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Fond memories of the Coast

This Friday will mark my last day of employment with Coast Reporter. Yes, it was eight months ago on a spectacular, sunny August morning that I wrote my first Reporter article.

This Friday will mark my last day of employment with Coast Reporter. Yes, it was eight months ago on a spectacular, sunny August morning that I wrote my first Reporter article. As I prepare for my departure from the Coast, I find myself looking back on the stories and people that made my stay memorable. In September, I met Bobbie Warner, a stenographer with the Sunshine Coast RCMP, who braved the chilly waters of Howe Sound during her swim from Gibsons to Keats Island that raised $2,000 for cancer research. That same month I met Wayne Greggain, a former employee of Howe Sound Pulp and Paper, who courageously told me his personal story about his battle with prostate cancer. While explaining how the radiation therapy weakened him and how there was a 50 per cent chance that his cancer would return, Greggain stressed the importance of a PSA test by saying, "It might just save your life."

I was impressed with the determination displayed by Dave Kimpinsky, who spent countless hours volunteering and organizing local events for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, despite having a medical setback that paralyzed him from the waist down. However, Kimpinsky's hard work and dedication didn't go unnoticed. In November he was awarded the Heart of Gold, the Foundation's highest honour, reserved for only one of 10,000 volunteers each year.

I also had the opportunity to witness the generosity of some younger people in this community. During the month of October, the staff members at McDonald's in Sechelt, who are mostly between the ages of 15 and 19, donated a portion of their wages to the Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver. Then there is Olga Towert, a lovely woman from Roberts Creek who sells beautiful floral bouquets from her renowned garden. Last August, the Sunshine Coast Regional District (SCRD) shut down her small operation after receiving a complaint about parking in the area. Olga's supporters came out in droves to protest the closure of her flower stand, prompting the SCRD to grant her a variance. I remember receiving a phone call from Olga's former neighbour, who now lives in Los Angeles. The woman called to say she had read my story online and offered her comment on the SCRD's investigation of Olga's business. Receiving a phone call from Los Angeles during my first month on the job made me realize the high level of interest that can be generated from one story. To Alice Lutes, Arnet Tuffs and Pam Duffy, I can only say that I hope you keep fighting the good fight for the people of this community. You guys keep our politicians on their toes. I also want to acknowledge the organizations that made my job more interesting through their invitations to participate in off-land adventures. Firstly, I enjoyed taking a ride in a RCMP Zodiac vessel from Gambier Island to Gibsons, following my coverage of a pot bust in the area.

I had never been on a helicopter before, so I have to credit the SCRD for that adventure. I joined their water technicians on an aerial tour of Chapman Lake.

Pacific Wings offered me a round-trip flight to Nanaimo in a DeHavilland Beaver in October. Earlier that month, the Halfmoon Bay Coast Guard invited me to join them for one of their training exercises in Davis Bay.

Not to single out any of these exciting trips, but I have to say that, hands down, driving the Queen of Oak Bay was the coolest thing I got to do while I was here. A couple weeks ago I made arrangements to take a tour of the bridge area of the ferry. Much to my surprise, Captain J. Greg Hogue asked me if I wanted to take the wheel for a while. I watched with excitement as I steered the ferry away from the shores of Bowen Island and off towards Langdale. As I end this column, I think it's only fair to thank the people who helped me through the trials and tribulations of my first journalism job. I need to acknowledge Sechelt Mayor Cam Reid, Gibsons Mayor Barry Janyk, SCRD chair Ed Steeves and District 46 superintendent Stewart Hercus for making themselves readily accessible for comment, despite their busy schedules. Finally I would like to thank the staff at Coast Reporter, especially Ian and Nancy, for their guidance during the past eight months. I've met many wonderful people during my short stay on the Sunshine Coast. You have all made me feel welcome in this beautiful community.