Kaitlin Boyda: An Enduring Legacy

Translation of above Swahili caption “Seek the water at once”.

I first met Kaitlin Boyda around 2010 through my contact with John Voort of Compassion Canada. She was terminally ill and The Children Wish Foundation wanted to grant her a wish. What she wanted wasn’t typical of what teen-age kids her age would hope for. Instead of a trip to Disneyland or backstage passes to meet Beyonce she wanted to fund a water project in Uganda. I remember being so impressed with her positive attitude and demeanor. She got her water project and her story resonated with people all over Canada. What she was able to accomplish is miraculous. Her legacy continues and I wanted to get an update from John as to what is happening today. So I’ll let him take from here:

Remind everyone who Kaitlin Boyda is.

She was a most amazing young woman who passed away Thursday May 5, 2011 at seventeen years of age and who has left behind an absolutely incredible legacy by giving away her Children’s Wish gift!

What do you remember about the first time you met her?

The first time I met her was only a few days after I began working for Compassion Canada. It was the night the Children’s Wish Foundation presented Kaitlin with her $7500 and we were presenting her with a gift to say thank you for funding a water project in Uganda with her money. My thoughts as I was driving to her home were “I hope I don’t screw this evening up!” I had never done anything like this before and I was so nervous about meeting her. All my work skills came via 31 years of retail experience and here I was representing Compassion Canada. But the minute I met her, she put me at ease with her quiet and confident manner and the evening went perfectly.

You had the opportunity to see firsthand the impact she had on her water projects in Uganda. Take us through the emotion you felt.

I’ll never forget the day we shared with the people of Uganda in the community where Kaitlin’s initial water project was dedicated. It was such a big deal, I remember the second highest ranking member of the Church of Uganda and the president’s right hand man even showed up but what amazed me was that so many ordinary Ugandan’s walked from over 100 kilometers away to attend. I kind of figured that there would be much gratitude from the people but I had no idea as to what the extent of the gratitude would be.

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The amount of money she was able to raise was staggering. Did you ever imagine she could accomplish what she did in such a short period of time?

No, not even an inkling. In fact, the evening in which Kaitlin received her $7500 from Children’s Wish, we had a plan supply the remaining funds required to pay for one water well and call it hers. If you remember, Compassion Canada couldn’t commit to just the one well for Kaitlin to fund because it was part of a project that consisted of 21 water wells. It was in the middle of our fiscal and this was the only water project still needing funding in all 25 countries that Compassion International serves. Each well required $9,600 from Compassion Canada so our commitment was $201,600! As you can imagine, it required a substantial leap of faith to add this amount in the middle of our fiscal year. As I was leaving the Boyda household that night, I only managed to get to the front door when I was approached by a few of the family and we began discussing the possibility of finding a few businesses who may wish to fund a well, or maybe even just a portion, and at the same time Kaitlin, her brother, sisters and a few of her cousins decided to start a FB page that night. I left thinking these were good ideas but I didn’t for one minute imagine it would be anything too big. I figured perhaps a few thousand dollars but within 7 weeks she had raised enough money to pay for all 21 water projects.

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We all knew she was going to die but when that reality came, what went through your mind?

We all knew but we were all praying for a miracle. Honestly Mark, if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this was something Kaitlin knew she was meant to do, I’m not sure how I would answer that. Every moment I was thinking about her during the last few months, every time I was working on the funding, the trip, etc, I was and I still am in awe of her faith in God. As much as she wanted to live, she was okay with her situation because she was so pleased that she was making such a huge difference in so many lives. I’m certain that everyone has a number of people in their lives who we consider to be wonderful mentors and important influencers in our lives. The majority of these people in my life were very important and influential in my youth. Only 3 have been huge for me in my adult years and Kaitlin is absolutely one of those and most certainly the youngest one.

What has happened since her death?

Her legacy continues to grow. Every week her FB page still receives numerous views, likes and comments. She encouraged Compassion Uganda to believe they could reach their goal of water to every church/community. Kaitlin’s amazing gift has now helped bring Compassion to the point where all 355 plus Church partners in Uganda will have clean water in their communities by 2020! It’s truly going to happen! I am truly in awe. I learned a while ago that Compassion International is now the second largest water NGO in Uganda!

