The power of giving back

For Luke Smith of Smithers, a sense of wellbeing comes from giving back to his own community, something that he does in a variety of ways. “Giving back makes me feel good. I get excited about it and it helps contribute to a positive mindset,” says Luke.

Volunteering came naturally for Luke, following the example of his mother Donna who has been actively involved with Ducks Unlimited for 20 years. Since he’s been old enough, Luke has always been looking for ways to contribute, asking himself, “What more can I do?”

In 2019, this spirit of giving back inspired Luke to find a way to support kids with cancer in his own community of the Bulkley Valley. This idea sparked a year-long journey to find ways to raise money for the Bulkley Valley Community Cancer Care Team (CCCT). This team supports patients with cancer and their families who are in need of financial assistance for travel and accommodation at cancer care centres in B.C. and Alberta.

Part of Luke’s inspiration was also to show others what’s possible. “I can help with raising funds and supporting causes. I want other people who have a disability to see they can do it too,” says Luke. “I want to let people know that they can make a difference. That’s my number one thing, to encourage other people.”

With Luke’s drive and determination, and support from his family and community, momentum built. His fundraising efforts included growing out his hair and donating it to Wigs for Kids BC, raising donations, making and selling antipasto, and coordinating an online auction with more than 125 items contributed by local businesses.

In total, Luke’s efforts raised $14,550 and he was able to personally present the cheque to the CCCT.

The incredible work also earned Luke an unexpected recognition. He was nominated for and won the Smithers District Chamber of Commerce 2020 Community and Business Award for Citizen / Volunteer of the Year. “I was very happy about that. I did not expect this award. I just really wanted to help.”

In addition to his volunteer efforts, Luke has also worked as a service clerk at Safeway for 10 years. He says that connecting with customers, supporting his fellow employees and being proud of the work he does all help with a sense of wellbeing as well.

In the small community, Luke’s coworkers are proud and supportive of his many contributions. Highlighting his efforts to give back, Luke’s manager nominated him for a Sobey’s national award. Sobey’s Corporation, which owns Safeway, has more than 144,000 employees across Canada. In March of last year, Luke was one of only four employees in B.C. to receive an award, being recognized as a Community Engaged Champion.

“I was really surprised when I was told by my boss and coworkers. It really was fun and exciting,” says Luke. “I really appreciate that they put my name in for that.”

With all the recognition, Luke’s dad Rod says, “People use to know me around town as Donna’s husband. Now everyone says, ‘Oh hey, you’re Luke’s dad!’”

Another way Luke keeps a positive mindset is through exercise and athletics. A competitive runner, Luke took part in his first 10-kilometre race in 2019, running in the Haida Gwaii Totem to Totem race. He finished second among a field of 42 runners. Due to the pandemic, the race was on hiatus until 2022, when Luke entered again. This time he came in first place.

He says the benefits of exercise can help everyone feel better. “It takes a while for your brain to get into it, and get going, but then you do and it’s great. It doesn’t have to be an hour. It could be half an hour or less. Just try to move and do something. Anything helps.”

From fundraising and volunteering to physical activity to supporting coworkers and customers, Luke shows that there are many ways to boost our mental wellbeing while also giving back.

Luke is an important member of the team at Safeway in Smithers, where he received the Community Engaged Champion Award for his contributions to the community.

 

Luke donates his hair as part of his many fundraising efforts. (Photo via Deb Meissner, Smithers Interior News)

 

Luke presents a cheque for money he raised to the Bulkley Valley Community Cancer Care Team. (Photo via Deb Meissner, Smithers Interior News)

 

Luke recently came in first place in the Haida Gwaii Totem to Totem race. (Photo via Haida Gwaii Observer)

 

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