10 badass women of the Thompson-Okanagan for International Women's Day | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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10 badass women of the Thompson-Okanagan for International Women's Day

Image Credit: Pixabay

Today is International Women’s Day, designed to bring awareness to women’s equality so no better time to introduce or reintroduce you to some awesome and largely unsung women we have met.

These badass Thompson-Okanagan women are making a difference in their communities, leading community efforts and supporting other women and their communities. We know there are many more out there, so be sure to let us know in the comments below who inspires you.

FILE PHOTO - Muriel Sasakamoose at her home near Paul Lake.
FILE PHOTO - Muriel Sasakamoose at her home near Paul Lake.

Muriel Sasakamoose

Sasakamoose is well-known around the Kamloops and Secwepemc territory for breaking through several barriers as an Indigenous person. She helped form the B.C. Native Women’s Association, was the first Indigenous woman to attend public school and was successful in advocating for the change to a discriminatory section of the Indian Act.

Sasakamoose’s passion for equality has been instilled in her for as long as she can remember. She credits that to growing up in a house with hardworking parents who taught her how to be a self-sufficient woman.

READ MORE: How a Secwepemc woman fought for equality for Indigenous women and is still helping others

FILE PHOTO - Christine Thelker
FILE PHOTO - Christine Thelker

Christine Thelker

Diagnosed with dementia at 55, Thelker, from Vernon, calls herself the new face of the illness. She sits on the board of Dementia Alliance International, an international not-for-profit advocacy group operating in 49 countries and run solely by people with dementia. In November, she published her memoir on her experience with the illness.

"We want to change the stigma," she said in a previous interview with iNFOnews. "People are so afraid of dementia. They don't realize if they change how they treat it and how we're treated overall... we can stay well within our communities, we don't have to be locked up in nursing homes."

READ MORE: Diagnosed with dementia at 55: 'I'm not scared of dying, I'm scared of not being allowed to live'

Brea Lake, CEO Accelerate Okanagan
Brea Lake, CEO Accelerate Okanagan
Image Credit: Submitted/Accelerate Okanagan

Brea Lake

Lake, CEO of Accelerate Okanagan, is redefining what the term “tech sector” means. Accustomed to being the only woman at the table, she’s now starting to see a shift in the tech sector's diversity and inclusion policies.

“Across the whole province there’s been a big movement around diversity and inclusion in the tech sector,” she said. Currently, 39% of the Okanagan tech sector’s workers are women.

“It’s become more talked about, so women are seeing it as a viable career path,” she said.

“When I first joined (Accelerate Okanagan), I was often the only female (at the table), and it’s actually not the case anymore. When I go into the room, it’s very rare that there’s only one female at the table and I think that’s really promising as well, there are just different perspectives, and I think that’s where different innovation comes from.”

READ MORE: Accelerate Okanagan can help any business be a tech company

FILE PHOTO - Michelle Salt
FILE PHOTO - Michelle Salt
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Michelle Salt

Michelle Salt

Eight months after a motorcycle accident left her without her right leg, Salt jumped on a snowboard.

She's now a retired two-time Paralympic snowboarder, having competed in both Sochi and South Korea, and has 14 World Cup podium finishes to her name.

She also competed as a fitness model, spoken at a TEDx event and made over a hundred other inspirational speeches. She also successfully advocated to have Adaptive Wakesurfing recognized as an official sport.

READ MORE: 'I don't know who I would have been:' Vernon Paralympian reflects on life after losing a leg

FILE PHOTO - Katherine McParland
FILE PHOTO - Katherine McParland
Image Credit: FACEBOOK / Katherine McParland

Katherine McParland

McParland is the former executive director of A Way Home Kamloops. She died in December 2020, but her legacy and what she accomplished to address youth homelessness remains. She transitioned A Way Home Kamloops from a community coalition to a registered charity, and co-founded the B.C. Coalition to End Youth Homelessness.

Youth homelessness was a topic dear to her heart as she also spent time on the streets. She served as a commissioner on the B.C. Housing Board and is known throughout the province for her work. Rest in peace, Katherine, you are missed.

