I am so fortunate to be a photojournalist.
That is never more evident to me than when I cascade down the photos I have taken and stories I have written throughout the year. It’s always a friendly reminder of how lucky I am to do what I do, and meet the people I meet.
There is no way to fit every one of those many great experiences into a single annual column, but I’ll mention a few chance encounters with pillars in our community that left me feeling especially impressed in 2015.
One such person was Sara Kaljuvee, whom I interviewed in February. An Ontario-born rugby player playing and training out of the national team facility in Langford, she has lived and trained far from family who live out east, including her ailing mother Lynn.
Kaljuvee, who was in Grade 7 when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, said a big reason why she wanted so badly to succeed was ton honour her mother, whose diagnosis was terminal.
Months later, while I worked at the Pan Am Games in Toronto, a chance meeting with Kaljuvee, this time in her hometown, reminded me of this story. I watched in awe as she and the national Canadian Women’s Sevens Rugby team went undefeated en route to winning the gold medal.
I am always in awe of Canadians who go above and beyond and Kaljuvee proved it in front of her mother. It was a lesson in resilience and a reminder of the way some people sacrifice to represent their country and their families on the world stage.
Running almost concurrently to the Pan Am Games was the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, where Langford resident Jeremy Cheverie also represented Canada on the world stage.
The 38-year-old athlete earned a spot on the soccer team – the only Island athlete to do so – and helped his five-a-side team to a fourth-place finish in July.
Sometimes we don’t take the time to see the talent that is right under our noses, including Cheverie, a Thrifty Foods employee whom some of us may have seen quietly working at the store.
During the Special Olympics World Games, he was one of more than 7,000 athletes, joining 3,000 coaches representing 177 countries and 30,000 volunteers in one of the biggest events of its kind.
Jeremy’s humble modesty was another reminder that our community is a source of national and international pride, sometimes receiving little fanfare.
This year’s favourites list is sport heavy, ending with powerlifting senior citizen Stephanie Needham. I weigh almost 270 lbs. and it was stunning to learn not only that the 58-year-old Langford resident can deadlift more than me, she could actually deadlift my weight. Spending time with the mild-mannered bookkeeper-by-day and powerlifter- by-night made me want to do some squats before leaving the gymnasium after our shoot, even though I didn’t.
This year I met some of the most interesting, talented, hard-working and interesting individuals in our communities. Seeing them do what they do certainly pushed me throughout the year in an attempt to keep up in my own way.
It’s a privilege and an honour to serve the West Shore communities and I look forward to another year of doing just that.
Look for next week’s article as another Gazette staffer shares their favourite stories.