December 12, 2012 - 4:30 PM
Canada's Search and Rescue community has recognized Don Blakely of Vernon SAR for his outstanding leadership over the past 25 years.
"It's a little overwhelming," Blakely says of the highly regarded award. "Search and Rescue people tend to shy away from the limelight. I usually keep to myself."
Blakely received the National Search and Rescue Program Award of Excellence for Exemplary Service Nov. 18 in Toronto.
"It didn't really sink in until I got back," Blakely says. "I came to a meeting and everyone stood up and clapped."
Blakely has volunteered with SAR at the local, provincial and federal levels. Over the years, he has transitioned from groundwork to management.
"My knees don't stand up as well as they used to," Blakey says, describing how he used to trudge up mountains on rescue operations.
He recalls a day in 1991 in Fort Nelson when his team was sent to retrieve the bodies of a helicopter crash. They found the helicopter burned out and laying on the ledge of a mountain. He says he rappelled down the cliff to reach the helicopter where he discovered the bodies frozen to the aircraft.
"We had to chip them out of the ice."
As they worked, a storm was approaching, and the team had to move fast.
"We knew we had to get the bodies back to the families." And they did, just in time, before the storm hit the mountain.
These days, Blakely brings his field experiences to the classroom as an instructor for the Justice Institute of BC. He divides his time between SAR, his law firm in Armstrong, and his family.
"My wife says I do just enough law to support my search and rescue," Blakely says, "but I couldn't do any of it without my family. They deserve this award just as much as I do."
Blakely says the constant support and understanding from his two daughters, even when he missed birthdays and holidays, made his work possible.
Géraldine Underdown, Executive Director of the National Search and rescue Secretariat, presented the award to Mr. Blakely. She said thousands of volunteers and their families as well as subjects and their families have and will benefit from his hard and sustained work.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2012