Our Community: A rare honour for a tireless volunteer

The legendary Mel Cooper, a local businessman who has spent the past 40 years making life better for Greater Victoria’s more vulnerable citizens, was recently bestowed with a honorary life membership by the United Way.

Cooper was recognized for his decades of volunteer work in local, regional and national charities, non-profit boards, foundations and community groups. He also served with the United Way from 2002 to 2006 and as chair in 2005.

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Cooper subscribes to the belief that setting a good example is more important than giving good advice and that “a richer life can be had when one gives more than they take.” While he has received many awards, being honoured by the United Way has special significance to him.

“The United Way shows how a community can come together to help others,” said Cooper, 81. “Anybody can give and it makes philanthropists out of ordinary people.”

He compares the charity to his early life in Newfoundland, where he was born.

“We grew up learning to share what we had with those in the community who needed it,” he said.

Cooper and his family moved to the West Coast in 1945. He pursued a career in broadcasting and came to Victoria in 1974 when he purchased CFAX radio. A career in broadcasting gave him a deeper perspective on social matters and the kind of community action that fosters positive change.

“Working with kids, enabling schools and universities — I try to focus on helping the good people in our city who are putting everything they’ve got into serving children and youth.”

He still focuses on non-profit board development, mentoring youth, and serves as chair of the Telus Victoria Community Board.

“Mel is a one-of-a-kind individual and his long list of accomplishments exemplify the honorary life membership’s recognition of volunteers who have made exceptional contribution to furthering the organization’s mission and vision,” said Peter Lockie, United Way board chair. “He has the type of resume we all aspire to have.”

The United Way has conferred less than 20 life memberships in the organization’s 77-year history.

For more information, go to uwgv.ca.

 

Cyclists spinning for charity

People can root for the underdog or put their money on the top dog as a rookie cyclist takes on an ultra triathlete in a friendly competition — all in the name of charity — on Canada Day.

Katie DeRosa, a Times Colonist reporter, and Const. Jen Young, a bike cop with the Victoria police department will face off against each other on stationary spin bikes to raise money for the Canadian Cancer Society. The two are teammates in the annual Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock, which raises money for pediatric cancer research and programs for children.

A rookie rider, DeRosa admits it will be tough to keep up with Young, an ultra triathlete who is known to bike over the Malahat regularly to get to work from her home in Shawnigan Lake.

The pair will be part of the City of Victoria’s Active Nation Station, which provides information on sports clubs and activities for families. Four-time Olympian Simon Whitfield will be signing Canadian flags and the Pacific Institute of Sport Excellence is setting up a mini-obstacle course to test children’s physical literacy.

The 2014 Tour de Rock starts Sept. 21 in Port Alice and, after stopping at various communities on Vancouver Island, arrives in Victoria two weeks later, on Oct. 3.

The pair will be spinning — and accepting donations — between noon and 2 p.m. on Canada Day in front of the legislature on Belleville Street. For more information, go to tourderock.ca.

 

60 days, 60 wells for 60,000 people

A bunch of 60-year-olds are about to pedal 60 days so as to fund 60 wells providing clean, disease-free water to 60,000 villagers in Africa.

On Canada Day, four friends will dip their bicycles in the water on the beach below Mile 0 as they embark on a 8,500-kilometre bicycle ride across Canada to raise awareness and funds for clean water wells in Africa.

Cycling 4 Water’s goal is to raise awareness and funds to sponsor wells in Africa. They have partnered with Global Aid Network, who have to date funded over 830 wells, providing disease-free water to over 830,000 people, in four African countries.

The two seasoned and two novice riders will be followed by a support vehicle.

The team will start on their trek at 6:30 a.m. July 1st and plan to dip their toes in the Atlantic ocean about 60 days later. For more information, go to cycling4water.ca.

 

Goddesses give where they live

The Victoria Women’s Transition House, Victoria Sexual Assault Centre and KidSport – Active Girls Program will share in $30,000 raised by the 3rd Annual Victoria Goddess Run which took place earlier this month.