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Do people who have benefited from her initiative know who she is?

She is a hero in the community where the initial well went and she is certainly known by Compassion Uganda. Her well has a plaque attached with her picture in honour of her amazing contribution to their community. And of course she is known in Compassion Canada and USA as well.

What is the biggest lesson you have learned from what Kaitlin was able to do?

I used to be one of those people that would tell anyone who would listen that our society has no hope for the future because of the way youth are these days. Kaitlin is the most selfless person I have ever met and she was a teen when I met her, and she made me think about my boneheaded attitude. In fact I have taken it a few steps farther than just thinking about it. My job is essentially initiating and nurturing partnerships with churches in my territory. But since she passed away, and because of her, I have been very intentional about trying to work with students in elementary and middle schools and through youth conferences as much as possible. I have been blown away by how passionate these children and youth are about making a difference in this world and I can honestly say that there are many reasons for hope in our young people for the future. They care so much more than I, and I believe my entire generation ever did at their age.

How can people still donate or learn more about Compassion Canada?

Now that every Compassion church partner in Uganda is set and totally funded to have clean water by 2020, the initiative has been expanded to the other countries we serve in Africa. If anyone wants to help Compassion Canada reach our goal of $1 million for this fiscal year for this fabulous initiative, they can click on this links to donate:  https://www.compassion.ca/make-a-donation/

We are just finished our 5th month of this fiscal and are at 32% of our goal!

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It’s A Wonderful Play

Among the plethora of events designed to get you into the Christmas spirit may I suggest “It’s A Wonderful Life-A Live Radio Play.” It’s directed by Fran Rude and she took time out of rehearsals to give you a synopsis of how it came to be and what you can expect on the night.

Talk about how you decided to do the “It’s A Wonderful Life” radio play

I was invited to direct a Christmas production by Lethbridge Rotary Sunrise (via Don Robb). I remembered seeing a broadcast 20 years ago on PBS television of a radio play, “Merry Christmas George Bailey”, and it re-kindled my deep love of the golden age of Radio (1930 – 1950). It was based on the iconic Christmas film, “ It’s a Wonderful Life” and the 1947 radio broadcast of the same name, featuring the film’s original stars. PBS could not use the Film title, nor the film script, because the film studio would not release the rights: hence the title “ Merry Christmas George Bailey”. The script was adapted, but there was sufficient similarity to the film to make it recognizable. I loved the PBS broadcast and always hoped I’d get a chance to do it someday. Never happened, because the rights never were released by PBS. Then, late last year I learned that a script had been written, using the original film title, which was far more faithful to the 1947 broadcast and film and, in fact, was available for licensing. So, when Don came to me, I agreed to do a Christmas production, provided it was of the radio play, “ It’s a Wonderful life”, and here we are!!

For an audience member who may not be fully aware of what a radio play looked like back in the day, what can you tell us?

Everything was done live, not recorded; there were no “takes”. It was sink or swim: there were no recorded’ laugh’ or other sound tracks, and  shows  had a live studio audience to provide applause, laughter or other responses. The sound effects also were live, done in front of the audience. This show is set in a radio station in downtown Manhattan. When the actors are not at the mics, they have stools to sit on. There is a pianist, Richard Coombes, who plays transitional music to change scenes, also underscoring. There are commercials, sung live by the cast.

You are from an era when you would listen to dramas and plays. What sort of memories does that conjure up?

