Healthy Living in the North

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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Saving lives takes a village: International Overdose Awareness Day is August 31

Two women sit at a table.

Charlene Burmeister (right), President of the Coalition of Substance-abuse Users of the North (CSUN), and Northern Health’s Reanne Sanford (left). CSUN was the first drug-user group to form in the North. Charlene is a local and provincial pioneer in harm reduction advocacy. She’s also one of the familiar faces from the Stop Stigma campaign.

Three years have passed since a Provincial Public Health Emergency was declared because of the overdose rates in BC. When it was first announced in 2016, I had just begun my current role as regional nursing lead for Harm Reduction. In this job, I’m responsible for supporting harm reduction services for the North, and my first piece of work was the expansion of naloxone.

Before my Harm Reduction role, I worked as a generalist public health nurse for 13 years. I also worked as the local street nurse in Quesnel, supporting marginalized individuals to access health care. I had 12 or so regular clients on my case load who I met up with or supported for several years. Today, all of these individuals are now gone.

People who use drugs are community members

Most of my clients called Quesnel their hometown — they did not come from an outside community. They weren’t transported by bus to make space for the Olympics in Vancouver, as some rumors claimed. They had families, loved ones, and children they left behind — and they loved their community. Despite this, very few of them felt included or had a sense of belonging. Many of these individuals relied on public space to exist and connect with services in the downtown core.

Reflecting on progress and loss

As Overdose Awareness Day comes around again (on Saturday, August 31), I’m reminded of those we lost, but also how far we have come:

  • Naloxone is now a regular part of the work we do.
  • Northern Health has partners in the provincial response: pharmacists, community paramedics, housing, First Nations communities, and local non-profits.
  • We’ve increased our capacity to treat opioid-use disorder.
  • Staff helped create opportunities for people with lived experiences to participate in local discussions, including a campaign called Stop Stigma Save Lives (stigma is one of the main causes of accidental illicit drug overdose deaths).

All of these strategies save lives every day.

Bravery in the face of crisis

What humbles me most about the work in the past three years is the bravery that people who use drugs have had throughout this crisis — the level to which they’ve taken grief and built networks of safety for each other. When other systems have failed, peers have stepped into lifesaving roles, offering community education and peer advocacy. On Overdose Awareness Day, I want to take time to honour and acknowledge their work.

It’s time for a new conversation

Despite the advances, I still feel the daily challenge of defending and advocating for harm reduction. I want to use my voice to start a new conversation – one that begins with agreeing that people do not choose to die or deserve to die because they use drugs.

Communities have a vital role to play and can be a part of the solution. Here’s how:

  • Get trained on naloxone and carry a kit: drug use is common in many populations in our community. Make a naloxone kit part of caring for one another.
  • Choose compassion: instead of thinking “what’s wrong with that person?” think, “what has happened in that person’s life?” Become curious instead of judgemental.
  • See the value of programs that save lives: trust that services and harm-reduction strategies, like syringe distribution, are rooted in research and backed by evidence. People use drugs for a variety of reasons, including poverty, mental illness, a history of abuse, neglect, and childhood trauma – not because of the services they are offered and access.
  • Uncomfortable with public drug consumption? Support and advocate for a safe place where people can use drugs, where they can dispose of their paraphernalia safely with trained staff available to help them.
  • Support and donate to organizations in your community that offer access to housing, food, low-barrier employment opportunities, and support services.
  • Challenge statements that minimize or ostracize members of your community: forcing people to exist in the corners of our community, out of sight, increases drug use and people dying alone.
  • Advocate for changes in drug policy.
  • Offer creative solutions.

As a community member, you have the ability to support the health and well-being of our entire community. It’s a shared responsibility, and it’s time we all made it a priority.

About Reanne Sanford

Reanne is the Regional Nursing Lead for Harm Reduction, and is based in Quesnel.

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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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Fort Nelson HIV Awareness Week: using language to break down barriers

A table of HIV Awareness materials is pictured.

The table of materials at Fort Nelson’s HIV Awareness Week helps educate attendees.

Language is a powerful thing. It connects to who we are and how we see ourselves. So, when someone takes the time to reach out in your own language — instead of expecting you to understand theirs — it makes a difference.

For the past five years, the community of Fort Nelson has held an HIV Awareness Week. For the most recent one, held the week of April 29, 2019, they decided to mark the occasion by doing something special for the Indigenous members of their community.

