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Unity and Kerrobert win big in Rivers West recreation awards

A remarkable three awards came to Unity and Kerrobert from the March 3 announcement by Rivers West Sports, Culture and Recreation.

UNITY — Rivers West Sports Culture and Recreation has named the winners of their annual awards and the list includes two awards in Unity and one in Kerrobert. The awards ceremony is set for spring 2022.

Unity Parks and Recreation Director Nicole Headrick, is being awarded Recreation Professional of the Year. The nominator, told the Press-Herald /, “I would rather the accolades and recognition go to Nicole and the arena.”

“I nominated Nicole because she goes above and beyond hourly and daily in her position. She is a very hands-on recreation director and you can always find her right there in the nitty gritty. She doesn’t just oversee the operations, she is sweeping up after a game, helping clean bathrooms or working with the students in the summer.”

Multiple people also added their thoughts on this award for Headrick saying because she is a busy, working mom of three kids in sports, she knows those perspectives and understands the programs and challenges and successes that all different sides in recreation programs face, and works with that insight.

Headrick has also been heralded for her approachability, her willingness to listen to everyone and her desire to see challenges and problem resolution through to a successful conclusion. While talking to a number of parents, we heard the terms “superwoman” “get ‘er done gal” and the sheer amazement of the number of challenges she hurdled with the rink renovation, while managing parks and recreation venues and programming through a worldwide pandemic.

The same nominator included the Unity Community Centre arena, which also picked up an award, for Recreation Facility of the Year, Renovated or New Build.

“This arena is now a source of pride because of all the improvement work that was done inside and outside. The community centre is so well run, especially through all the COVID-19 challenges.”

Numerous people pointed out Headrick’s persistence in overseeing the bat removal from the rink, even though the task turned out to be larger than initially thought. Not only did Headrick spearhead the proper removal of the largest bat colony ever found in a building, she worked with Living Sky Wildlife Rescue, DTS Roofing and Bat Removal and the community to have the bats rehabilitated then houses built for them to return to the community for all the benefits they provide.

Town Councillor Brent Weber, a former recreation board member who Headrick says was instrumental in the push for getting the arena renovations started and completed, says, “Nicole has done such a good job. To pull off a project like that, including the enormous challenge of the massive bat colony, is nothing short of remarkable. She handled not only the challenges, but all the regular stuff, too, and all while working during a pandemic. These awards are well deserved for her, our arena and our community.”

Weber adds, “To be honest, nothing went really smooth, however Nicole just rolled through it. I told her that from past experience, that jobs like this don’t always get a ton of recognition but I am super proud of her and happy for our community that these recognitions happened.”

Weber maintains the rink is the heartbeat of the hub of town during the winter and seeing the pride people have in the finished product is wonderful.

Press-Herald / asked Headrick for her response following the March 4 announcement and she responded, “I am honoured and feeling overwhelmed with the accolades but extremely humbled as well.”

Headrick adds, “We have so many incredible volunteers in our organizations that I feel everyone is deserving of these recognitions. I am grateful to be part of the Unity Parks and Recreation team, and, honestly, all of the individuals, volunteers and coaches that come together that make this community stand out.”

Headrick says she grew up watching parents volunteer for everything, so she feels their leadership is why she has dedicated her life to community efforts as well.

“The renovation was a much-needed upgrade to the community centre, extending the life of the building for a couple more decades. Extensive research was done that included structural reviews, an asbestos abatement team on site and a variety of other partnerships that helped see the project through. Numerous upgrades both inside and out are not only appealing to see but provide more efficient and reliable space and functionality.”

Kerrobert award

Marli Shepherd of Kerrobert was named overall Volunteer of the Year. Many in the community voiced their appreciation of her efforts when the announcement came out March 3.

Nominator, Veronica Smith, says, “I nominated Marli because I know first-hand how involved in the community she is and how much volunteer work she is part of. She is part of the fundraising initiative for the Kerrobert football lights program, the manager for the West Central Wheat Kings U18 AA team, she is a founding member of the Kerrobert Football Association. She is also a member of the Kerrobert Wildlife Federation, the arena rep for the Kerrobert recreation board and a board member for the Kerrobert Library."

Shepherd co-ordinates all these tasks while being a busy, working mom of three.

When asked for her thoughts on this award, Shepherd tells the Press-Herald /, “I was shocked when I received the phone call saying I received the award, and felt completely honoured.

“I am grateful for our community, the people, the boards that run our programs, the committees and the programs that are part of Kerrobert. Volunteers are such an important job and I am thankful for all of them."

Shepherd says her involvement would not have been possible without the support of her family. She maintains she would hate to see something not happen because of a lack of volunteers and she aims to ensure she is giving back to the community she lives in, in whatever role she is able to. Shepherd also encourages others to get involved, as there are several boards and committees in the community that are in need of more people.

Several Kerrobert residents who benefit from her work in the community refer to Shepherd as the Energizer Bunny, with an infectious enthusiasm for everything she does.

Social media drew a flurry of positive posts once the announcement by RWSCR was released and many included their pride in the achievement of three awards being won in the Press-Herald readership area.