I was raised listening to radio for entertainment. Ours was the first house on our block to have a TV set, and that wasn’t until 1953!! Yet I remember listening to my favourite programs on the radio, transfixed, hanging on every word, my imagination working overtime. I’d weep at the dramas, laugh myself silly at the comedies (I actually heard “Who’s on First” live, bursting with laughter), and have the hell scared out of me, listening to suspense programs. And oh, the Big Band orchestras during and after World War 2—— love that music to this day. Soap operas were much better on Radio than on TV. Woe the person who would interrupt my mother during “Ma Perkins” or “Pepper Young’s Family”!! I’m so glad I grew up in that era of Radio, the form of which is almost non-existent today. Radio is completely different today: mostly news, politics or music, rarely dramas or comedies (with the exception of The Debaters, which I love). It was radio that really shaped my interest in the Arts. My very favourite show was Lux Radio Theatre, which I almost never missed. LRT broadcast live the scripts of major movies, with their original casts. I remember listening to “It’s a Wonderful Life” in March, 1947, as if it was yesterday! I heard “Casablanca”,”Mrs. Miniver”, and a host of others, all first rate films, all broadcast live. It was wonderful for me, because in Quebec, children under 16 weren’t allowed in movie theatres. I’d listen completely engaged and entranced— it was wonderful!

What’s been the biggest challenge for launching this one?

 

The technical demands are huge, because we’re not in a theatre, where everything would be at hand. We have to haul in  absolutely everything we need—— lighting equipment, sound equipment, large stage props, loads of cable, light towers, etc— too much to completely describe. It’s a very demanding technical show, and I am blessed to be working with the best. The performers have to adjust to a non-theatre environment, which is tough for a show like this, but they are experienced and very well grounded and just “go with the flow”. The rehearsal schedule was a challenge, because if an actor was missing  so were all the characters the actor played. A challenge for me is to stage the piece as a radio show, not a theatrical production. There is no ‘4th wall’ and the relationship between the actor and the audience is very intimate. I think in many ways, the audience becomes more engaged with the actor because there aren’t a lot of external trappings.

Tell us about the cast.

There are only 7 actors, playing over 50 roles, as well as doing many of the live sound effects. Their voice work is very demanding, because every character they play has to have a different voice: an interesting example is a three way conversation, in which one actor plays all three roles, and the radio listeners out there across the country have to believe there are three different characters. It requires tremendous discipline for the actor to remain consistent for the length of the broadcast, because it is very tiring work, but they are experienced and are doing very fine work. The cast consists of Mark Campbell, Morgan Day, Tony Deys, McKade Hogg, Jordana Kohn, Sheila Matson and Stephen Graham.

I also have to give a shout-out to the crew, who are a formidable force: Nancy Graham, Stage Manager: Jason Eveleigh ( Foley sound); Rob Stanford (Lighting and large stage props); Mary-Lynn Muhly (props and stage dressing);  Helen Barber and Patti DeGorter (costumes).

How much fun is it to incorporate live sound effects?

It can get a little crazy at times, but once we’re in the venue and the mics are there to amplify the sound, it will be a hoot!. I think the audience will get a real kick out of watching what goes on. What’s so unique is that the tools for each effect sound like the real thing, but aren’t even similar: for example the sound of crickets is created by running fingers along the tines of a comb! I won’t give away any more! The sound effects and what’s used to create them are called Foley, named after the person who invented the system back in the 20”s. Foley still is used today, primarily in the film industry.

How close to the beloved movie is the radio play?

Very, very close, sometimes word for word. The length of the play has been adapted to approx 90 minutes, but nothing is lost. The script has everything: It is very funny, sometimes sad, sometimes romantic and very relevant to what’s going on in our world today.

The play is at the Lutheran Church on the West Side. Does it work in terms of staging a play?

I love the venue! It is very warm, intimate and welcoming. We are fortunate to have it as, with the Yates being closed, performance space is at a premium. The acoustics are excellent, stage area is a good size and there isn’t a bad seat in the house. The staff is terrific and I think they’re excited about this. Oh, and there is a parking lot adjacent to the church. The lobby is large, and there will be a handbell choir there from Galbraith School. The venue is very easy to find, because it is on the corner of University Drive and the Riverstone exit.

Where is the money going?

In keeping with reaching out and connecting with the community, the production is funded by sponsors and Rotary, and every dollar from seat sales will go to local community projects.

Where can we get tickets and when does the show run?

The show runs Dec 6 & 7, and tickets are available at Enmax or on line. Tickets are $20.00 ea, or 5 tickets for $80.00. Doors open at 7:00, play starts at 7:30.

