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Woodstock celebrates family on Family Day

For Woodstock Mayor Trina Jones, the excitement exhibited by the more than 2,000 residents who enjoyed a full day of activities at the AYR Motor Centre on Family Day, Monday, Feb. 19, epitomizes the reason for the winter holiday.

“This is what the weekend is all about,” she said as she stood amidst the laughter and excitement ringing through the AYR Motor Centre Field House, Gallery Room, arena and pool. “It’s Family Day.”

Town recreation staff, volunteers and partners such as Planet Youth, the RCMP and the Woodstock Police Force delivered a comprehensive slate of activities throughout the afternoon and evening.

Planet Youth, a drug and alcohol addiction prevention organization aimed at youth, hosted a family-focused carnival in the field house to serve as the launch of its Woodstock-area program.

Meanwhile, town crews oversaw free skating in the arena and swimming in the pool.

The mayor and town staff used the day to present eight worthy individuals with citizen appreciation awards, recognizing their many volunteer hours of dedication and commitment to their community.

The AYR Motor Centre stands were packed as the Woodstock Police Force faced off against the RCMP in the inaugural Battle of the Badges on Monday evening. The Woodstock Police Force reported the charity game raised more than $4,000 and food donations for the Valley Food Bank and breakfast programs at Townsview, Meduxnekeag Consolidated and Woodstock High schools.

Throughout the afternoon on Family Day, the Field House and Gallery Room served as an action centre for families as children of all ages played games, participated in contests and learned a little about the goals of Planet Youth.

“It’s been a great launch for the Woodstock area,” said Emily Shapiro, who co-leads the project in the Woodstock area with Population Health team member and nurse Alyson Ross.

Shapiro, Ross and scores of volunteers in orange shirts guided the families through four sections: an information area, a primary family area, and two play sections.

Shapiro said the central focus of the Planet Youth launch in Woodstock was “action and engagement.”

She said the day met and surpassed their hopes.

“This is the spirit we want to keep going,” Shapiro said.

She explained that Planet Youth is the provincial government’s five-year pilot project designed based on a highly successful addiction-prevention program from Iceland.

Shapiro explained that Woodstock is one of four pilot sites in the province, joining the Acadian Peninsula, Kent County, and Saint John.

She explained each site decided on its own style of launch, with some using a more serious approach with guest speakers and experts. She said the Woodstock team opted for a family-friendly approach.

“The root of prevention is family,” Shapiro said.

She said battling drug and alcohol addictions requires attention on a variety of levels, from prevention to housing to treatment.

Shapiro said Planet Youth’s focus is strictly prevention as they try to steer Woodstock-area youth away from bad choices, including drugs and alcohol.

“We’re trying to reduce youth consumption,” she said.

Shapiro said Planet Youth will work closely with Woodstock’s two k-to-8 schools and Woodstock High School with students directly involved, including a youth coalition formed at the high school.

“Youth will be involved,” she said. “We need their feedback.”

Volunteers and staff quickly prepared the Gallery Room for the citizen appreciation awards ceremony after the Planet Youth carnival.

With a crowd of friends and family on hand, eight recipients accepted their awards from Mayor Jones.

The mayor broke with the tradition of handing out the awards at Mayor’s Levee on Jan. 1, opting to make it part of Family Day activities.

This year’s presentations began with Craig Campbell and Jocelyn Keirstead accepting awards for their many hours of volunteer time with the Community Volunteer Income Tax Program. For several years, they helped low-income residents and families file taxes and ensure access to available programs.

Jordan Currie accepted an award recognizing his efforts as a coach and volunteer with the Woodstock Minor Hockey and his many other activities in support of his community.

Karen (Kippy) Taylor earned recognition for her community leadership on many levels, including as president of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Carleton York and her book showcasing the history of the Woodstock Golf and Curling Club and her efforts to restore the area’s May Day Basket tradition.

Norm Purvis accepted his award for his long-time volunteer leadership with the Valley Yacht Club, the Woodstock Trailmakers Snowmobile Club, and other community organizations.

Jennifer Campbell received her award in recognition of her leadership and dedication to improving the Trans Canada Trail as founder and president of the Woodstock Trans Canada Trail Association.

Aria Williams and Edie Webster-Snoad, who as Little Miss Woodstock and Junior Miss Woodstock, respectively, earned recognition and an award for their countless hours attending and promoting events and celebrations throughout the community.

One common phrase Jones repeated after describing the recipients’ volunteer efforts was “and in their spare time.”

She noted the ability to find extra time to work on behalf of others and their community proved a common denominator among all recipients.

Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, River Valley Sun