The Little City Inspired by the Community Better Challenge
Enderby, British Columbia is a small city of 2,964 people situated where the Okanagan and Shuswap meet. Within our little city are community oriented people who have a passion for making Enderby thrive. When we learned of ParticipACTION’s Community Better challenge through emails and advertisements, Enderby and District Recreation Services saw an opportunity to challenge our citizens to sit less and move more, to try new things, and celebrate what we already do to stay active.
We live in an area with four distinct seasons and many opportunities to be active in the natural playground. Recreation and Sport opportunities for all ages have grown enormously in the last five years inspiring the “Active in Enderby” Motto. This challenge provided us a new tool to ignite the “move more” movement and come together as a community for a very positive cause.
As a Fitness Instructor of almost 25 years I was able to apply my knowledge about motivation, leadership and the many benefits of exercise encourage and inspire participation. Our Recreation department runs a variety of classes that all focus on Fitness as “Fun” and “For everyone”. We center on inclusiveness and that fitness is not just about exercise but social connection and accountability. In a small community, I have learned the importance of not just offering what you think people should do, but listening to their needs, goals and desires, and creating programs and schedules that work for them.
Being part of the ParticipACTION Community Better Challenge not only reminded our citizens just how important and FUN it is to be Active, it lit-up the “Active in Enderby” movement. We have been truly inspired by the stories, connections and initiatives that have been a result of participating in this challenge and continue to be motivated by the pride and momentum that comes with the title of “Canada’s Most Active Community”
The Community Challenge ran between May 31 and June 16 and our goal was to start it with a BANG! Recreation Services collaborated with other fitness organizations and the local schools to offer a full day of events as our “Kick off”. On May 31, there were activities planned for all ages and abilities from 5:30am-9pm. There was everything from guided trail walks, to a variety of fitness classes including Aqua fit & Stretching in the Park, to a paddleboard challenge, and most popular, a flash mob at the Market. The local elementary students grades K to 6 took part in a school wide Dance PL3Y activity that promotes physical literacy through music, dance and play. The goal was to create awareness and interest in the challenge from the very beginning.
Throughout the two weeks of the challenge, we used what elements that already existed in our community to build on. The time of year was great with all the youth and adult sports programs in season. (Soccer, ball, slow-pitch, lacrosse, swimming) The local schools were engaged with their physical education programs as well as hosting special events during the challenge to encourage even more active participation. Our high-school put on a Foam Fest style obstacle course for the whole student body (grades 7-12) to participate in. Every student in the local elementary schools took part in a week long swim program at the outdoor pool. It was also the time of year that people were out gardening, walking and biking. Our Recreation Department reached out to many different organizations and programs to encourage them to get involved, and we were most impressed with the engagement of Senior citizens who role model the “Active for Life” motto.
Some of the highlights over the two weeks included our small outdoor pool breaking their aqua-fit record with 31 participants. This later became the regular size of the class for the remainder of the summer! We also noticed the competitive spirit of our citizens in Enderby come forefront with notice that our little City was in the top 10 in Canada only a few days in. Almost instantly there was a drive to be even more active and accumulate those minutes. Now families were planning more activities to be active, neighbors were getting together to go for walks, community social groups were creating challenges, and event housework and gardening served a new purpose. The excitement was contagious as we continued to see the community active efforts accumulate in minutes and be recognized on a national level as we climbed up to top 5.
Now the goal to win the challenge, which seemed unreal when we started, was within reach. Conversations were not just about winning, but how awesome it felt to be active, how much fun it was to try new things and just how much opportunity there was to “sit less and move more”. This part – the awareness and engagement, was the most rewarding from my point of view.
As we finished the challenge on June 16 – #1 in our Region and #2 in Canada, there was a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment. However, there was still more work to be done. The second part of the challenge included a written submission from the top 5 finishers in each region. This was our opportunity to prove why Enderby should be Canada’s Most Active Community. Recreation Services put the submission together using the stories, testimonies and successes of Enderby that were both inspiring and heartwarming.
On June 28th, Enderby was crowned Canada’s Most Active Community! This prestigious title came with $150.000 towards active initiatives in our community. Winning this challenge had a tremendous positive impact on Enderby. The awareness on the importance of being active and the many ways in which you can be active has resulted in more interest in community sport and recreation programs. In our aquatic and recreation departments, we have seen an increase in registration and many new faces that have joined because they tried something new during the challenge. I have personally witnessed a different attitude around being active. There is less fear and hesitation and more appreciation to the importance of making it fun, and being “Active for Life”.
The title of Canada’s Most Active Community was celebrated with a July 1st Float and City Center Flash mob on Canada Day. On August 14th, a full day of events was planned with the attendance of the PartcipACTION team from Ontario who presented the $150,000 cheque to the City.
Enderby celebrated in their “Active in Enderby” style on August 14, with community spirit and fantastic events. The day started with a goal to smash our Aqua-fit record with 50 participants. (Our biggest class was 36) To our extreme delight, this challenge brought in a whopping 80 participants!! Also in attendance to support the Aqua-fit challenge were the members of the Local Lions club (who built the pool in the 1950’s) and two participants who could not go in the water due to medical reasons –but still wanted to show their support and dedication to being active. The energy, excitement, and support were truly outstanding and this will be a highlight of both my 25+ aquatic and fitness careers.
The day continued with free family events in the Park from 9am-12pm and the swimming pool from 1-4pm. Our feature event held at 4:30pm was also well attended and filled with such celebration as we included a jersey parade and community dance mob. In the Jersey parade (done to the song “Celebration”) people proudly wore their Active colors for all sorts of sports and clubs from baseball, soccer, fastball, karate, pickle ball, Jr. Lifeguard club, ladies 55+ slow-pitch, hockey, lacrosse and dragon boating. After receiving the cheque, EVERYONE took part in the Dance mob to Michael Jackson’s “Blame it on the Boogie”.
Our last venue for the Community Celebration was Riverside Park where we showcased our local youth and adults sports teams in action as well as provided opportunity for everyone to try several sports and programs like Tai Chi, Zumba, Karate and Dance PL3Y. The Lions club cooked hamburgers and hotdogs for over 600 people who came out to participate and cheer. Sports games included slow pitch with our local emergency service members, fastball with our two provincial championship teams and a youth baseball game with alumni guests from the Men’s baseball team from the 1970’s-1990’s. It was a memorable event with tremendous sense of community spirit and pride.
Reflecting back, our biggest success in being part of ParticipACTION’s Community Better Challenge has been the connection and relationship building with community members. More partnerships have been developed that will continue to improve awareness and opportunities to be Active in Enderby. Along with the obvious health benefits, we have seen fears and stigmas overcome, new friendships been made, and a community come together. I have personally facilitated a lady who struggles with obesity remove her oxygen and participate for the first time in a water fitness class, watched a mom and her 3 kids dance together in our Flash mob, and supported a senior with a recent seizure diagnosis find the courage to work with our fitness staff to create a plan so she can continue to attend her Aqua-fit program. I have observed citizens connect and encourage each other to hike the Enderby Cliffs, go for a walk along the River, and set goals or make plans to be more active. Enderby will continue to build on the success of being crowned Canada’s Most Active Community. The competitive spirit of the citizens will have them ready to defend the title in 2020. My favourite quote from one of the testimonials provided for Enderby’s submission was, “as a community, we have shown that we are committed to keep moving, not just for two weeks but 52 weeks of the year”.
Enderby & District Recreation Services