Another Week Gone

Monday musings:

I attended the AUMA convention in Calgary last week. AUMA is the Alberta Urban Municipalities Association. (There are a lot of acronyms when you get on City Council and I’m still learning them all.) It was a great event for a first time councillor and it was an opportunity to take in a number of informative sessions like how municipalities are doing to deal with the legalization of recreational marijuana along with a session on “Five Things Every Elected Official Needs To Know”. I was also able to network with many colleagues from around the province.

We had addresses from a number of provincial ministers and from Premier Notley not to mention Calgary Mayor Nenshi. (I felt compelled to go up to him and shake his hand. I still kind of get star struck so I’m not sure what I said to him….I’m checking my e-mails to see if I did something inappropriate.)

Olympic Gold Medal curler Joan McCusker was a keynote speaker and gave a humorous and inspirational talk.

The final speaker of the event was comedian Dave Hemstad who was hilarious. I felt so bad for him because he came after we were going through some rather tedious resolutions and we were running about a half hour behind. Be he came on and killed. (Figuratively.)

The Telus Convention Centre is a tremendous facility for an event like AUMA. Iwould love to cut and paste it for downtown Lethbridge. I’m hoping we’ll have that technology soon.

What a Grey Cup game yesterday. I was cheering for the Stamps so the wrong team won but I appreciated that it was a great game. I remember watching the Grey Cup Game with my old Paul and ardent Rider fan Paul Tessier the day that Tony Gabriel broke the hearts of Rider Nation. I said to him at the end of it, “At least it was a great game.” He said…Oh #@!$! You…”

My timing was not good for that particular appraisal of the game.

Council just approved $500,000 for the bid to host the Men’s World Curling Championships in. Lethbridge knows how to do curling events and all members on council saw this as a great way to showcase the city and generate millions of dollars.

And here’s a happy ending. I took my dog out for a walk on Saturday night. On the Sunday on my way to take my dad out for our weekly breakfast, I noticed I did not have one of my gloves. I took a chance and retraced my steps along the doggie path and by golly right there on someone’s front lawn was my lost glove. It was a joyous moment. And I got pie afterward.

Hey, It’s Monday

A few Monday thoughts…

It was nice to see two excellent CFL playoff games on the weekend. Depending on who you were cheering for the word “excellent” may not necessarily apply but from a strictly entertainment point of view they both came right down to the final few seconds. Here’s hoping next week’s Grey Cup is as thrilling as last year’s game. You have to admire Ricky Ray. Dare I say he’s the Tom Brady of the North? Judging by the Cheetos that were just tossed at my computer many say not a chance. But you can’t deny that even in his advanced age he has the ability to lead his team to a 4th quarter comeback not to mention he owns 3 Grey Cup rings. Not too shabby.

One thing I like about the CFL compared to the NFL is the fact that there is only one week between the final playoff games and the championship game. The two weeks the NFL takes can be agonizing as the hype goes into overload. And more often than not the game doesn’t meet expectations. There have been colossal duds over the years. And while my pal Bob Probe couldn’t contain himself when his beloved Seahawks won their first ever Super Bowl against Denver 4 years ago, that game was pretty much decided in the first quarter. If you didn’t have any skin in that one, you might have turned the channel to something more exciting like Cake Wars. (It was still fun to see Bob bask in the glory of a championship after enduring a lifetime of heartache.)

The Grey Cup almost always lives up to the pre-game hype. I’m predicting it’ll be a great game Sunday with the Stamps eking out a victory and erasing the memories of last year’s overtime loss to Ottawa. I’ve only been wrong 262 times in my life.

I had not heard of HART until this past weekend. HART is Honouring Allies and Remember Together. Cadets from Alberta, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Utah and Colorado joined together at the Vimy Ridge Armoury to pay their respects to families who have lost loved ones during conflicts. Five Memorial Cross Families and two Gold Star Wives were given wreaths in a somber ceremony. This is the largest event in North America. It was my honor to bring remarks on behalf of the Mayor.

I also learned that when you join the cadets there is no fee associated with it. You are given a uniform and you learn discipline and leadership not to mention the camaraderie you develop during your time with the organization. They do some very cool things as well.