READ MORE: Candlelight vigils planned for Kamloops homeless advocate Katherine McParland who died unexpectedly

FILE PHOTO - Helen Jennens is a member of Moms Stop the Harm, a Canadian organization that fights the stigma of addiction and promotes humane drug policies.
FILE PHOTO - Helen Jennens is a member of Moms Stop the Harm, a Canadian organization that fights the stigma of addiction and promotes humane drug policies.
Image Credit: Facebook

Helen Jennens

After losing both of her sons to overdoses, the Kelowna woman has been a prominent figure of Moms Stop The Harm, a Canadian organization that advocates for the decriminalization of illicit drugs and to end the stigma around drug use.

Jennens has made sure her sons’ stories have been told, but has said repeatedly they are no different than the nameless men and women whose lost lives are viewed as statistics of an overdose epidemic first declared a public health emergency in the province in 2016.

Each overdose death should be marked in the same way that every COVID-19 death is — daily — to drive home the message that the overdose death epidemic is present, it’s human and dangerous, she said in a previous interview with iNFOnews.

READ MORE: Kelowna mom joins call for daily overdose numbers in B.C.

FILE PHOTO - Helen Sidney holds just some of the awards she's received for community service over the years.
FILE PHOTO - Helen Sidney holds just some of the awards she's received for community service over the years.

Helen Sidney

The 98-year-old Vernon resident has been picking up trash in the community for more than 30 years. 

Every day, the former Armstrong Elementary School teacher said she always told her students to pick up their litter. She walks for roughly two and a half hours, picking up garbage along Bella Vista Road. The city has honoured her with an award for her many years of community service.

Among other acknowledgements, she’s been given the Caring Canadian Award, the North Okanagan Regional District’s Community Clean-up Award, and the Queen’s Jubilee.

READ MORE: 93-year-old Vernon woman spends two hours a day picking up garbage to 'keep busy'

FILE PHOTO - Shannon Christensen
FILE PHOTO - Shannon Christensen

Shannon Christensen

In only five years the founder of Mamas for Mamas grew her one Facebook group to 55,000 members and 54 chapters across Canada, each chapter having a minimum of 500 members.

Mamas for Mamas is a national charitable organization that supports mothers and caregivers in crisis by providing ongoing support to individuals and families facing various poverty-related struggles.

When Christensen fell into “emotional poverty” as a mother with two small children and a husband working out of town and no one to exchange baby clothes, she turned to social media and the charity grew from there.

READ MORE: How one mama grew a small Kelowna Facebook group into a national movement

Artist Amanda Shatzko with a cement poppy she created at Vernon Secondary School in 2016.
Artist Amanda Shatzko with a cement poppy she created at Vernon Secondary School in 2016.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Amanda Shatzko

Amanda Shatzko

Shatzko’s artwork has been exhibited in galleries around the world.

The Vernon resident’s paintings have been collected by celebrities, she’s live-painted in front of crowds, created public art for display in parks, schools, businesses and more, according to her website.

“Public art is an interesting way to show the shared values of the community, and also the identity behind the community,” Shatzko said in a previous interview with iNFOnews.

She’s also performed as a professional athlete in the TV and film industry, circus, celebrity and stadium events, and fitness model brand marketing, according to her website.

She’s currently the vice-chair of the Regional District of North Okanagan and has acted as a Canadian delegate for the International Symposium on Cultural Diplomacy at the United Nations.

READ MORE: Poppy crosswalk will pave a 'field of flowers' on Vernon street

Candace Chisholm
Candace Chisholm
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Candace Chisholm

Candace Chisholm

Based in Kelowna, Chisholm, co-founder of HE Changed It, launched an app last year to help improve men’s mental health.

The creators want to address loneliness with “he,” especially with the COVID-19 pandemic and acknowledged that reaching out and getting help can be difficult for men because of stigma.

“It’s redefining our version of what man-up means, which is to help another man up,” she said.

Now the company is partnering with Discovery College, to put together additional courses for the app, she said, adding that she encourages women to enter the tech sector.

READ MORE: Okanagan-created app designed for men to connect on mental health issues

Know of someone else who deserves to be featured for International Women’s Day? Comment below and let us know.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 


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