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Year in Review: TFN opens spectacular youth centre

A look back at some of our top stories in February 2021
TFN Youth Center
The Tsawwassen First Nation had reason to celebrate last February as they officially opened its new youth centre.

Here is a look back at a few of the top stories in the Optimist 2021 Year in Review:

Province, foundation recognize success of Delta Hospital addition

Patients are benefiting from enhanced medical imaging procedures thanks to a new addition at Delta Hospital.

The Peter C. and Elizabeth Toigo Diagnostic Services Building opened in March 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, the priority was to ensure the building was operational for patients who needed access to these services.

The province provided an update on the services that have been offered thus far as well, the Delta Hospital and Community Health Foundation offered thanks to the community for all their support in ensuring the project was built.

According to statistics from the province, from April 2019 to March 2020, Fraser Health conducted approximately 51,000 medical imaging procedures and 580,000 laboratory tests at Delta Hospital.

“We’re investing in diagnostic services across the province to ensure British Columbians have quick access to accurate diagnoses and care,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “As Delta and surrounding communities continue to grow, this new addition will ensure local patients have access to the services and equipment they need today and into the future.”

The building features state-of-the-art equipment and provides more space for patients and staff.

Tsawwassen soccer standout signs with pro team in Iceland

As an Ivy League graduate, Olivia Sheppard is on her way to a promising career in medicine. She just needs to get her kicks in overseas first.

Coming off an impressive NCAA career at Princeton University, the 23-year-old soccer standout from Tsawwassen took her talent to the professional level after signing with UMF Afturelding of Iceland’s national women’s league.

Sheppard says it was a matter of the right fit at the right time in her life. After majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, the plan was to apply for med school immediately until the COVID-19 pandemic struck last spring. The process came to a halt and Sheppard had the time to explore the options of potentially extending her playing career.

“I looked into playing opportunities specifically abroad. I felt like there would not be another time of my life where I get to play the sport I love and travel to beautiful countries,” explained the South Delta Secondary graduate. “I had an agent but the process was slow since, knowing I was going to med school, it had to be a perfect fit for me (from a timing standpoint). I know that school would always be there and once I go down the med pathway, I will eventually be working the rest of my life. Once I saw the Iceland contract I was pretty sold in terms of location. Iceland is at the top of my bucket list and they have a great playing culture. I was happy.”

Former Delta teacher sentenced for possessing child porn

A former Delta elementary school teacher will serve an 18-month conditional sentence for possession of child pornography.

Surrey resident Elazar Reshef, 53, was sentenced in Surrey provincial court. In an earlier court appearance, he pled guilty to the charge of possession of child pornography. Crown counsel ordered a stay of proceedings on two counts of making or publishing child pornography.

The Delta School District also issued a statement to the Optimist at the time the charges were laid against Reshef.

“In July 2019, upon hearing that Mr. Reshef was being investigated by the police we took immediate action to remove him from any interactions with students within the school district,” said the Delta School District statement. “This individual has not been at work since July 2019 and has not been permitted on Delta School District property since that time.”

Driver pleads guilty to lesser charge in death of New West teen in Ladner crash

Bridget Malcom’s life “collapsed” on the night of June 2, 2018 – the moment she learned over the phone that first responders had stopped doing CPR on her 19-year-old daughter Olivia on a dark Delta highway.

Olivia, who was born and raised in New Westminster, had been crushed between the family’s Honda Civic and a Jeep Wrangler beside Highway 17A near Ladner Trunk Road at about 10:15 p.m. that night.

She was declared dead at the scene.

“This moment has forever broken me in two,” said her mother in a victim impact statement she read out in Surrey provincial court.

The Burnaby driver responsible for Olivia’s death, 45-year-old Chao Chen was in court to plead guilty to dangerous driving causing death.

Victim impact statements made by Olivia’s parents and younger sister painted a picture of a family devastated by the tragedy.

“I’m just trying to survive one day at a time,” said dad Tony Malcom, a longtime New Westminster firefighter, who is off on his second long-term leave trying to cope with the loss of a daughter who had called him her "best friend" and made sure their mats at Oxygen Yoga & Fitness – where she was a manager – were always near each other so they could work out together.

“My role of a mother of two has been forever redefined,” said mom Bridget of the gaping hole left by the death of her firstborn daughter – born on June 10, 1998, after a five-year infertility battle.

“I brought my precious baby girl into this world, and it was my responsibility to be with Olivia when I closed her casket for the final time,” Bridget said, her voice racked with sobs.

Chen admitted to having had an open bottle of whiskey with him, which he took from his Jeep before police arrived and threw over a fence, but he said he’d only had one shot of whiskey before the crash and “adamantly” denied having been impaired, according to his lawyer Michael Mines.

First Nations carver continuing rich family history

When Sean Frank isn’t working as a heavy machinery operator, he is continuing his family’s rich history as a First Nations artist.

The Ladner resident finished a spectacular 18-foot red cedar dugout canoe that was commissioned by the Comox Valley Regional District to be showcased at a $126 million water treatment project.

Frank is a member of K’ómoks First Nation, reflecting his life on Vancouver Island before moving here 14 years ago.

“I come from a fishing family and I my entire upbringing was spent fishing. That left a lot of down time too so I started to do some carving. I saw there was a market for good art work and I’ve had some really good teachers, some of the greatest carvers on the Northwest Coast,” he recalled.

His grandfather is the renowned Doug Cranmer whose work is showcased at the UBC Museum of Anthropology and he also collaborated on a number of projects with the legendary Bill Reid. On the other side of Frank’s family are the Hunts who feature several internationally-respected First Nation artists.

Frank acquired the log through the help of Tsawwassen First Nation artist Karl Morgan. He then got some assistance from friend and fellow artist Charles Joseph with the design and roughing out the canoe’s shape.

Tsawwassen First Nation opens new youth centre

The Tsawwassen First Nation had reason to celebrate, as they officially opened its new and spectacular youth centre.

“Our young people are our future. They needed a place where they felt welcomed and valued,” said TFN Chief Ken Baird. “This centre will be a place of learning, nurturing and preparing our youth for becoming our next generation of leadership. This centre will offer both indoor and outdoor activities, a computer lab, games room, an art room, TV room, a community kitchen and large dining area – all spaces that the youth can enjoy together and call their own. This is truly a momentous day for our youth and members. My hands go up to each and every one who made this happen.”

The new youth centre, located at 2287 Tsawwassen Drive, gives the TFN community a home for their youth programs, allowing the creative freedom to expand their physical literacy, artistic, culinary and multimedia programming to better support their youth. The 12,000 square foot building will allow more programs to be offered simultaneously for a variety of age-appropriate groups, and the kitchen, weight room and gym will allow new programs to be offered.