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Posted: October 29, 2017

14 Kootenay Game Changers honoured

“Honouring those who move our community forward.”

That is a quick definition of the Kootenay Game Changer Awards.

A joint endeavour of regional media, including e-KNOW, B104 Total Country/102.9 The Drive and Black Press, Kootenay Game Changers recognizes those who ordinarily don’t receive much public recognition for providing such incredible services to their communities.

On Oct. 27, the second annual Kootenay Game Changer Awards ceremony and dinner was held at St. Eugene Golf Resort & Casino’s Pavilion, with nominees’ dinners covered by Gipman Kitchens & Cabinetry.

The following are this year’s award recipients

Youth Game Changer

Andreas Kamp

Andreas is being recognized tonight for being a youth leader in the community of Creston. Andreas is a member of the 904 Kootenay Air Cadet Squadron. He is a charter member and secretary of the Creston Leo Club; as well as an involved member of the local Lutheran Church. Andreas has organized many local initiatives including The Little Library’s, cleaning up and painting the Highway 3A lookout, and organized picnic in the park. He has been involved in collecting glasses for those who need them, and has organized many children’s events.
Congratulations Andreas!

Pictured with Andreas, right, is Jim Storm of award sponsor Mister Tire.

Senior Game Changer

Sandy Zeznik

Sandy Zeznik is being honoured as a leader in senior life in her community. Sandy has dedicated her time to many initiatives that improve the daily lives of seniors; including Cranbrook Rotary, Abreast in the Rockies Dragon Boat Club, Kootenay CARP, Cranbrook Health Auxiliary, Chamber Information Centre, the Cranbrook Public Library Board, Friends of the Library, the Key City Theatre, and Seniors in Partnership.

Congratulations Sandy!

Pictured with Sandy is Leo Baggio of award sponsor B104 Total Country/102.9 The Drive.

Education Game Changer

Evan Bueckert

Evan Bueckert is being honoured for his dedication to the education of both his students, and community members. The Mount Baker Secondary School music teacher is known by his students as a teacher who truly inspires students to be themselves. Beyond teaching, Evan dedicates his time to Symphony of the Kootenays, Wild Theatre Musical Theatre Community Productions, Cranbrook Community Theatre, School District 5 Mass Choir, School District 5 Caroling Tours, and more. Evan has produced many local artists including The Good Ol’ Goats, Clayton Parsons and Joelle Winkel, and Dawson Rutledge (who performed during the awards ceremony). He was the recipient of the Molson Canadian Canada 150 Award, the Canada 150 Medallion, and the Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.

Congratulations Evan!

Pictured with Evan is Leanne Goddard of award sponsor Leanne M Goddard Charter Professional Accountant.

Health and Wellness Game Changer

Major Kirk Green

Major Kirk Green is being honoured for his tireless efforts to eliminate poverty and child hunger- improving health and wellness in the East Kootenay. Major Green’s forward-thinking approach has resulted in partnerships that have supported fundraising efforts to support the establishment of a homeless shelter in Cranbrook, including the Cranbrook & District Community Foundation Endowment Fund, Our Hometown for Hunger, and the 2015 Miracle on Baker Street. Major Green attributes all of his accomplishments to a team effort of the staff of the Salvation Army in Cranbrook and Fernie.


Pictured with Mayor Green are representatives of award sponsor Peak Family Dental Services.

Government Game Changer

Loree Duczek

Loree Duczek is being honoured for her efforts in keeping the community informed, through her role as Communications Manager with the Regional District of the East Kootenay. This summer, when local fires became a serious concern, Loree worked tirelessly to ensure that information was out the moment it was available. Loree’s dedication extended to multiple overnights in the RDEK office during these events. Beyond the fires, Loree plays a significant role in sharing information across the RDEK, including crisis response communications for communities around the district.

Congratulations Loree!

Pictured with Loree is Jason Caven on behalf of award sponsor Robert Paulson- Paulson Fire & Flood.

Protective Services Game Changer

Sgt. Chris Newel

Sgt. Chris Newel is being honoured for his dedication in protecting his community, which goes beyond the role of an RCMP officer. While Sgt. Newel has the responsibility of running Kimberley RCMP Detachment, he continues to take the time to inform community regularly through Facebook, Twitter, live radio segments and group presentations. He is committed to engaging youth in community, having attended over 100 local classrooms last year. Beyond the uniform, he is on the Board of Variance for the City of Kimberley, the NorthStar Rails-to-Trails Society, and the Kimberley Nordic Club.

Congratulations Chris!

Pictured with Chris, right, is Gary Abel of award sponsor Rocky Mountain Pro Drivers.

Family Game Changer

Rob Martin

Rob Martin is being recognized for his efforts as the President of the Royal Canadian Legion in Cranbrook, and their role they play in the families within their community. Rob and his legion members have been responsible for significant contributions to families in the community; including providing support toward the East Kootenay Foundation for Health, Cadets, Forest Fire Relief, School Breakfast Programs, Canadian Mental Health, Senior Luncheons, the Food Bank, and the Salvation Army.

Congratulations Rob!

Pictured with Rob is Sjanne Beattie of Kootenay Life Cycle representing award sponsor Ostash Exterior Building Products on behalf of Cody and Wayne Ostash.

