Wheeldon named Citizen of the year

Nominators reflect on community service at Chamber's last meeting of the year.

Never one to say no to donning a turkey suit to raise funds

Soccer coach, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the Cranbrook Boys and Girls Club, the Kinsmen Club; the list of Jason Wheeldon’s volunteer accomplishments goes on and on from driving around Sam Steele Sweethearts to getting out the shovel to clear up Highlands Elementary after a snowfall.

A total of 16 letters came in to push Wheeldon to become the Cranbrook and District Chamber of Commerce’s Citizen of the Year. He was honoured with the title at the Chamber’s last meeting of the year at the Heritage Inn December 12.

Wheeldon said he knew ahead of time that he was this year’s recipient, and his only wish is that the many people that have helped him over the years could share the honour.

“There should be a lot more people standing up there. Everything that we’ve ever done has always had people standing with us,” he said, referring to his wife Christy who herself is an avid volunteer. “I share it with everyone I’ve ever worked with and learned from.”

It was an emotional moment when the Chamber announced the 2012 Citizen of the Year for Wheeldon and Christy, who was overcome by emotion as the capacity crowd at the Chamber Luncheon rose to its feet to cheer.

“For over 20 years, Jason has made an indelible mark on this community as a mentor, volunteer, chair and co-ordinator for community projects, sporting activities and charitable events,” said Lana Kirk, Chamber president.

Wheeldon said his favourite volunteer job every year is the annual Turkey Drive, which rose from humble beginnings in the Chamber office after Christy learned that the Salvation Army and Food Bank weren’t going to be able to provide enough turkeys. Wheeldon said the pair had been planning to leave on holidays two days later, and after a conversation with the Chamber staff, they got on the phone to ask Chamber members to pledge for a turkey.

“We do community work for the betterment of the community, but the Turkey Drive is the one we get the most satisfaction from,” he said.

His work with the Big Brothers Big Sisters is another highlight. Wheeldon said he enjoys working directly with kids and seeing the positive outcome up front.

“We give them the tools that benefit them later in life,” he said.

Dana Osiowy, executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters said Wheeldon’s long-term dedication to the program is astounding.

“One of our longest serving mentors, Jason has made an incredible contribution to the lives of a number of young people,” Osiowy wrote. “This difference will resound throughout our community because boys who are mentored through Big Brothers Big Sisters have more friends, make decisions with more confidence, get along better with their peers and feel more supported.”

Wheeldon has also been involved with the Sam Steele Sweetheart program, and said he enjoys the program because the young women learn so much that can be applied in all aspects of life.

Sam Steele Sweetheart for 2010/11, Kinnon Smith, was one of the many who supported Wheeldon’s nomination.

“He embodies everything that Cranbrook needs as a role model for the City of Cranbrook and the youth of our community,” Smith wrote. “I aspire to be just like Jason in my future community that I call home.”

Loree Duczek, Sweetheart Program Assistant, also wrote in and listed off the many ways he has helped in his 20-year involvement.

“He dedicates himself to

these young ladies simply because he sees the value in our program and the tremendous impact it has on our youth and their commitment to the community,” Duczek said.

Looking back on his fellow Citizens of the Year, Wheeldon said there are so many Cranbrook residents that are incredible role models in the community.

“Cranbrook has so many people that contribute,” he said.

Wheeldon said his family has been his motivation behind everything he does, and he thanked them for their continued support.

The Chamber will present Wheeldon with an award at the January 16, 2013 luncheon at the Heritage Inn.