Healthy Living in the North

Lisa Davison: Community Health Star

The Northern Health Community Health Stars program shines a light on community members across Northern BC who are doing exceptional work, on their own time, to promote health and wellness in their community. One such person is Lisa Davison, a trail blazer in Prince George for the sport of badminton! Here’s her story.

Lisa tosses a birdie in a gymnasium as a group of young students watches.

Coach Lisa working with students.

Congratulations! You were nominated to be a Community Health Star by Vanessa Carlson! What’s your connection with Vanessa?

Vanessa is a past player in PG’s annual event, and now a friend, who lived in Watson Lake! For about six or seven years, her father would have her and her brother, Jason, come down to our camps and tournaments. I was in contact with the Carlsons on and off during those years, and eventually her father asked me to lead a camp in the Yukon to help them prep for the 2011 Western Canada Summer Games. They flew me up and we held a camp for a week, it was really special.

After that, I saw her and the Yukon team in Kamloops, where I was actually the manager for the BC team. It was pretty funny to see their team (one I had just trained and gotten close with) play, as I managed the BC team. The camaraderie was really great.

Why do you think Vanessa nominated you? What does it feel like to get that sort of recognition from a peer?

It feels amazing to be nominated, especially by Vanessa because she and her family are such amazing people – they’re a really neat bunch.

We keep in touch on Facebook but honestly, this is sort of out of the blue! Vanessa has always been very appreciative of me trying to grow the sport, [telling me], “You’re such an amazing supporter of badminton, way to go!” I’ve always enjoyed hearing that, because I know she’s being sincere, and it’s gratifying to be recognized for something that I’ve put a lot of time and effort into. She was one of the first people to connect with me after I broke the news that I had decided to hang up my high school coaching hat after 16 years, and she was one of the first to congratulate me on winning the Sport BC Community Sport Hero Award.

When you do a lot of volunteer work, you do it for the love of the sport, the kids, and to grow the game. And then, when you feel like “Ahh, I’m going to turn it in…” something amazing happens. A kid sees the light at the end of the tunnel, or you get a Vanessa that says, “Good job!” It keeps sparking you.

On a podium, several people high-five, while two young women hold a plaque.

Lisa and others celebrate a victory.

How did you get into badminton?

Well, that’s a funny story… I was in grade 9 at Kelly Road Secondary School in Prince George, and in the fall my friends kept disappearing after classes. When I asked them what they were up to, they told me that they were playing badminton, and that there was a tournament coming up at the end of the month and, “You should come play.”

I actually had never played badminton before – not even in the backyard! I wound up playing in the tournament and absolutely loved it. So from grade 10 and on, that was it. I was all in on badminton.

What made you want to coach and where did you start?

I was working at Prince George Secondary School in 1993, and I got a phone call from a parent [of a student] who lived in Fort St. John. She mentioned that she’d heard I might be interested in coaching badminton. At that point, I had helped out in some P.E. classes, had some drop-in after school practices here and there, so somewhere someone had made the connection between me and badminton, but I had never coached anyone. I informed the caller that I had no coaching certificates, but I’d give it a try. I had some skills that I could pass on, but I recognized that there was a lot more I had to learn from a coaching perspective.

That student was the start of my coaching life, and I knew that to help him more, I had to learn more. I took communication courses at the college, gradually started setting up classes, and my coaching career grew from there!

How did you start the North Central Badminton Academy in Prince George?

Some years into coaching high school, I started to notice that players quit after they graduated, because there was nowhere to continue competing. In 2000, I started coaching at Heather Park Middle School and some of the grade 8s were able to participate in the high school season at Kelly Road. It was noticeable that many kids were disappointed there was no badminton after the high school season. They had nowhere to practice or continue competing.

I had no idea what to do or how to do it, so I called Badminton BC, and told them that I wanted to start something. After that call, I began to organize visits from high level coaches that lived elsewhere, put on tournaments, and train groups of students. The North Central Badminton Academy was born and I have been happy to see it grow ever since.

Vanessa mentioned that you’ve developed a program that caters to all members of the community, regardless of experience/fitness levels and age. Tell us about that.

There are so many facets to badminton, and it plays into how someone can organize players and create a program that everyone has a place in. There’s the hand-eye component, the physical component, the game sense, and, of course, their age!

I found I had to create beginner programs, intermediate programs, high performance or development squad programs, but also programs for girls and ladies only, and para-athletes. I really enjoy the long term athlete development, and when you have each of these programs running, you get to see players grow, which is awesome.

Any plans for the immediate future?

I would love to take a group to Denmark. There’s amazing badminton over there, and it would be my total coup de grace as I slow things down!

Prince George is also hosting the 2020 Canadian Masters Badminton Championship, which will be great for the sport in Northern BC. I’m not very good at staying stagnant, there’s always pieces in motion! 

Congratulations Lisa!

Thank you Lisa! For all the countless hours of volunteering, and the energy you’ve put into growing the sport of badminton, Northern Health recognizes your efforts and commends you for getting the north moving with the sport of badminton. You truly are a Community Health Star!

To nominate a Community Health Star in your community, visit the Northern Health Community Health Stars page today!

