Paul Berry, manager/president of the Comox Valley Ground Search and Rescue team, is this year’s Citizen of the Year recipient.
The Comox Valley Chamber of Commerce Community Award recognizes outstanding volunteer service by
an individual, club or organization.
“I’d like to think it’s (award) representative of the work I do with that team,” Berry said, referring to the 60 “humble” volunteers who donate time on a 24/7, on-call basis.
Last year the CVGSAR team conducted 37 rescues, including an overnight mission to rescue a backcountry skier trapped on a mountain ledge on Forbidden Plateau. The search started around noon on Christmas Eve and extended into Christmas morning.
“New Year’s day was the same thing,” Berry said. “It’s a very, very dedicated, great group.”
The group’s work has increased markedly in recent years, going from 900 hours of operation two years ago to 3,500 hours this year.
To say CVGSAR volunteers are willing to risk their lives might be overly dramatic. Berry instead said his group consists of people who are willing to take “calculated risks.”
“We train hard to make sure that those risks don’t endanger us, but at times the work we do is very dangerous,” said Berry, who has been involved with CVGSAR about 10 years.
“We have a very good safety record. Safety of our team members comes first.”
Last weekend he said was a “perfect example” when a pair of snowshoers were holed up in a cabin near Divers Lake in extreme conditions that prevented the team from reaching them right away.
“We told them just to sit tight and we’ll come get you,” he said.
Besides co-ordinating and managing search and rescue missions, Berry manages training of new members and fundraising for the organization. He also deals with community education, and events such as Canada Day and BC Day parades.