolling over dirt. It’s a hum, an almost sub-aural vibration, and at its best it moves through the rider’s body like a wave, washing away the mental cobwebs of a digital world and sweeping all consciousness into a singular, focused state.

man on mountain bike biking down a trailMaybe it’s this sensory gift that inspires mountain bikers to volunteer their time and energy to create and maintain the trails that provide it. But it was those volunteers themselves that inspired the Prince George Cycling Club to apply for IMAGINE Community Grant funding to purchase tools to support their efforts.

Pidherny Recreation Site is a popular trail network in Prince George that features a wide variety of trails catering to riders of all interests and abilities. The varied terrain of the rec site makes it an ideal location for trail development, and through careful planning and skillful execution, the site has evolved from a relatively small number of user-built trails into a vibrant, multi-use community recreation area. While mountain bikers are the primary user group on the trails, many local residents also enjoy walking there in the summer and snow-shoeing in the winter months. And with interest in the sport surging in the community, the future looks bright.

“We have seen tremendous growth in participation in mountain biking in Prince George over the past few seasons,” says Prince George Cycling Club Mountain Director Josh Staub. “As a non-profit organization, we rely on funding from grants like IMAGINE to provide safe and accessible trails for riders. The tools purchased with this grant will help ensure that the Pidherny Recreation Site remains safe and sustainable for years to come.”

Similar to a bike, community improvements like the Pidherny Rec Site keep on rolling. As interest in an activity grows, demand for infrastructure increases. As that infrastructure is developed, more people are attracted to the activity and the cycle is renewed by the increased demand for new options. Pidherny Rec Site is a perfect example of a community driven effort that not only contributes to the health and well-being of participants, but also draws them together. The IMAGINE Community Grant program is proud to support efforts like this throughout the Northern Health region, investing in the people and organizations who take action to make our communities healthier places for all!

For more information regarding IMAGINE Community Grants, and applying, visit the IMAGINE homepage , or email Imagine.Grants@northernhealth.ca with any questions.

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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Biking to save your life

Bike riding

Biking can save your life… in more ways than one. Pictured: Andrew on a course in Whistler, BC.

I never actually saw the bear, but I sure heard it.

It was the end of a good solid ride, and I was pretty tired. I had put in about 10 km on the gorgeous single track trails out at Otway, and my legs were feeling quite Jello-ish. It was early evening, warm, and the golden light of impending night permeated everything with a slow sense of peace and easy satisfaction. And so, lost in my thoughts and a pleasant haze of endorphins, I didn’t think much of the rustle in the trees to my right.

Once I was safely back in the van and coherent thought beyond survival returned, I realized that that small rustle was the cub, and the snarling, crashing chaos that ensued to my left thereafter was the mother I had offended. With the guttural grunting of a grisly death in my ear, however, only one thought was discernible: RIDE FASTER. I’m not sure I have ever pushed a gear that low that hard, before or since, but I am sure about this: my bike saved my life that idyllic summers’ eve.

And, now that I think of it, that was actually the second time that biking saved me. Although the first lacks the drama and explosive adrenaline rush, it is no less valid. Before I found mountain biking, I was committing most every health sin imaginable. Lack of exercise: check. Excessive consumption of alcohol: check. Poor diet: check. Smoking: check. In short I was overweight, out of shape, and on a crash course with a premature heart attack for sure.  Also, I had a daughter on the way.

Not a good look.

So I bought a used mountain bike on eBay for $200. It cost me almost that much again once she arrived to get her ride-able, but she convinced me at the top of my first big climb to change my lifestyle around.  It didn’t happen overnight, but I am now 30 pounds lighter, a non-smoker, and I exercise regularly and eat at least reasonably well. I also no longer feel like I’m going to puke and pass out once I ride uphill for a few minutes.

That bike, by the way, is named Polly. I now have two shiny engineering masterpieces, full of flashy hydraulic bits and nifty feats of geometric wizardry that have made my much quicker on trails, but Polly is still around. I will never get rid of the bike that saved my life (twice), and she now serves as my commuter bike.

This brings me, at last, to the point of this rambling little diatribe: Bike to Work Week. I have organized a team for my work colleagues, the Kilometer Crushers, because I believe everybody can benefit from throwing a leg over a bike. It doesn’t matter whether you ride roads, trails, or both, just riding is the point. So join a team, and get out there: you only live once, and you’ll live better on a bike!

Andrew Steele

About Andrew Steele

Andrew Steele is the Coordinator of Community Funding Programs for Northern Health. He is passionate about community development, and believes that healthy communities are the result of many people working together toward common goals. Outside work, Andrew loves mountain biking, teaching Ride classes at The Movement, and enjoying art, culture and food with friends and family.

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