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Following up with past Community Health Star Seamus Damstrom

Seamus and his parents posing at graduation.

Seamus with his parents, Scott and Jenny, at his graduation from the College of the Rockies.

Four years ago, Seamus Damstrom was a grade 12 student in Terrace, with a passion for healthy eating and creating healthy change among his classmates. We were so impressed with the food revolution he brought to his school that we recognized him as a Community Health Star, and although several years have gone by, I’m happy to report that his interest in nutrition hasn’t wavered, but has only grown stronger.

I recently reconnected with Seamus to learn more about what he’s up to and hear about his plans to become a registered dietitian – and have found out he’s still an amazing health advocate, living up to his Community Health Star status!

You were recognized as a Community Health Star in December 2014 – what did that mean to you?

When I was recognized as a Community Health Star, I was very shocked, as I had never been recognized for a project that I had done. After the initial shock of the recognition I was truly honoured and humbled to have my story shared and I hoped that it could inspire other youth to find creative solutions to local issues. I look back at this recognition as a motivating factor that provided me with more evidence that a career in food and nutrition is the right thing for me to pursue. I think the whole process of being on the Healthy Living Youth Council of BC, to developing and conducting a project was extremely important for my personal and professional development.

Seamus at a long dinner table.

Seamus at the Farm to Fork Dinner, a fundraiser for the Cranbrook Food Action Committee, for which he worked with for the last three summers.

What have you been up to since graduating high school?

Shortly after graduation, I decided to take two years of prerequisite courses at College of the Rockies in Cranbrook. Life always has a funny way of changing your course and that happened to me as I actually ended up staying there for three years. At the time I was frustrated as I wanted to get to UBC to get underway with my Dietetics program but now I wouldn’t change a thing. I graduated from College of the Rockies last April with a certificate in Arts and Science and now I am currently attending UBC in the Bachelor of Science in Food, Nutrition and Health program.

One awesome thing about being in Cranbrook for three years was the connections and opportunities I found. Over the last three summers, I‘ve had the honour of working at a local public produce garden conducting various work groups, student classes, and other food literacy activities, as well as distributing and organizing our local BC Farmers’ Market Nutrition Coupon Program for both Cranbrook and Kimberley Farmers’ Markets.

For the last three years, I also volunteered with the Canadian Mental Health Association Senior Assisted Shopping Program, a program that pairs volunteers with senior citizens in the community to help them grocery shop and carry their groceries in every week. These experiences helped me get involved in the community when I first moved there – and it was fun listening to each senior’s unique story!

I also have had the pleasure of being on the College of the Rockies Board of Governors and Education Council, and two years ago I was nominated by Canadian Mental Health as a local Game Changer in the categories of Health and Wellness and Youth for my work in the community. I love to stay busy and try to give back to my community in any way I can.

How has your passion for food and health developed or evolved since high school?

With all the opportunities I have had the pleasure to participate in, my passion for food and health has grown even larger. One thing I love about food is how it can tell one’s story in it. When I was at the College working as an International Activities Assistant, we would do an event every two weeks called “International Cooking,” where we got groups of students to cook and serve a traditional cultural dish. This activity brought students together and, in my opinion, created a stronger community at the College.

I have really developed a keen interest in food policy and its importance in providing the framework for positive change in our food system. Furthermore, I am very passionate about food and nutrition education especially with youth and children as you can really leave an impression on them when it comes to food. By creating a positive environment to learn about, taste, and share food, youth can be inspired to further explore food and this excites me. We can never forget how important educating youth is especially when it comes to food and health.

A really cool opportunity I am involved in now is as a Nutrikids Ambassador. Nutrikids is a club at UBC that focuses on improving food literacy in elementary and primary school students in Vancouver. I am the leader for my pod and we conduct nutrition/food workshops for a kindergarten/grade 1 class. To date, we have done four 80 minute workshops to a class of 30 students with each workshop focusing on a specific food (e.g. beet, corn, dragonfruit, and apple). These workshops focus on developing the kids’ food identification skills, ways to describe food through their senses. The workshops are filled with fun hands-on activities for the kids to use their senses and explore the ‘food of the day’ further. It’s been a blast and I have really found my love for teaching in this position!

I understand you are still interested in becoming a dietitian – tell me about your plans.

I am finally at UBC to continue my education and career goal of becoming a Registered Dietitian. I am applying for the Dietetics Major this January with an intended fall intake into the program if my application is successful. After that, I would have two years of course work at UBC and a 36-week Practice Education at a registered health authority in BC. I would prefer to conduct my Practice Education in a rural community like the communities Northern Health and Interior Health support. I want to be able to use my knowledge to not only help improve our healthcare system but to improve the lives of those who are marginalized through food!

Do you know someone who is helping to improve the health of their community? Nominate them as a Community Health Star today!

Jessica Quinn

About Jessica Quinn

Jessica Quinn is the regional manager of digital communications and public engagement for Northern Health, where she is actively involved in promoting the great work of NH staff to encourage healthy, well and active lifestyles. She manages NH's content channels, including social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc). When she's not working, Jessica stays active by exploring the beautiful outdoors around Prince George via kayak, hiking boots, or snowshoes, and she has recently completed her master's degree in professional communications from Royal Roads University, with a focus on the use of social media in health care. (NH Blog Admin)

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Catching up with Myles Mattila

“I am not a mental health professional by any means, I’m just a hockey player.”