Working together with the Fort Nelson Aboriginal Friendship Society, they translated their yearly presentation on HIV into Dené, the most prominent Indigenous language in the area.

“We had one or two Elders who teared up,” said Jennifer Riggs, Regulated Pharmacy Technician and the key organizer for the event. “They were so happy that we took the time — I don’t think it mattered what the conversation was about — but they were so happy that we did it in their language. They really appreciated that we made an effort.”

Fort Nelson, located in Northeastern BC, has a large Indigenous population: roughly 14% of the population identify as Indigenous.

“This event is important in Northern BC, especially in our very isolated towns,” says Jennifer. “Indigenous people have a higher prevalence of HIV … and they aren’t getting that information. We’re trying to bring people up to date.”

This lack of information was the reason Jennifer and her team put in the time and effort to translate the presentation. She wants to ensure that they aren’t left out of the conversation. She hopes to do even more next year by translating the presentation into another Indigenous language.

HIV isn’t something that people usually get excited about, but for Fort Nelson, the event has become something to look forward to. Jennifer estimates that attendance has quadrupled since the initial event five years ago. She hopes that with continued outreach to the Indigenous communities in the area, attendance will continue to grow.

“So many people attend and we’ve come full circle, from where people weren’t talking about sex, to now having condom races at the fire department! It’s becoming normal conversation.”

For Jennifer, this is what it’s all about: to make conversations about topics such as HIV, sex, sexual orientation, and addiction less painful for people to talk about, and to make them part of everyday conversation.

“I want it to be a regular thing. I want continual education and training available all the time. It shouldn’t be a big deal.”

Mark Hendricks

About Mark Hendricks

Mark is the Communications Advisor, Medical Affairs at Northern Health. He was raised in Prince George, and has earned degrees from UNBC (International Business) and Thompson Rivers University (Journalism). As a fan of Fall and Winter, the North suits him and he’s happy to be home in Prince George. When he's not working, Mark enjoys spending time with his wife, reading, playing games of all sorts, hiking, and a good cup (or five) of coffee.

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Northern Table: An Elder’s impact on community food security

Elder Semiguul sits on a boat, smiling at the camera.

Metlakalta Elder Semiguul (Fanny Nelson).

Not having enough food to eat affects one in six children living in Canada. This can impact a child’s physical, mental, and social health.

The effects of food insecurity on health

Household food insecurity” means not having access to food because of inadequate income, and it’s connected to negative health and well-being. Those who experience food insecurity are at an increased risk for health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, depression, and suicidal thoughts [1]. However, amidst these challenges, there are people who are making a difference in building community and household food security.

One Elder making a difference

Elder Semiguul (Fanny Nelson) is from Metlakatla, a First Nations community near Prince Rupert. Metlakatla’s population is about 80 people and it’s only accessible by boat or plane. Semiguul’s parents taught her how to harvest traditional foods (gathering seaweed, digging clams, and picking berries) as well as how to prepare them.

Today, Semiguul regularly takes family and community members with her when she goes harvesting. Back at home, she prepares these foods and teaches others how to prepare them too.

“I teach them to gather and put away enough food to last, so that they don’t have a tough time in the winter months,” says Semiguul.

Semiguul and another person are on a rock shore, looking for food. Semiguul is handing down a bucket.

Semiguul regularly takes family and community members with her when she harvests traditional foods.

Learning from our Elders

Elders have a lot to teach us about how to live off the land and waters, and about values such as generosity and caring for the environment. Reigniting harvesting strategies that have worked for millennia is called Indigenous food sovereignty. It’s an important part of ensuring community members have access to healthy foods that are sustainable and build community self-reliance (community food security).

First Nations traditional foods

First Nations traditional foods are nutritious and some have been used by Elders for generations.

“My mom told me that black currants would reduce a fever,” shares Semiguul. “I have put a spoon of black currant jam in water and it works. The fever goes down. I also gave seaweed daily to someone who had low iron and it helped.”

Respecting traditional territory and teachings

If you want to gather foods from the land, it’s important to speak with Elders or the local First Nation on whose traditional territory you are on, to learn about respectful food gathering practices. For example, Semiguul shares with children, “only take want you need to last from season to season. Break off the ends of the seaweed and leave it there as it is the seed for next year.”