Police Chief Rob Davis was at the event and I had a great conversation with him. I found out that he played football at McMasters in Hamilton as he made his way to the world of Policing. He was a pulling guard. He was quite an effective lineman because despite being a man of big girth he was also quite fast. (I also was a pulling guard but that was in Minor Football with the Bombers. I was short and slow. Putting an end to my football career in grade 8 was a wise move.)

With the legalization of marijuana in Canada it’ll be interesting to see what sort of rules and regulations there will be as people come forward to open up their own shops. As I understand it, the province will be coming out with some guidelines in February or March.

I’m involved in the play “It’s A Wonderful Life.” It’s put on by the Sunrise Rotary Club and it’s performed like an old radio play. The cast of Tony Deys, Morgan Day, Stephen Graham. McKade Hogg, Jordana Kohn, Sheila Matson and myself will be reading the scripts on stage with microphones like they did back in the 30s and 40s. We’ll also be helping out with sound effects as the play rolls along. It should be a lot of fun. The show goes December 6 & 7 at the Immanuel Lutheran Church at 7:30 each night. You can get your tickets at http://www.enmaxcentre.ca

My First Month

I’m about a month into my new journey of being a city councillor. It’s been a whirlwind and a huge learning curve as I try to learn every aspect of what it takes to run a city. First and foremost I have to say that everyone has been incredibly accommodating. It’s been an environment where the entire staff wants you to succeed from the City Manager to the Mayor to fellow councillors. I find that refreshing. There’s a lot to absorb and I’m trying to be as realistic as I can. I’m not going to learn it all by the end of this month or even in a year but I’m taking strides to get there and I hope the people who voted me into office will have the patience to allow me to the time to assimilate into what has been a life-changing paradigm shift for me. I always hated the word paradigm because when it was used it usually meant I was getting corporately downsized. But it applies in a positive way here. At least for me.

Councillors get a lot of invitations to a lot of things and I’m trying to space my time out to get to as many events as I can without forgetting who my wife is. We’re also assigned to a lot of committees. I’ve been to Heart of The City, EDL, Library and Animal Welfare meetings so far. The commonality of them all is that everyone cares. This city has wonderful people who want to make it an even better city than it already is. It makes going out to a meeting when it’s snowing and -10 much easier.

I’m currently acting Mayor. (Good thing I’ve had theatre experience….badumpah!!) It means I’ve had to sign a few things when the Mayor and the Deputy Mayor aren’t available.

I’ve had the great pleasure of representing the city at the kick off to the Angel Tree campaign at St. Teresa of Calcutta School. (What great new school they have over in Legacy Ridge.)

I attended the Philanthropy Luncheon at the Lodge honoring some amazing philanthropy in the city and I got to call Bingo at the Turkey Bingo at Agnes Davidson School. That was my first time ever calling bingo. When I got into my car, three turkeys were in the back seat. It was weird.

Still to come is the Bright Lights Festival and the Honouring Allies and Remembering Together Ceremony at the Vimy Ridge Armoury. Looking forward to those.

And now back to studying some Finance Committee stuff.

Justin Fisher: He’s Got Some Skills

Plumber extraordinaire Justin Fisher of Lethbridge recently came back from the WorldSkills competition in Abu Dhabi. While he was unable to bring home any hardware for Canada this time Justin has had great success on the provincial and national levels. Justin took some time out from installing a back flow preventer (I googled plumbing terms) to talk about his recent experiences.

First off, explain what a Worldskills Competition is all about.

At the WorldSkills Competition, more than 1,300 competitors (including 31 Canadians), accompanied by experts and trainers, gathered together from around the globe to test themselves against rigorous international standards that are representative of the skills required in their specific occupational area. This is done in an open forum that allows for the public to observe and gain a stronger appreciation for the complexity of these occupational areas.

What made you decide to get into a skills competition in the first place?

When I went through my first year of schooling at Medicine Hat College, I was asked by my instructors if I would like to represent the institution at the Provincial Skills Canada Competition. I was a little skeptical at first, but I decided to give it a shot.