Myles Mattila in his hockey uniform.

Myles Mattila may not have the credentials, but he’s got the passion – enough of it to be a heck of a mental health advocate. Founder of MindRight and a former Northern Health Community Health Star (see our original story on him here!), Myles now lives in Kelowna BC, playing with the Kelowna Chiefs of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. Although hockey plays a huge part in his life, so does mental health awareness. With Bell Let’s Talk Day coming up, it was the perfect time to catch up with Myles and see what’s changed in the past couple years.

Remind us, what is MindRight?

MindRight is a place where athletes who are experiencing any range of mental health challenges can visit and find support. Whether it’s professional resources for coaches or players, peer to peer support, or just having someone to talk to, MindRight can help.

What’s coming up? Anything exciting?

We’re planning for a MindRight app, which is great because it provides some more accessibility for youth athletes, and really can open up the door to other leagues. I think that’s the overall goal, to take MindRight and spread it into bigger leagues so more players have access to it.

What role do you think coaches, team managers, and sport organizers can play in mental health promotion/ prevention?

I think they play a huge part. If you watch my video on how MindRight sort of began, I talk about my teammate who was going through some ups and downs. I saw him acting differently, and I was worried.

“His smile was gone, but he kept saying, “’I’m fine.’”

So, I brought it to my coach’s attention, someone I looked up to at the age of 13, and thought had all the answers. Unfortunately, coaches don’t always know the best procedure, and my coach actually took hockey away from him. That was devastating.

Hopefully MindRight can be used by both coaches and players so they can find resources that help. I think coaches and organizations should let players know it’s ok to speak up, or even better, encourage mental health awareness. It can be as formal as having a speaker come in and present, or as easy as using green tape on your stick and gear to promote Mental Health Awareness Week.

In your experience do coaches, or peers, know how to support someone that does speak out for help?

Before, not as much, but now, yes, I think so. Older coaches can sometimes have different mindsets, probably because mental health wasn’t a well-known topic to them in their youth. They have that “old time hockey” mentality.

It’s kind of hard to ignore the issue now because it’s being recognized so often. Schools champion it, pro athletes speak to it. One in five people are affected in some way by mental health. Awareness and learning is key to changing how we act and fight the stigma attached to it. Coaches and organizations can change – my past coach changed once he heard my story!

Many sports organizations/clubs have zero tolerance substance use policies meaning someone can be kicked out or excluded from positive peer groups and social connections. Do you think there is a better way to handle substance use?

It’s tricky. In my opinion, I don’t think booting players from a team or organization resolves the problem, but I can also recognize the risk of substances within a team atmosphere. A person’s mental health has to be considered, but the team has to be protected as well.

I think best way to handle that sort of situation is to really dive into the team, figure out what’s going on and create a plan. If you can find out what’s wrong, and if that person is willing to be helped and looking for change, they should be given that opportunity.

“At the end of the day, a team is like a family. You don’t want to see your family go through hard times.”

Recognizing everyone has mental health, and that it is not a fixed state, how can sport contribute and foster to positive mental health in youth?

Sports provide an incredible atmosphere for growth. If you break it down, you’ve got a common goal, a team connection and lots of interaction – it’s a really underrated and cool opportunity to create a positive mental health support network.

Why is it so important for youth to talk about their feelings and experiences?

Honestly, it’s simple. You can’t get help without speaking to the right people. I think there have been cases where youth athletes reach out to the wrong people, and get shamed for talking about mental health. It makes them shut down and stop looking for help.

If you reach out to the right people who know how to respond and help correctly, people at places like Foundry, you can get the real facts you need and go from there.

What do you believe is the best way to educate youth on mental health and substance use?   

I’ve always thought that presentations play a big part in educating, but in my experience, the peer to peer network is the best, which is why sports and teams are so perfect for educating. If someone within a team atmosphere can be an ambassador, the guys listen.

I’ve always admired Kevin Bieksa and his advocacy for his friend and teammate who passed away, Rick Rypien. When young athletes see pros speaking about themselves and teammates, it’s relatable. We’re all playing the same game, so it’s not too hard to imagine that some of us may be going through the same problems.

Make sure to check out MindRight today. We wish Myles all the best moving forward with this hockey career and his mental health advocacy!

And don’t forget to nominate your Community Health Star now!

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Help your Community Health Star shine!

All over northern BC, in every community, there’s someone who’s pumping health and wellness back into their community. This could look like many different things: they’re raising awareness for mental illness; they’re supplying a healthy eating initiative to their town; they’re encouraging others to get up and be active; and who knows what else?!

Community Health Star Logo The best part? These folks are doing this for nothing other than to make the community they live in healthier and happier! At Northern Health, we call these people Community Health Stars (CHS), and we want to help them shine!

Each month, Northern Health would like to showcase a CHS, but we can’t find them without your help. When chosen, a CHS wins their choice of prize from Northern Health, and is highlighted through our social media channels plus the Northern Health Matters blog! Nominations will be accepted on an ongoing basis, so once a nomination is in, they’re eligible to win later as well!

