Naniamo, BC – Ken Welte loves to see youth set their sights high. For more than 20 years, he has volunteered as an instructor at the Air Cadet squadron in Nanaimo and he frequently takes students flying for free in his Cessna 172 so that they can gain practical experience. Ken is also active with the Duke of Edinburgh Awards program, which encourages 14- to 24-year-olds to develop their potential, explore the outdoors and improve their communities.
Duke of Edinburgh participants earn awards for volunteer work, physical fitness and adventurous journeys. Having an adventurous spirit himself, Ken volunteered to take the Nanaimo Air Cadets 205 Squadron on a hike in October to help qualify them for a Duke of Edinburgh silver award. The group traversed 30 kilometres over three days on the rugged Elk River Trail in Strathcona Provincial Park. A highlight of the trip was ascending to the glacier that sits in the shadow of Colonel Foster mountain.
Although the Duke of Edinburgh Awards program is separate from Air Cadets, both are focused on assisting youth discover their talents, build skills and learn teamwork. Seeing how successful they were for this son and daughter, Ken became more involved.
“I responded to a request for volunteers at the Duke of Edinburgh Leadership Camp in Manitoba last summer from August 23 to 31. Because of my experience, certifications and training, I was selected to be the first aid coordinator and teach leadership. I was responsible for eight participants and assigned to two rooms.”
At the camp, participants explored LEAD (Leadership, Experience, Adventure, Development) through team-building games, swimming, kayaking, archery, biking, etc.
Looking back on a year of great experiences, another favourite was taking a toddler on a flight for his third birthday. “His mom had emailed the Nanaimo Flying Club asking if he could see the planes close up. I couldn’t resist taking him and his mom up for a quick fight in my plane. I have completed hundreds of introductory flights through cadets and I always do the same flight—it’s long enough to feel like you went flying, but short enough to make sure no one gets air sick.”
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