(l to r)  Olympic gold medalist Maëlle Riker and Minister of Health

(l to r) Olympic gold medalist Maëlle Riker and Minister of Health

Healthy families walking challenge – game on

“We all know the benefits of staying healthy and being active, yet many of us find we're simply too busy. By taking part in the Healthy Families BC Walking Challenge, families can open themselves to a new, healthier way of living. You don't have to pay to take classes or buy expensive equipment. Any type of physical activity like walking is a good place to start.”

  • Aug. 25, 2011 6:00 a.m.

“We all know the benefits of staying healthy and being active, yet many of us find we’re simply too busy. By taking part in the Healthy Families BC Walking Challenge, families can open themselves to a new, healthier way of living. You don’t have to pay to take classes or buy expensive equipment. Any type of physical activity like walking is a good place to start.”  This statement by Minister of Health, Michael de Jong was the kick-off to a new contest being promoted around the province.  The contest offers up weekly prizes to individuals as well as community prizes from $10,000 to $50,000.  It runs for six weeks and has already hit the ground running with entries from all across the province being posted on their website.

De Jong was not alone when he made his announcement, but rather brought along a big gun for the kick-off.  Canadian Olympic gold medalist and B.C. gal Maëlle Ricker was there to walk with some participants in the Inner Harbour at Vancouver.  “I love being outside with my family and friends, hiking in Garibaldi Park or cruising with my dog along the ocean,” stated the famous athlete.   “There are so many great places to walk in B.C. and I look forward to hearing about them all during this Healthy Families BC Walking Challenge.”

Ricker became an ambassador for a healthier B.C. not long after becoming the first Canadian woman to win gold on Canadian soil at the 2010 Winter Olympics for her enormous skills in Snowboard Cross.  Her winning performance ignited the nation and other Canadian athletes onto a winning streak the Canadians had, until then, only imagined.  Trish Fougner’s name is familiar to many in Princeton.  She was part of the GamesTown 2010 team that came to Princeton to congratulate the community on their gold medal win last February.  She brought with her two other Canadian gold medalists.  Ashleigh McIvor and Denny Morrison met and inspired the students at all three Princeton schools while they were in town.

Fougner who is the Director of Health Promotion Supports and Engagement for the B.C. Ministry of Health said that while the GamesTown 2010 contest was also meant to promote living a healthy lifestyle, “we had to hit the ground running with this latest one.  It is a six week contest.  Each week, communities can and will win community and individual prizes.  There are prizes like soccer balls and bikes, B.C. trip adventures and cash.  We want everybody to upload their favourite story, pictures and footage about their favourite trails and hikes around and in their communities.”

At last count, British Columbians had made over 200 entries.  “People are getting on board,” Fougner continued.  “We had a pretty comprehensive list of contacts to connect with from our GamesTown contest and we have been fully utilizing those resources to get the word out.  We hope the contest will encourage people to make this summer the summer they decide to get out there and get walking or if they are already walking to get out there and show us what they have to brag about.  It is a chance to showcase their community’s trails to lose weight or just get in better shape and enjoy nature.  We hope this contest will motivate people to get started on a healthier lifestyle.”

B.C. has really decided to promote living a healthier lifestyle across the province to help with the skyrocketing health issues which are spiraling out of control across North America.  “Ninety per cent of chronic disease is preventable,” stated Fougner, “that is a statistic we can’t take lightly.  Getting out there and getting active is a prescription for health.  This contest is a great way to get people committed to getting healthy.  We want British Columbians to become pro-active.  Most of us take better care of our cars than or own bodies.  We will spend thousands on our cars, but won’t walk for free.  Something is wrong with our priorities and we really need to change that.”

Maëlle Ricker grew up living a healthy active lifestyle and thanks her parents for that.  “My mom has told stories of us hiking through Manning Park and playing hide and seek or tag along the way to keep my brother and I going and interested.  My upbringing has been a huge factor in my success.  I really believe that and if I can encourage more families to get out there and get seeing this great province I have done what I believe in.  We should all get out there and see our beautiful province and discover our trails.  We just need to put on our running shoes and check them out at our own pace.”

Ricker hopes the contest will become a launching pad for a better way of living.  “I hope people get out there and challenge their friends.  It’s an easy contest and you can win prizes.  All around it is a good deal.”

With another Olympics looming ahead for 2014 and many international competitions in between, Ricker has a lot of physical activity ahead in her future.  “Right now I am dryland training and spending a lot of time in the gym.  I will be back on a snowboard at the end of August and testing boards at Mt. Hood in Oregon.  I am still racing and will keep training and on top of that I have a new puppy.  My puppy is one more reason to get out walking.”

“Being active is a ton of fun,” continued Ricker.  “I made a lot of friends by being active and participating in sports.  I remember going to school early so I could play soccer and rushing out at lunch to play whatever we were playing and then again after school.  The number one thing about living a healthy lifestyle is it is really enjoyable.  It enriches our lives and like learning a new language in is much easier when we are younger and easier to make a habit.  Once you get active, it becomes more of a habit than a chore.”

Fougner grew up herself running at a high caliber level.  She ran for UVIC and in many international competitions.  She has been living a healthy lifestyle as long as she can remember and has the ‘gams’ to prove it.  “I just really want people to embrace our contest,” Fougner stated.  “It is a good way to get people started.”  Ricker concurred.  “You don’t have to an Olympic medalist to be active, you just have to get started.”