Wondering what a Community Health Star looks like? Here are a couple examples of past Stars:

Peter Nielson – Quesnel, B.C.
Peter is a retiree who has always had a passion for helping seniors. He has created and supported several groups to address a wide range of issues impacting seniors. His message to others? “Check on your neighbours. If you know a senior, keep an eye on them.”

Myles Mattila – Prince George, B.C.
Myles works to promote youth mental health throughout the Prince George area and works with Mindcheck, a program that addresses mental health in a manner that is accessible for youth. It features a broad range of topics, including depression, mood, and anxiety issues; coping with stress, alcohol and substance misuse; body image, eating disorders, and more!

Hollie Blanchette – Valemount, B.C.
Hollie has served on 17 different community committees in Valemount, inspiring projects like Valemount Walks Around the World, the building of the Bigfoot community trail system, working towards a dementia-friendly community designation, looking into projects to keep seniors happy and healthy at home, coordinating a visiting hearing clinic, installing indoor/outdoor chess, and more!

So, who’s doing what around you? Do you know someone who’s helping others? Someone who betters your community? Nominate them as a Community Health Star!

Nomination takes almost no time at all, and you can help put the spotlight on someone who’s been doing something good for others and deserves to be recognized!

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Community Health Stars: Peter Nielsen

One of the neatest things about the Community Health Stars program has been the range of amazing activities that residents of northern B.C. take on to make their communities healthier places to live, work, and play. From promoting healthy eating in Terrace schools to walking around the world in Valemount, Community Health Stars represent a wide range of passions, communities, and activities.

As a resident of Quesnel deeply committed to helping seniors, Northern Health’s Community Health Star for the month of March adds to this outstanding variety! In addition, the issues that this month’s Community Health Star works on have a lot in common with the key findings of Northern Health’s 2013 community consultation, Let’s talk about Healthy Aging and Seniors’ Wellness. Northern Health is pleased to name Peter Nielsen as this month’s Community Health Star!

Peter is a retiree who has always had a passion for helping seniors. He has created and supported several groups to address a wide range of issues impacting seniors and I had the pleasure of chatting with Peter during a rare break in between his many community engagements!

Could you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Group of five individuals stand in front of a sign announcing the future location of the Quesnel Seniors Housing Project.

Northern Health’s Community Health Star for the month of March is Peter Nielsen. Peter is active in seniors issues in Quesnel and has played a key role in work on a local seniors housing project.

After working in home care on Vancouver Island for several years, I returned to Quesnel (where I first moved in 1971) to be with family nearly 10 years ago.

My passion for helping seniors started at a young age. When I was 13, my family took in an older friend who needed ongoing care and I took on a lot of those caregiving tasks. I related well to this individual and have found that I relate well to all seniors. I especially enjoy hearing their amazing stories!

To pursue this passion, since moving back to Quesnel, I’ve gotten involved with the Lions Club, the Lions Housing Society, and the Fraser Village Home Society. I also started the Voice for North Cariboo Seniors.

What does a healthy community look like to you?

For me, a healthy community meets the needs of everyone. For seniors in particular, meeting their needs includes a few different considerations, and I have tried to be involved in all of these issues in Quesnel:

  • Affordable housing for seniors
  • Food security
  • The ability to make ends meet
  • Affordable medical supplies and pharmaceuticals
  • Accessible spaces
  • Social support

I think that housing and the safety and security that brings is so important for seniors’ well-being. To support that goal, I became president of the Lions Housing Society, a group working to build an independent living housing complex in Quesnel. We just purchased the land for the project and I’m excited to see construction starting soon! I also sit on the board of the Fraser Village Home Society.

Through the Lions Club, we also build ramps for seniors and others in wheelchairs. We buy the material and then have a work bee to build, paint, and secure the ramps.

Social support for seniors is crucial, too! Through a group that we formed a few years ago, we visit a residential care facility in Quesnel during the holidays to give gifts, decorate, and spend time with the residents – I was even Santa one year!

Looking ahead, I’d like to look at ways to support widowers who are struggling with loneliness and isolation. I think that a gathering place would go a long way towards making them healthier and more connected.

When it comes to seniors’ ability to meet their needs, one thing that a lot of people don’t know is that not all seniors collect a full Old Age Security pension or draw from the Canada Pension Plan. Many farmers and ranchers grew up pinching pennies and would have been living day-to-day so often didn’t contribute to government programs during their working years. Now, these individuals are struggling to make ends meet. Seniors are very proud people, too, so even in situations like this, they hesitate to ask for help. The onus is on us all to step up, check in with our older neighbours, and make sure that they are OK.

Although seniors issues take up most of my time and a special place in my heart, through the Lions, I am also able to support the Two Rivers Boxing Club in Quesnel. This local boxing club provides young people with a place to gather, be active, and develop their self-esteem. The local coach pays for a lot of expenses out-of-pocket so the Lions and I do what we can to offset the costs of tournaments, travel, and other club activities.

How did you get involved in seniors issues?

Man lifting a grocery bag out of a truck.