Arts & Culture Game Changer

Columbia Valley Arts Council

The Columbia Valley Arts Council is being honoured for its dedication to artists and culture in the Columbia Valley. Along with running the Pynelogs Art Gallery, the Columbia Valley Arts Council provides regular workshops in art to their community members. They are responsible for a large number of recurring arts events, including Invermere MusicFest, Fresh Fridays Youth Open Mic Nights, Tour of the Arts, Art from the Attic, Wings Over the Rockies Art Show, and more. The Arts Council continues to communicate and collaborate the Columbia Valley Tourism and Marketing Board, Columbia Valley Destination Development Team, and Kinsmen Beach Signage Group, to ensure success of the arts in their community.


Pictured on the right is Jami Scheffer on behalf of the Columbia Valley Arts Council, with Mark Salvador of award sponsor Sandor Rental Equipment.

First Nation Game Changer

Michelle Shortridge

Michelle Shortridge is being recognized for her considerable efforts within his community of ʔaq̓am for more than 10 years. Michelle is described as not only a strong female role model, but a strong Ktunaxa woman working to improve her own community through dedication and hard work. Michelle has been instrumental in moving forward the community’s strategic plan with respect to education, infrastructure, and housing. She has been involved and responsible for many of ʔaq’am’s successes, including ʔaq̓amnik Education Centre Construction, St. Eugene Church Restoration, ʔaq̓am Trading Store Construction, the District Heating System, and more.

Congratulations Michelle!

Pictured with Michelle is Nic Milligan on behalf of award sponsor Teck Coal.

Outdoors and Environment Game Changer

Al Skucas

Al Skucas is being honoured for his dedication to the local outdoors and environment. Al has been the volunteer director of Trails BC for the Kootenay Rockies for more than 18 years. During this time Al became inspired to develop a bike trail between Cranbrook and Wardner. He began his project, taking on the roles of project manager, financial manager, fundraiser, report writer, and PR outreach. Al raised $1.4 million dollars for the construction and development of the trail, which was constructed in 2014 and was recently completed; and named by the Ktunaxa as the Chief Isadore Trail.


Pictured with Al, right, is Jeff Westover on behalf of award sponsor Vast Resource Solutions.

Sports & Recreation Game Changer

The Emily Brydon Youth Foundation

The Emily Brydon Youth Foundation is being honoured for its dedication to youth involvement in sports and recreation. The Emily Brydon Youth Foundation is a community foundation that focuses on youth, while leveraging community generosity, support, and talent. Over the last 12 years, the foundation has invested $440,000.00 back into the Elk Valley; funding individuals, teams, and even playgrounds. The foundation has been able to provide opportunities to children who have aspired to be part of local sports, the arts, and the outdoors; and may otherwise have not been able to participate.


Pictured are Rosemarie Brydon with the Emily Brydon Youth Foundation and Steve Mercandelli of award sponsor Cranbrook Dodge.

Tourism Game Changer

Jim Webster

Jim is being honoured for his dedication to tourism in his community since 2004. Jim’s involvement in community tourism has been multi-faceted. He is the founding member of the successful Round the Mountain Festival. The Meet Director for each the 2007 and 2014 BC Orienteering Championships, and the 2010 North American Orienteering Championships. He has also been the event coordinator for 2015 Symphony on the Mountain, Kimberley Bed Races, Kimberley Pipe Band 90th Anniversary, Sing Along Movie Nights at Centre 64, and more.

Congratulations Jim!

Pictured are Alison Walker, right, on behalf of Jim Webster and Nikki Van Boeyen of Gipman Millwork, representing award sponsor The Heid Out Restaurant & Brewhouse on behalf of Heidi Romich.

Unsung Hero Game Changer

Katryna Sigurdson

Katryna Sigurdson is this year’s Unsung Hero. On November 11, 1999 Katryna received a call that would change her life forever. Two of her family members were hit and killed by an impaired driver in Washington. While many would break apart in such a situation, Katryna ensured their lives were not lost in vain. Katryna became involved in Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). She has been a driving force in her community, fighting against impaired driving. She has held many fundraisers in Cranbrook and Kimberly over the past five years. Katryna also took the time to personally visit nine municipal councils across the East Kootenay to present Report Impaired Drivers signage. All nine communities adopted the initiative and now have these signs placed in their communities.

Katryna, we thank you for turning your personal tragedy into something positive for so many communities across the East Kootenay.

Pictured with Katryna is Derek Kortschaga on behalf of award sponsor Tom White for Freightliner of Cranbrook.

Lifetime Achievement Game Changer

Bud Abbott

Bud Abbott is being acknowledged for a lifetime of dedication to his community. A respected Navy veteran, Bud Abbott moved to Cranbrook in 1960 and has been contributing to his community ever since. He has been a member of Rotary for 54 years. Bud’s love for the arts is demonstrated by 50 years of involvement with Cranbrook Community Theatre, and 20 years with the Kootenay Barbershop Chorus and Cranbrook Community Choir. Bud was a board member for the Canadian Mental Health Association for over 20 years. He continues to give back to community through his roles with the Heart & Stroke Foundation, and his involvement in making school lunches for children in his community.

Bud Abbott, today we honour your lifetime of achievements. We honour an individual who inspires us all to do a little more and be a little better.

Pictured with Bud is Kaytee Wheaton on behalf of award sponsor Jason Wheeldon, PREC, Royal Lepage.

Photos and video by Carrie Schafer/e-KNOW

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