More food security information

Here are some other programs that are building community food security in the region:

If you’d like to learn more about household food insecurity, take a look this three-part blog series on household food insecurity:

  1. What is household food insecurity?
  2. Food costing in BC
  3. A call to action

[1] PROOF food insecurity policy research.

Victoria Carter

About Victoria Carter

Victoria works in Northern Health's Aboriginal health program as the lead for engagement and integration. She is an adopted member of the Nisga’a nation and was given the name “Nox Aama Goot” which means “mother of good heart.” In her work she sees herself as an ally working together with Aboriginal people across the north to improve access to quality health care. She keeps herself well by honouring the mental, emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of her life through spending time with her friends and family, being in nature and working on her own personal growth.

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Staff food hamper helping feed seniors in Quesnel

Elizabeth standing next to a box of non-perishable food.

Elizabeth Onciul, NH Care Aide, with one of the food hampers at Dunrovin Lodge in Quesnel.

Staff at Dunrovin Lodge have recognized co-worker Elizabeth Onciul for her dedication to seniors in Quesnel.

For over three months, Elizabeth, a care aide at Dunrovin Lodge, has set up food hampers at work to collect donations for seniors.

“You know the saying, these are our ‘golden years?’ Well that’s not always true,” says Elizabeth. “Our seniors have worked hard and shouldn’t have to worry if they will have enough for tomorrow’s meals.”

The collected food is then donated to a small community group in Quesnel. The anonymous group distributes the food to seniors in low income housing and to over 50 seniors in the community. Staff donate, on average, two large boxes and they’ve started to add bags of fruit on donation pickup days.

“Our staff has been very generous in their donations as we only ask for one non-perishable item per month,” Elizabeth explains.

Elizabeth first got the idea when speaking with her sister-in-law, whose workplace had a similar program set up to help seniors pay for food and medications. Elizabeth got the number of the community group and set up a pickup time.

Great work, Elizabeth, for seeing a need and making a positive impact on the senior community in Quesnel! Also, a big thank you to the rest of the staff in Quesnel for donating food and helping Elizabeth with this awesome initiative!

Brandan Spyker

About Brandan Spyker

Brandan works in digital communications at NH. He helps manage our staff Intranet but also creates graphics, monitors social media and shoots video for NH. Born and raised in Prince George, Brandan started out in TV broadcasting as a technical director before making the jump into healthcare. Outside of work he enjoys spending quality time and travelling with his wife, daughter and son. He’s a techie/nerd. He likes learning about all the new tech and he's a big Star Wars fan. He also enjoys watching and playing sports.

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The Northern Table: Farm to School BC blossoms in the Northwest

People creating a garden.

Students working the school garden at Smithers Secondary School.

How do you get students excited about healthy, local food? According to Farm to School BC, the winning formula is simple: get students involved by providing opportunities to grow, prepare, taste, and explore healthy, local food!

Established in 2007, Farm to School BC (F2SBC) is a diverse and expanding provincial program that works to support healthy eating and sustainable regional food systems. This is done by working to have local food in schools, providing hands-on learning activities, and building school-community connections. Farm to School BC programs are tailored to the interests and needs of each school and community.

To date, F2SBC has supported 33 Farm to School initiatives across Northern BC, and is committed to supporting and inspiring even more programs across the region. Recognizing the need to provide on-the-ground support, the Northwest Regional Hub was launched, with Margo Peill as the Hub’s Community Animator.

A tray of sprouting plants.

A classroom project at Ecole Mountainview in Terrace, BC.

The Northwest Hub includes the geographic areas of the Coast Mountains School District (#82) and the Bulkley Valley School District (#54). Margo will be working with schools, farmers, and community partners to strengthen local partnerships and networks that will support sustainable F2SBC programs in the years to come.

I caught up with Margo to learn more about Farm to School BC in the Northwest, and some of the exciting opportunities she is supporting! Here’s what Margo had to say!

What are some examples of current Farm to School initiatives in the region?

We have some fantastic projects happening in the Northwest region! Each school develops their own unique projects that work within their school and community. Some projects include:

  • Cultivating bountiful school gardens
  • Experimenting with tower gardening and microgreens in the classroom
  • Incubating and hatching chicks
  • Dehydrating fruit gathered from their community for school snacks
  • Salad bar programs
  • Field trips to forage traditional and wild foods

The projects really do look different in each school, and so far, that is something we’ve seen the Northwest Hub really excelling at — coming up with creative solutions to incorporate Farm to School BC projects into the curriculum and classroom!