Peter’s message for others in northern B.C. is simple: “check on your neighbours. If you know a senior, keep an eye on them.” After checking on some of his neighbours, Peter identified food security as an important issue facing seniors and began to make regular deliveries of healthy food to seniors in need.

It’s been a soft spot in my life, all my life! I enjoy talking to seniors; I always have. I find them very interesting and appreciate their stories. They can often be a forgotten group but I love them and I gravitate towards them.

When we moved back to Quesnel – having worked with seniors for some time – I noticed a few things in our community that were missing for seniors. My wife became my sounding board and eventually she got tired and just said “do something about it!” And I did! I created Voice for North Cariboo Seniors three years ago. This group holds monthly meetings where seniors can come together to learn about different issues. We had someone talk about taxes last month, we share information from the RCMP about scams targeting seniors, and we’ve brought in Northern Health to discuss health issues. We’ve got 150 seniors on our call list to invite to each meeting!

I’m also involved in delivering food to seniors in need. As a group, we drop off healthy food options to 50-60 seniors every month. The Lions Club and other community members support us with food donations. The focus on food started with a visit to a senior’s home where I saw only cat food in the fridge but no cat. This was so sad to witness and sparked a passion for me to look at food issues that seniors face.

One of the reasons that I got involved and have stayed involved is that seniors don’t like people knowing their plight. I have found seniors to be very proud – they’re scared of being recognized in a donation line – and often they go without instead of asking for help.

What does “healthy aging” mean to you?

For me, healthy aging means respect for seniors in all aspects. It means seniors being able to live in safe, low-cost, and healthy places. It means being aware of seniors issues since they are so often a blind spot for so many of us.

What would you like to say to other residents of northern B.C.?

It’s simple: check on your neighbours. If you know a senior, keep an eye on them. Drop off some baking and say hello! Winter can be especially difficult for seniors because of slips and falls.

And remember that often, seniors won’t come to you for help. So look out for them, keep your eyes open.

It only takes a couple of people to get something amazing started!


The Northern Health Community Health Stars program shines a light on community members across northern B.C. who, like Peter, are doing exceptional work, on their own time, to promote health and wellness in their community. To nominate a Community Health Star in your community, visit the Northern Health website.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Community Health Stars: Hollie Blanchette

Northern Health believes that health happens in the community and launched the Community Health Stars program to shine a light on amazing individuals who are promoting health where they live. The Community Health Stars program grew out of a desire to keep the spirit of the Canada Winter Games burning bright long after the closing ceremonies. This spirit has seen communities come together, volunteers contribute thousands of hours, celebration events taking place across our region, and residents living healthier, more active lives. When it comes to this legacy, this month’s nominee has it all: community spirit, volunteerism, active living, and more!

Our Community Health Star for the month of February has an infectious belief in the power of community connections to create healthy change. Whether she’s meeting a group to continue their “Walk Around the World”, connecting with others on one of 17 committees that she contributes to, or simply smiling and laughing with friends at the library, everything that Hollie Blanchette does seems to make Valemount a little happier and a little healthier.

Northern Health is pleased to name Hollie Blanchette as our Community Health Star for the month of February! I was very fortunate to be able to chat with Hollie about her contributions in Valemount.

Woman on a hiking trail with a mountain in the background.

“I don’t know about you but I want to live somewhere exciting, vibrant, and fun filled with happy and healthy people.” Northern Health is pleased to recognize Hollie Blanchette from Valemount as our Community Health Star for the month of February. Hollie’s commitment to community and to creating healthy change are inspiring!

Why is a healthy community important to you?

For me, it boils down to the fact that this is where we live! I don’t know about you but I want to live somewhere exciting, vibrant, and fun filled with happy and healthy people!

Another important consideration for me is that we are all aging. I think that we need to be asking ourselves how we want to age, both mentally and physically. I’m a very happy person – I think that mental wellness is such an important component of overall health – and I want to stay happy and age happily. I would like for my mind and body to stay as healthy as possible as I age and living in a healthy community is key to that.

What does a healthy Valemount look like to you?

For me, a healthy Valemount is full of diverse, unique people! Health isn’t about being a size zero and having tight skin. It is about eating healthy foods, being active, and managing stress to the best of our abilities. Each one of us is unique and there is no “perfect” – only the best you that you can be! The first step to a healthy community is ensuring that it is filled with people who are happy with themselves.

The second component of a healthy Valemount is that people are connected with one another. Our connections make our town healthier. They help us to know what is going on, who can help with what, and how each one of us can make a difference.

How are you involved in creating a healthy Valemount?

My involvement started with simply observing. When you live in a place that you love and when you want that place to be as healthy as possible, you start to notice things and then decide that you have to do something about it. For me, “doing something about it” meant connecting with projects and people in the community so I joined a few committees. I then wanted to make an even bigger impact so I ran for Council and was elected in 2011. There, I discovered the Northern Health liaison position, expressed an interest, met with local medical staff, and then took on that role. I’ve been able to learn so much from community members and partners in this role and I really enjoy it!