Over 2,100 participants took part in the women’s-only run in Langford. Five dollars from each registration was earmarked for the charities, with participants given the choice of choosing which charity their money would go to. Each charity also received additional donations as a beneficiary of the run.

Including the money raised this year, the event has managed to raise $100,000 in three years.

“From the start of Goddess weekend to the end you could feel and see the pride that the committee had in hosting over 2,000 women in activities including yoga, the Westin Bathrobe Run, the kids run and the main events BMO 5K, Westhills 10K and the Red Barn Market Half Marathon,” said race director Cathy Noel. For more information, go to victoriagoddess.com.

 

Radiothon raises $147,000 for kids

The Ocean 98.5 radio station has announced their 2014 Radiothon for Kids helped raise more than $147,000 for the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation.

This was the 12th year of the event, which has collected $1.9 million in total for the foundation, which fundraises for Vancouver’s B.C. Children’s Hospital, British Columbia’s only full-service acute pediatric hospital. The facility provides children between the ages of birth and 16 years the specialized medical attention they need. The hospital sees more than 230,000 patient visits a year, with more than 8,000 from Vancouver Island.

The two-day fundraising event featured live broadcasts from the Hillside Centre by radio personalities such as Forbes and Marshall, Mel Z and Rob Michaels. For more information, go to bcchildrens.ca.

 

Students tipped for CIBC scholarships

Two local Grade 10 students have been selected to receive a 2014 CIBC Youthvision Scholarship Award valued at up to $40,000 each. The scholarships will allow Henry Sexsmith and Mikayla Milna to pursue their dreams of a post-secondary education.

The pair were part of a group of 33 high-potential students who received the award across Canada.

Sexsmith is a volunteer in the community, including mentoring for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Victoria and Greater Victoria Public Libraries. He is also one of this year’s Pan Am Award recipients for demonstrating his exceptional leadership and commitment to athletics.

Milna is aiming for a degree in psychology and criminology so she can reach her dream of working in the filed of crime prevention. She volunteers at the Victoria Sexual Assault Centre as part of the Project Respect’s Rhizome Youth Social Action Team.

Along with the scholarship, both will receive tuition support, mentoring and work experience through the CIBC Youthvision Scholarship Program. For more information, go to cibc.com/ca/inside-cibc/ community-matters/ youthvision/youthvision-scholarship.html.

 

Porsche owners rev up for Tour de Rock

Members of Vancouver Island’s Porsche Club recently raised $13,500 for the Cops for Cancer Tour de Rock.

The Vancouver Island Region chapter of the Porsche Club of America recently hosted the club‘s premier annual event, Black Rock 2014, at the Black Rock Oceanfront Resort in Ucluelet. For the fifth year in a row participants from as far away as California and Ontario gathered to take part in various activities over a four-day period, including a salmon barbecue, bonfire and fireworks at Big Beach.

The attendees also raised an additional $10,000 for the Ucluelet Volunteer Fire Brigade. For more information, go to facebook.com/virpca.

 

Fundraiser to aid burgled dance studio

Vibestreet, Victoria’s only urban/hip hop dance studio, is having a fundraiser on Sunday to recover from four break-ins earlier this month. Thieves broke into the one-room studio and stole $7,000 and a number of performers’ costumes. The studio has had to install metal panels on the door, bars on the windows, security cameras and an alarm system, which has further drained their resources.

The fundraiser includes performances by members of the studio, concession and a silent auction.

Admission is $10. The event runs 1 to 5 p.m. at the studio, 1322 Broad St. For more information, go to vibestreetdance.com.

 

There’s honour among these Thieves

A Victoria band is hoping to raise $10,000 for a local organization that promotes the outdoors for children.

Thieves is a local band that has created an online video meant to encourage children to spend more time outdoors. People are encouraged to download their Never Meant to Know video through a pay-what-you-can campaign. All proceeds from the downloads benefit the Child and Nature Alliance of Canada, a local charity which supports outdoor play.

To see the video and for more information, go to childnature.ca/nmtk.

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