2016 Victoria Leadership Awards – Another Milestone

erika vla 2016

The past few months have been a whirlwind. Though I am very involved in the asthma and allergy community in research, advocacy and support, I have always been extremely passionate about coaching youth sports programs. Fortunately throughout my youth I had some great coaches who believed in me and went out of their way to support me and help me reach my full potential. Over the last 10 years I have coached youth in cross-country skiing, sprint kayak/canoe, dragon boating, as well as rowing. The confidence, life skills, and determination I gained through sport has helped me become the leader I am today, and I have wanted to help youth have opportunities like I had, to learn and grow.

Back in the fall, VI Paddling (VIP) Society, the paddling club I have dedicated countless hours to over the last 2 yrs, nominated me for a Leadership Award. I was honoured and more than anything, excited at the attention this nomination would bring to our family and youth programs in the Greater Victoria community.

Fast forward to the morning of Thursday February 25th, 2016; hours before the Victoria Leadership Awards Event… All nominees had been asked to prepare a brief acceptance speech, which needed to be less than 90 seconds. To help make the event more memorable for all in attendance, we were asked that our speech focus on something inspiring, helpful or touching that we learned or wanted to share about leadership or our community. I spent a fair bit of time thinking about this, because I have learned so much, especially in my role as Director of Youth Programs at VI Paddling. As I wrote down bullet points of lessons learned, and stories I could share, I remembered what my grandfather always used to say, and my speech came together quite easily after that. He would always say “L’union fait la force!” which in English means that there is strength in numbers, and that together we can accomplish great things. Though my grandfather would not be in person with us for this milestone in my life, I knew he would have been proud of me whether I received the award or not. Sharing his wisdom gave me strength. I read my speech over and over again until I felt I had it just right.

The event was one I will remember for years to come, because of the extraordinary people in attendance. Victoria is home to so many inspiring leaders and organizations, working collaboratively to have a lasting impact in many areas, like health, housing and sports/recreation, to name a few. I will admit, sitting and listening to all that was happening in Victoria made the fire within me grow as I became more excited to connect with many of these leaders and organizations. All I could think of was if there would be ways to collaborate or even partner with some of these organizations making waves in our community. Sitting, listening to each award recipient, I knew my award category would be coming soon. I was a little nervous, however, with my friends and family surrounding me I was able to relax.

When my name was announced, I smiled and stood up. All the nerves disappeared. I was happy, confident and proud. This was my moment to share what I learned in my leadership roles at VI Paddling. Standing up at the podium, I was overwhelmed by passion, confidence and excitement. Passion that I was leading from the heart, confidence that I was heading in the right direction as well as excitement for what lay ahead with VI Paddling and my long term goals. Though I came home with a beautiful framed award Thursday night, it wasn’t all I came home with. I came home with a great ball of fire/energy within. A new, stronger energy I have never felt before. A drive to go bigger than I have gone thus far. And a renewed self-confidence that by embracing the challenges I have faced and continue to face, I can accomplish great things.