I currently serve on 17 different committees in town so I really see my role as knowing what’s going on, knowing who is doing what, and connecting those people in order to see projects take off. Some of the projects that I’ve contributed to and am currently working on include Valemount Walks Around the World, the building of the Bigfoot community trail system, working towards a dementia-friendly community designation, looking into projects to keep seniors happy and healthy at home, coordinating a visiting hearing clinic, installing indoor/outdoor chess, and more!

This involvement comes from a love for my town and I must say that living in Valemount is fantastic! I had moved 13 times in 18 years so when I first moved to Valemount, I didn’t hang up pictures. Now, I can assure you that there are pictures on the wall! I feel rooted here and it is that feeling that led me to get involved. This is one of the first places where I’ve really involved myself in local activities, which I believe says a lot about the wonderful place that I call home! I’ve got a great job and a great way to serve community members.

What is the Valemount Walks Around the World initiative?

Valemount Walks Around the World is a five year project that aims to get residents of Valemount moving! The project asks participants to input the time that they spend being physically active into a computer program which then converts that time to steps and tracks both individual steps and community steps on a walk around the world. Whether you swim, bike, in-line skate, walk, or run, your total helps move Valemount across the world!

The project has been a huge success in all sorts of ways! We just started year three and we’ve got about 10 per cent of our population signed up to the program. We just recently made it across the Atlantic Ocean together! We’ve also connected with local doctors who have noticed some patients walking as part of this project who are showing lower risks of chronic diseases and experiencing reduced morbidity.

What is your message for other northern B.C. residents?

For me, healthy communities start with the citizens. It is the citizens who see gaps and opportunities and it is the citizens who need to take these ideas for healthy change to the community.

If you have a project that you want to take on, look around for the liaisons, groups, and partners who might be able to help with this idea. And get involved with local non-profit organizations. These are the groups that can make it all happen and they keep you involved and busy! This is how communities can become healthier – citizens see a need, they ask for change, and then they connect with one another to create that healthy change.

Lastly, I think that a lot of health comes from being a happy person. Everything else fills itself in from there!


 

The Northern Health Community Health Stars program shines a light on community members across northern B.C. who, like Hollie, are doing exceptional work, on their own time, to promote health and wellness in their community. To nominate a Community Health Star in your community, visit the Northern Health website.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Community Health Stars: Wayne Mould

Man curling.

Northern Health is pleased to announce our Community Health Star for the month of February: Wayne Mould! Wayne is a founding member of the running club in Dawson Creek (a “running club for everyone”) and is committed to supporting people to make walking and running part of their lifestyle!

Northern Health’s first two Community Health Stars – Myles Mattila of Prince George and Seamus Damstrom of Terrace – exemplified the power of youth to promote health and wellness in their community. Not to be outdone, our Community Health Star for the month of January reminds us all that it is never too late to create healthy changes in your community and to incorporate new physical activities into your life. A retired teacher with a career that spanned 40 years, Wayne Mould has worked to keep the Dawson Creek running club going and growing for the last ten years. Not even a cancer diagnosis and surgery could keep Wayne down for long – just one year after a major cancer surgery, he was racing again and even winning his age category!

I had the pleasure of talking with Wayne about the running club, his impressive running resumé, and why supporting an active community is so important to him.

How did you get into running?

I started running in my late 50s after a bit of an off-the-cuff remark to my daughter, who runs regularly. She had just returned home after a six kilometre run, and I mentioned – as an inexperienced non-runner at the time – that she seemed quite tired after “just” six kilometres. Her response was that I should try running six kilometres. So, just to prove that I could, I started running with a few others and haven’t stopped!

Since that time, I’ve run about 15 half marathons, one full marathon, and 15 ten kilometre races. The highlights for me were races in Kelowna just after my 60th and 70th birthdays when I won my age groups. I’ve also raced the famous Emperor’s Challenge in Tumbler Ridge seven times. That race is pretty special because you get a “permanent number” after five races so I’m proud to be part of that group.

How are you involved in the Dawson Creek running club?

I have been involved in the Dawson Creek running club for the last ten years. Together with some others, we’ve kept the club going and our members running through snow, rain, or shine! We organize four runs each week and the club members say that “Wayne will always be there.” I guess that I am the familiar face during all of the runs! I try to invite as many new members as possible and encourage everyone to join us on our runs.

Man running outside.

Whether snow, rain, or shine, Wayne is always out with new and existing running club members for their morning runs. Wayne is a familiar and friendly face eager to welcome new members and get more people active!

How is the Dawson Creek running club organized?

The group has a loose structure, which I believe encourages participation. We meet at the Tim Hortons in Dawson Creek four times each week – Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 6:00 a.m. for a five kilometre run and Saturdays at 8:00 a.m. for a longer run.

We call it the “running club for everyone” and even had some T-shirts made up with that slogan. We welcome all runners from first-timers to ultra-marathon runners. There is a lot of turnover – which is neat as we get to meet new people – and there are approximately 25 people who are loosely associated with the running club at any one point. Of these members, 3-15 runners will participate in any one run that we do.

I take our slogan – that we are a running club for everyone – very seriously! The social part of the club is very strong. Members have become very good friends because of the way that we run. We run for 10 minutes and walk for one minute, all at a pace that allows us to talk to each other.