What were your expectations going into your first competition?

I had no idea what to expect, as it was all new to me. My instructors did their best to prepare me for the competition, but we both had limited information on the event. Despite this, I was able to take second place in the competition.

Do you ever do any trash talking with your opponents?

There was not normally any trash talking, or not any that I was involved in. I had a different approach. I always tried to meet new people and make some friends along the way. If you are good, you’re good. There is no need to bring people down.

You’ve had some great success over the years. Discuss.

I have now been involved with Skills Canada for four years. In my first year, I competed in Edmonton at the Provincial Skills Canada Competition taking second place to who ended up being the 2015 WorldSkills competitor. In my second year, I competed in Edmonton again at the Provincial Skills Canada Competition where I won gold, which lead me to the Skills Canada National Competition in Saskatoon where I also was able to win gold. During my third year, I was able to produce the same results both provincially and nationally in Edmonton and Moncton, respectively. This lead me one step closer to a spot on WorldSkills Team Canada 2017 where I had to qualify once again on a WorldSkills Competition project for trials and meet a minimum Canadian standard to ensure that I could be competitive at a world level. Once I passed that step, I was then affiliated with Team Canada. I had the opportunity to go to an international competition in Hong Kong where I place third. Unfortunately, I ended my streak in Abu Dhabi where I was unable to place. Nevertheless, I have to stay positive as I had the opportunity to compete among the best in the world and have had a very successful journey.

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What would you say is your biggest asset in these competitions?

I think my biggest asset is how well rounded my hand skills are along with my accuracy and perfectionism. However, this does cause me to have a weakness in the time department. When you are focused on making everything perfect, you tend to take much more time on things. Therefore, you always have to try and keep a happy medium, as time is a very important component of the competitions.

What do you think you need to work on?

I had difficulties with the time limits, as the competitions have very tight time restrictions and do not give you much room for mistakes.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I play in a men’s hockey league and ski in the winter. In the summer, I enjoy camping and fly fishing.

Talk about your experience in Abu Dhabi.

Competing at a world level was interesting on many facets from the amount of competitors, level of skill, and intensity. Everything was impressive. I truly did not understand what I was getting involved with until I first walked into the venue. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to participate in the WorldSkills Competition. Overall, the Middle East was a great trip.  Everything was over the top. Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai were wonderful cities to visit – clean, safe, and not as expensive as one may think. I would advise anyone to take the opportunity to go if it presents.

What advice do you have to kids wanting to get into the trades?

I push trades all the time! I think these days it is getting harder and harder to choose a career with all the options out there. Sometimes, it seems that many people think the only way to be successful is to go to university. Don’t get me wrong, I think university is great, but it is not for everybody. All I can say to young individuals when they are choosing a career is not to overlook the trades; they can provide many great opportunities, such as competitive wages and consistent demand, as new trades people are always in need. I think the key to being successful is to always work hard, be driven, don’t take shortcuts, and make yourself the most well-round individual you can.

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Is plumbing what you want to do for the rest of your life?

I plan on continuing plumbing for the next while, though hope to further my career and buy into the family business, Simpson Plumbing, in the years ahead.

Taking A Gamble In Lethbridge

I’m always intrigued by the stories of how people have made their way to Lethbridge. Take for example the General Manager of the Casino, Greg Van Stone. How does a guy who worked at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas end up in our little old city. Here are some answers:

Where are you originally from and how did you first get into the Casino business? 

I am from Houston Texas and I first got into the casino business in 1991. In 1989, I was working in a hotel in Galveston, Texas called the Key Largo Resort owned by Frank Fertitta. After a year and a half of employment as the F&B Manager, he sold the Key Largo. Six months after the sale, I received a call to see if I would be interested in a management position at the Palace Station Hotel & Casino (owned by Mr. Fertitta) in Las Vegas. I packed my bags the next day!

What other jobs did you do?

My first summer job was building fences in Texas, I then moved on to the building supply industry. I did this during my University days and after graduation I began working as a night club manager from 1986 – 1989 across various US states.

Did you go to University or College?

Texas State University graduated in 1986 with a BBA in Management.