Can you tell me more about your role and the role of the F2SBC Northwest Regional Hub?

We’re really excited to take a community development approach to growing Farm to School BC programs in the Northwest region. Through the Northwest Regional Hub, we’ll be building networks, growing strong relationships with community partners, supporting their initiatives, and working to secure additional funding and support for the Northwest Hub.

One of our core values is to support school and community connectedness, so we really want to ensure that teachers and school champions have a strong network around them to help support the sustainability and growth of their projects. We’ll be hosting learning circles, professional development days, networking events, and an annual spring celebration to highlight and share the inspiring work that is happening here in the Northwest region.

How can local community members and groups get involved in Farm to School activities?

We are always looking for collaborations, even unlikely ones! On May 22, we’ll be hosting an official Northwest Hub launch and networking event at Cassie Hall Elementary (2620 Eby St., Terrace). Everyone is welcome to attend, share, and learn more about Farm to School BC programs while making community connections. The event will take place from 4:30 pm to 6 pm and some light refreshments will be provided. We look forward to seeing you there!

 

Note: Farm to School BC is administered by the Public Health Association of BC and supported by the Province of British Columbia and the Provincial Health Services Authority.

Emilia Moulechkova

About Emilia Moulechkova

Originally from the Lower Mainland, Emilia started her career with Northern Health as a dietetic intern in 2013. Since then, she has worked in a variety of roles as a Registered Dietitian with the population health team. In her current role, she supports schools across the north in their efforts to promote healthy eating. Emilia is passionate about food’s role in bringing people and communities together, and all the ways it can support physical, mental, and social health. Her overall philosophy on healthy eating can be summarized by this Ellyn Satter quote: “When the joy goes out of eating, nutrition suffers.” In her spare time, she loves exploring the beautiful northern outdoors by foot, skis, bike, or canoe!

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Supporting healthy community development at the NCLGA Convention

NH staff posing at their trade show booth at the NCLGA Conference.

L-R: Jeff Kormos, Healthy Settings Advisor; Dr. Sandra Allison, NH Chief Medical Health Officer; and Holly Hughes, Healthy Settings Advisor; at the NCLGA Conference trade show booth they co-hosted with Interior Health staff.

Northern Health (NH) and Interior Health (IH) joined forces this week to share information about healthy communities at this year’s North Central Local Government Association Convention in Williams Lake.

NH and IH co-hosted the pre-conference event, “Resilient & Healthy Communities,” the 4th annual Northern Healthy Communities Forum. The event is an opportunity for health authority staff to engage with elected officials from 100 Mile House and everything North.

“We are sharing resources for local governments to support them to develop healthy policies and address community health needs in their communities across the North,” said Holly Hughes, Healthy Settings Advisor. “Community needs vary with respect to health and we have brought contact information, tools, and resources to support local action.”

Dr. Allison on stage, next to her presentation on Opioids and our Communities.

Mayors and Councillors had the opportunity to hear Dr. Sandra Allison, NH Chief Medical Health Officer, talk about the opioid response in the North.

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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Looking at local data at the NCLGA Convention

Vash Ebbadi and Gillian Frost speaking in front of an audience.

Vash Ebbadi (NH) and Gillian Frost (IH) speaking to the NCLGA audience about the importance of local data in health care.

Vash Ebbadi (Northern Health) and Gillian Frost (Interior Health) presented to community leaders today at the 2019 North Central Local Government Association (NCLGA) Convention in Williams Lake on local health data and how information can inform local action.

“I was very happy to share some of my knowledge about data with the attendees today,” said Vash, regional manager of PPH Support Unit and an epidemiologist. “Epidemiology is all about analyzing health data in order to improve strategies around health care and prevent illness, so this was a great opportunity to talk about local-level health data and its importance in supporting community health, well-being, and resilience.”

Steve Raper

About Steve Raper

Steve is the Chief of External Relations and Communications for Northern Health, where he leads marketing, communications, web and media relations activities. He has a business diploma from the College of New Caledonia, a BA from the University of Northern BC and a master’s degree in business administration from Royal Roads University. In his spare time, Steve volunteers on a number of boards, including Canadian Blood Services, Pacific Sport Northern BC and the Prince George Youth Soccer Association. To stay active, he enjoys camping, and playing soccer and hockey.

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