The running club also organizes an annual run in Dawson Creek – the Windmill Run/Walk. The event is a 10 kilometre run or walk event (we don’t specify which!) and participants can turn around whenever they feel like it if 10 kilometres is too daunting. Our goal with this event is to generate interest in running and walking in Dawson Creek and to make it a part of people’s lifestyles. The event is becoming quite popular! First-time participants get medals, local doctors have been promoting it, and we had over 50 runners last year.

How did your cancer diagnosis impact your running?

Shortly after my 70th birthday, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. I received excellent care – I really can’t say enough about how I was treated by the health system and health care professionals both in Dawson Creek and when I had to travel away from home for specialized care – and have recovered fully from an operation that removed the cancer and a kidney.

After about six weeks, I was walking with the running club again and after one year, I was running regularly and felt close to 90% of where I was before the diagnosis. After turning 71, I was racing again and even won my age group during a race that year.

What are your plans for 2015?

I will keep running! You’ll find me at the Tim Hortons in Dawson Creek four mornings each week!

I may not do any more full marathons but I’d like to finish at least four races this year – in Grande Prairie, Chetwynd, Kelowna, and the Emperor’s Challenge in Tumbler Ridge.


 

The Northern Health Community Health Stars program shines a light on community members across northern B.C. who are doing exceptional work, on their own time, to promote health and wellness in their community. To nominate a Community Health Star in your community, visit the Northern Health website.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Community Health Stars: Seamus Damstrom

Young man sitting on shore with a fishing rod.

Seamus Damstrom, a Grade 12 student at Caledonia Secondary in Terrace, B.C., is Northern Health’s Community Health Star for December!

Our Community Health Star for the month of December is an outstanding young man from Terrace who exemplifies what it means to have a passion for health and wellness and to turn that passion into action! Seamus Damstrom is a Grade 12 student at Caledonia Secondary in Terrace, B.C. He was the only northerner in the 2013-2014 cohort of the provincial Healthy Living Youth Council. As a member of that group, Seamus had the chance to lead a health-promoting project in his school.

I was fortunate to be able to connect with Seamus to talk about his project, his passion for healthy eating, and his approach to creating healthy change.

What is the Healthy Living Youth Council?

The Healthy Living Youth Council is a one-year program organized by DASH BC. Every year, students from across B.C. can apply to join the Healthy Living Youth Council. I had 13 students in my cohort and each one of us initiated a project to promote health and wellness in our school.

What type of project did you initiate at your school?

To figure out what I wanted to do, I asked myself, what are my passions? The answer: food and helping people achieve optimal health through food. At school, people know that I’m a big food guy so it made sense to start there.

At that point, I looked at our canteen and noticed that while there were a few healthy options, most of the food being purchased was items like nachos and pizza. I then decided that I would try to use our school canteen to start a food revolution – introducing healthy food options and trying to change students’ eating habits.

Young man wearing a helmet and goggles on a ski hill

Seamus initiated a project at his school to bring healthy food options to the canteen. How are you being a health star in your community?

How did you accomplish this?

It was a long process but I wanted to make sure to do it right – I knew that change wouldn’t happen if I acted like a dictator so I started with the canteen teacher. We had a great dialogue and found recipes that were healthy and feasible for the canteen to sell.

The next step was to see what my fellow students wanted – if they would actually buy these new food items. I spent four months developing and testing a survey that would let students at Caledonia rank different food items, rate their price, and tell us how often they would buy each item. During this time, I met with Northern Health dietitians, shared the survey with other Healthy Living Youth Council members, piloted the survey with 10 students, and re-designed the survey to make sure that it was ready to go. In March, 461 of 700 Caledonia students completed surveys and then I started the long process of entering and analyzing results. By April, I had my results ready to go and met with the canteen teacher again to put them into action.

To start the food revolution, we put three healthy items — hummus & pita (by far the most popular option in the survey!), homemade soup, and homemade chili — on the menu once a week. We also provided samples of these items before selling them to increase interest.

It was really important to me to do this project in a thoughtful and sustainable way. For example, instead of going in and removing the very popular nachos, which surely would have caused a riot, I worked with the canteen teacher and Northern Health dietitians to add some veggies to the nacho plate and kept the price higher than the new, healthier items. Now, for the 2014-2015 school year, nachos have been taken off of the menu and no one seems to have noticed!

How is the project going now?

I learned a ton during a reflection period after the new items had made their way onto the menu. I thought carefully about the project and applied these lessons to new food projects for this year. Although my time on the Healthy Living Youth Council is done (I’m a mentor to new participants now), a friend and I started a Healthy Living Club at my school. In addition to carrying on with the canteen food project, which is working on a follow-up survey, we have a food and nutrition bulletin board with tips and recipes at school and are working on a mental wellness board, too. The hummus and pita dish is still available in the canteen and we are working with the new canteen teacher on some new recipes. And the nachos are gone!

Young man in a park in running clothes

The Northern Health Community Health Stars program highlights exceptional individuals like Seamus who are improving health in their communities. Nominate a Community Health Star in your community!

Where did your passion for food come from?

