SALT SPRING ISLAND – Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue is being recognized with a Widening Our World (WOW) award from Community Living British Columbia (CLBC) for their leadership in championing inclusion in Salt Spring Island communities.
Spring Island Fire Rescue has set an example of inclusion by welcoming a CLBC supported individual, CJ, into the fire hall family for the past 16 years. Staff and volunteers fully involve CJ in a variety of duties at the fire hall, as well as activities, fundraisers and celebrations in community.
Every week, fire fighters have CJ test the emergency lights on the engines and other fire vehicles along with the sirens, radios, hoses and other vital equipment. They support him to go out on inspections and equipment testing runs, to change the fire hazard ratings on the signs at the three ferry terminals on the island, and at times, to participate on a call. CJ attends the fire hall’s social events throughout the year, including the annual summer BBQ and the Firefighter’s Appreciation Night held by the community. Fire fighters also fund his participation in Operation Trackshoes, a sporting event held every year at the University of Victoria.
The fire hall leadership and staff were nominated for a WOW Award by Bob Delion, CJ’s support worker from G.I.F.T.S., a local service provider who supports people eligible for CLBC services. Bob nominated Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue for the incredible dedication and support they have shown CJ over the years, and for their overall contribution to keeping Salt Spring Island communities safe. The award will be presented to Chief Arjuna George alongside the career and volunteer fire fighters who are part of Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue.
Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue is one of five WOW award winners who are making inclusion a reality for people with developmental disabilities. The other winners are:
- Princeton – Gloria Gagnon, service provider. Gloria was nominated for empowering people who are living with diverse abilities for over 16 years. Gloria is a strong advocate for inclusive employment and making her community more diverse and accepting of everyone.
- Kamloops – Krystian Shaw, self advocate. Krystian is a strong voice for inclusion in Kamloops and beyond. Krystian is owner and founder of The Kamloops Self Advocate Newsletter and has recently started his own podcast showcasing success stories to help reduce stigma and discrimination of all people.
- Surrey – Tara Roberts, community member. Tara has worked with the City of Surrey’s Accessibility and Inclusion department for over 10 years and has been championing inclusion for over 15 years by helping to build more inclusive hiring practices throughout Surrey.
- Vernon – Katie Moore, self advocate. Katie is a passionate and committed leader in the self advocate community in the Okanagan. In 2016, she found the Okanagan Accessibility group when she needed to regularly start using a wheelchair and found there were many barriers to her accessing her community. The Okanagan Accessibility group provides recognition to local businesses that are accessible, awarding them a decal to let other people know the business has accommodations for mobility, hearing or vision challenges. Katie has met with municipalities throughout the Okanagan to talk to them about accessibility and to encourage them to make recreational areas, like parks, more easily accessed by people with diverse abilities. She has also presented to group provincially to raise awareness of the work of Okanagan Accessibility and to encourage others to bring accessibility concerns forward in their communities.
CLBC has presented WOW awards since 2009 to recognize inclusion champions who are helping to build communities where everyone is valued, respected and has opportunities to contribute. CLBC received over 60 nominations this year and winners were chosen by an evaluation committee of community members, CLBC community council members, CLBC staff and people served by CLBC.
Chief Arjuna George, Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue, WOW Award Winner
“It’s an honour to be recognized for our work with Chris and we feel humbled to be acknowledged as leaders for inclusion. Chris is part of our family and he gives back to us and the community as much as he receives. We are grateful for this recognition, which makes us all the more committed to making sure people with diverse abilities are celebrated for the contributions they make to their communities.”
Bob Delion, WOW Award Nominator
“I feel Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue is a special group of very professional people. The community sees them often as they conduct fire safety seminars for public school students or for any group, by request. They love to attend parades, car shows, the Fall Fair or other local events with the old fire engines they have restored and keep in running order. Then there is the serious side. They respond to many emergencies in our community and keep us all safe. When they are not doing this, they are constantly training to be response ready. I am proud to know them. The welcoming way they include CJ in their activities warms my heart. I feel they deserve this award if only to give back a little bit of what the SSI Fire Rescue give Salt Spring Island and, especially, my friend CJ.”
Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction Shane Simpson
“I would like to congratulate the Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue for their WOW award. I was impressed to learn that CJ has been helping to keep people safe for 16 years. By creating meaningful opportunities for people with disabilities, the Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue is helping to create a province that is barrier free and doesn’t limit people’s participation in their lives and in their communities.”
Ross Chilton, CLBC CEO
“I want to congratulate the Award winners and all of the people who were nominated this year. There are a wealth of innovative initiatives taking place across the province to make our communities more inclusive. Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue truly exemplifies leadership in showing what inclusion looks like to their community, and I thank them for their dedication and commitment.”
Community Living BC