I know it’s a long road but can your journey to get to Lethbridge?

Once I graduated from University, I was determined to become a manager. I entered the nightclub industry and was transferred from Houston, TX to Pittsburgh, PA, then to Columbus, OH and finally to Piscataway, NJ, each time being offered a promotion but having to move to attain the new position. I returned to Texas to begin working at the Key Largo (mentioned above), this lead me eventually to Las Vegas. Once in Vegas, I continued to seek promotional opportunities, which again made me look at different properties. I left Palace Station and started working at the RIO, then I opened the Stratosphere and finally made it to the big time getting a job offer as Executive Director of Beverage Operations for MGM Grand Las Vegas. I stayed with MGM Resorts for 14 years and while there, I opened the MGM Grand in Detroit and reached an executive level position at the Beau Rivage Resort in Biloxi, MS from 2001 – 2009. In 2010, with my whole career defined by casino operations, I decided to try a non-gaming hotel. I started working at the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando FL. While it was an amazing property and great learning experience, the call of the casinos came again when I was recruited for an executive level position with Maryland Live Casino. After opening the property and getting things settled in, I was recruited again to become the VP of Food & Beverage for PURE Canadian Gaming based in Edmonton, AB. After almost four years in this position, I was promoted to become the General Manger of Casino Lethbridge in June of 2017.  

What is it about the Casino business that keeps you in it?

I have always been inspired by the team of wonderful people that work in this industry. The opportunity to lead a team of service professionals has always given me great pride. Our guests are also a key motivator in why I enjoy the industry. Casino’s provide an escape from everyday life, with the thrill of winning, all while providing fast, friendly service in a safe, clean environment.

Where do you come out on moral issues like gambling addiction?

I am truly impressed with the AGLC GameSense campaign and the commitment from PURE Canadian Gaming to ensure our patrons are well educated on this subject. We always strive to ensure our patrons gamble responsibly. It is one of our top priorities.

You lived in Vegas. What kind of lifestyle was that for you?

One word “WOW” the stories I could share but we will save that for another time! It was one of the most amazing times of my life, mainly due to meeting my beautiful, amazing wife Renee and getting married while living there.

I’m sure there’s always going to be people who want to cheat. How big of an issue was it in some of the bigger casinos you’ve worked in and how much of an issue is it in Lethbridge?

Our industry and company take this type of behaviour very seriously and we take every measure available to mitigate this type of activity. These precautions assist us in preventing most cheat of play. We work very closely with our regulator (AGLC) and fortunately, it is not a common occurrence. Our excellent Table Games personnel, Security and Surveillance teams are highly trained and diligent in thei efforts to ensure a fair game every single day.

What is the most creative cheat you’ve ever seen?

No comment, but what I can say is the character Raymond, that Dustin Hoffman played in Rain Man. A card counter extraordinaire…..

I’m sure you’ve been accused of altering machines so they don’t pay when there are big crowds (or other accusations like that.) What can you tell people about the randomness of slot machines and how often they will pay out?

All wins and losses are completely RANDOM. Our machines are owned, maintained and regulated by the AGLC. The operator has no influence on this whatsoever.

You’re new to Lethbridge. What are your first impressions?

I have actually been travelling to Lethbridge for over four years now, finally calling it home in June of 2017. The city is vibrant, growing, diverse and offers a great deal of opportunities for its residents. It is a privilege to live here and I do not take that lightly.  As such, I along with my team at Casino Lethbridge are focused on giving back to our community. We have recently volunteered, sponsored or participated in a Habitat for Humanity build, Walk-a-Mile in her shoes, Canadian Blood Services donation team, Fresh Fest at U of L, Career Fair at U of L, Windy City Tattoo Convention, and various other local sponsorships.

What sort of plans do you see for the future of this Casino?

We will continue to focus on improving the guest service experience each and every day. No expansion plans in our future just a desire to serve the public in a fast, friendly and clean environment.

What do you say to people who want a career like you have?

I would wholeheartedly recommend the casino industry. It has been an amazing ride and the future is bright! Oh the things that I have seen……..to be continued.