My Grade 8 foods teacher got me into cooking. By grade 10, I wanted to become a chef and looked into the educational options for that. My parents told me to take a year to think about my different options before committing to a program and in that year, I realized that I’m more interested in using food to help people, so now I’m hoping to become a dietitian.

Food is everything for me and I strongly believe that everything you eat impacts you. Eating healthy can improve your life and I feel like there is so much to learn from food.

What is your message to people wanting to promote health in their community?

You’re never too small to make a change. I’m just a country bumpkin but I feel like I did pretty well on this project! It was a little change in a big world, but that’s where you start. Even the smallest voice can push the snowball down the hill and create a big change!


 

The Northern Health Community Health Stars program shines a light on community members across northern B.C. who are doing exceptional work, on their own time, to promote health and wellness in their community. To nominate a Community Health Star in your community, visit the Northern Health website.

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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Community Health Stars: Myles Mattila

A graphic that states, "Nominate a Community Health Star."

The Community Health Stars program aims to shine a light on northerners who are positively influencing health.

Biking, playing hockey, and hanging out with friends: standard fare for a 15-year-old male in northern B.C. Myles Mattila shares these interests, but it’s his other extracurricular hobby that makes him anything but your average teenager; in his spare time, Myles works to promote mental health in youth throughout the Prince George area.

Myles’s mental health work is directly connected to his love for hockey, exemplifying the impact that professional athletes can have as positive role models. A ninth-round draft pick of the Vancouver Giants in the 2014 WHL draft and a midget player in Prince George, Myles was inspired to begin working with mindcheck.ca after reading a newspaper article in the Vancouver Province. The article was about the two-year anniversary of Rick Rypien’s suicide, and the impact that the tragic loss had on his friend and Vancouver Canuck teammate, Kevin Bieksa. In the article, Bieksa talked about the Raise-it-4-Ryp Golf Tournament, a charity event that he hosts in honour of Rypien, which raised $23,000 dollars for mindcheck.ca.

Myles wears a mindcheck.ca shirt, promoting the mental health site.

Myles promotes mindcheck.ca.

“I related to the story,” said Myles of the Vancouver Province article, “because I had a teammate with mental health issues, and was unsure how to help. I came to the conclusion that my peers should have the resources they need to get help, regardless of the mental distress that they’re experiencing.” Having been exposed to mindcheck.ca, Myles would, like Bieksa, strap on a skate of a different kind – one that would help him cut through the stigma surrounding mental health issues in youth.

Mindcheck.ca provided an excellent starting point for Myles. The website – a partnership between Fraser Health, BC Mental Health & Substance Services, and the Provincial Health Services Authority – addresses mental health in a manner that is accessible for youth. It features a broad range of topics, including depression, mood and anxiety issues; coping with stress, alcohol and substance misuse; body image, eating disorders, and more. Offering a range of resources like quizzes, stories, tips, and helpful contact information, mindcheck.ca also has links for friends and family members of youth who are suffering from mental illness and would like to learn more.

Mental health is an often-overlooked health subject, affecting more people than you might think and, unlike many other health issues, there is a stigma surrounding the topic. In fact, according to the Canadian Medical Association, only 49% of Canadians said they would socialize with a friend who has a serious mental illness. A shocking number when considering that one in five Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their life. Due to the stigma, two in three Canadians will suffer in silence and only one out of five children who require services will obtain them.

The importance of educating youth on mental health and wellness cannot be overstated. Mental health and substance use disorders are the primary health issues experienced by young people in their teens and early 20s. Additionally, 75% of mental health and substance use issues begin by the age of 24, often going unrecognized and untreated, which makes early identification vital to providing help.

Given the above statistics, you can imagine the tremendous challenges faced by youth looking for help. “There is stigma attached to youth,” said Myles, “and even worse is the stigma for a youth who also has mental illness. The belief can be that they are incapable of having insight into what they need so that then others speak for them without necessarily being their voice. While promoting mindcheck.ca, I have realized that talking is important for everyone to raise awareness about mental health. It makes it easier for everyone to open up and share their experiences when they are in need … breaking down the stigma of mental health, trying to make it an issue that everyone can talk about. ”

So, what is the message that Myles wants youth to take away from his presentations and the mindcheck.ca website? “…that they are not alone,” he said. “Many people struggle with mental illness. If they are struggling, they need to be aware that they have resources and contacts who can help them get through these difficult times.” He also recommends that anyone, youth or otherwise, who wants to champion the cause of mental health in youth can find promotional materials at mindcheck.ca.

Northern Health’s Community Health Stars

Northern Health couldn’t be happier to have someone like Myles as a voice for youth and mental health in our region and our first Community Health Star. Community Health Stars is a new and ongoing program that shines the light on members of northern communities who are doing exceptional work, on their own time, to spread the message of personal health and wellness. You can nominate a person who you feel would make a great candidate for Community Health Star at northernhealth.ca.

Mike Erickson

About Mike Erickson

Mike Erickson is the Communications Specialist, Content Development and Engagement at Northern Health, and has been with the organization since 2013. He grew up in the Lower Mainland and has called Prince George home since 2007. In his spare time, Mike enjoys spending time with friends and family, sports, reading, movies, and generally nerding out. He loves the slower pace of life and lack of traffic in the North.

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