Thursday was a very special evening in the Comox Valley, not only for numerous individuals, but for the community as a whole.
The inaugural Local Hero Awards night, an initiative of the Comox Valley Record, celebrated the incredible efforts and achievements of many local residents.
The event, which was held at the Comox Fire Hall, was first announced earlier this year, with the call-out for nominations.
We were pleasantly surprised with the number of nominees put forth by the readership, considering the freshness of the concept. The passion emitting from the nomination forms made it clear we had struck an emotional chord with the community. The nominators were spot-on with their offerings, and any one of the nominees listed in the program could have been rightfully named as category winners.
The real honour was being nominated by their peers, family, friends and even strangers who simply knew of their achievements through media coverage.
There was one common thread that tied the evening together rather harmoniously: volunteerism. Yes, there were a couple of categories – Service Group Volunteer (won by Bob Scales), and Youth Volunteer (won by Ethan Ashley-Cheetham) – that addressed the topic directly, but every single category winner was recognized for doing things out of the goodness of their hearts, and for the betterment of the community as a whole.
The Youth Volunteer category was especially impressive, as it was one of the most popular categories, in regards to number of nominations. And with that in mind, it justified a lot of what the winner of the Hero Of The Year award has been teaching.
Chantal Stefan was selected as the 2016 Local Hero – Hero Of The Year, for her work with the Everybody Deserves A Smile campaign. EDAS is an annual event, teaching the students of the Comox Valley the concept of philanthropy. School children from pre-school to Grade 12 get together to make gift bags of essentials for the less fortunate in our community and beyond. The project has become so important, it led to the introduction of philanthropy into the School District 71 curriculum.
Seeing Chantal win the award, on the heels of seeing half a dozen youth on stage for their nominations in the Youth Volunteer category, was appropriate on so many levels.
Thursday’s event would never have happened without the willing and eager support of the dozens of community partners who came on-board with the project. It was a true community achievement – from the judging panel, to the individual award sponsors.
Although the Local Heroes initiative was only introduced to the readership earlier this year, when we put out the call for nominations, it was an event in the making ever since Record publisher Chrissie Bowker took over the reins of the newspaper, in early 2015. She had a vision, and with a lot of hard work, she brought it together in a spectacular evening of pomp and circumstance.
Bowker’s vision began with the rebranding of the paper, and focusing on the task of not just being a community newspaper, but being a newspaper that is a part of the community, in print and in person. Local Heroes is another justification to the claim, and the initiative continues to evolve.
We have set up a special Local Heroes microsite, which will be active throughout the year. The microsite, which will be up and running this week, can be accessed by clicking the Local Hero button on our home site, comoxvalleyrecord.com
Nominations will be accepted at any time, simply by going to the site and filling out the online form, making the process perpetual. Nominations for the 2017 Local Heroes are already being accepted.
This year’s winners and their stories are all posted on the site in an easy-to-navigate form. (There is also a supplement inserted into today’s Record.)
With initiatives such as Local Heroes, the Comox Valley Record continues to live up to its claim of being your community newspaper.
We are “walking the walk” so to speak. It’s what sets us apart.
Terry Farrell is the editor of the Comox Valley Record