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Olympic gold medalist, WestJet CEO, and more, to speak at Abbotsford conference



On October 20, the second National Character Canada Conference will take place at the Abbotsford Arts Centre, and at Abbotsford Senior Secondary School. The event is being held to promote character in education, sports, and local businesses in our community. Tickets to the event include admission to two keynote speakers, two breakout sessions of your choice, lunch catered by local eatery “Restaurant 62,” and for those 19 and up, there will also be a post event wrap up party featuring food and drinks provided by local businesses, such as Lepp Farm Market and Field House Brewing.

Character Canada is a non-profit, non-religious, and non-political group that aims to teach people how to define which values matter to them, and actively integrate them into their organizations and daily lives. The Abbotsford branch was founded by several organizations including the City of Abbotsford, School District 34, the Chamber of Commerce, Police and Fire Rescue Services, and Abbotsford Community Services. Character Abbotsford council member Gina Vanderheide stated that “Character Abbotsford represents a movement supported by every large influential group across the city, a movement that can impact all of Canada. It’s something everybody should become part of, and this event will give them the chance.”

The National Character Canada Conference is a community event. This year’s theme is “Make Your Mark,” and that translates to leading with character and making a lasting impression. According to event organizers, the purpose is to encourage people to consider the “lasting impression” they are leaving on their community, business, school, and family.

The two keynote speakers are expected to attract the most attendance. Gregg Saretsky is the CEO of WestJet, and Cassie Campbell is a Canadian Olympic gold medalist and sports broadcaster for women’s hockey.

Some of the panels include Stephen Pasiciel, a technology entrepreneur, operations consultant, and business developer who will speak on helping people adapt in the face of change. Also, Cam Friesen and Nerpal Sidhu from School District 34 in Abbotsford will run a panel on how to develop students’ character, and provide tools to change the culture of schools. The full list of panels can be found at

Full-price tickets are $135, and students tickets are available for $65. Event coordinator Goldie VanGarderen stated: “We hope [the conference] inspires students to lead with character in all aspects of their life. We want them to feel empowered, and realize the potential they have to make a difference in their world, and leave their own personal mark in their community.”

Panels which VanGarderen suggests would most likely benefit students include: “Collaboration over competition, how to re-build a community from the ground up,” featuring the owners of local businesses including Field House Brewing, Spruce Collective, and Oldhand Coffee; “Boys Club” for students hoping to work with kids, featuring speakers Cam Smith and Mike Enns; or speaker Courtney Verbeek on “how to empower the next generation of female leaders.” Sports speakers addressing everything from coaching to teamwork would benefit students involved in UFV sports. Perhaps most relevant to UFV, Jory Smallenberg will lead her own panel about building a grassroots movement.

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