Karen Freethy converses with Keith Adams, a Sunshine Club volunteer, at Echo Centre. ORLANDO DELANO PHOTO

VALLEY SENIORS: Karen Freethy dedicates her life to recreation

Alberni’s Echo Sunshine Club benefits from her knowledge, enthusiasm

BY ORLANDO DELANO

Special to the News

Karen Freethy has been associated with community recreation for many years in Port Alberni. After coming back from her post-secondary studies at the University of Victoria, where she obtained a degree in Recreation Leisure Services, she moved back to Port Alberni to pursue a career in recreation with the City of Port Alberni.

“Over the years, I have worked on programs for children, youth, adults and seniors. I have enjoyed working for each demographic,” says Freethy. “All age groups provide exciting opportunities and valuable community initiatives.”

In 2003 she started working with the Port Alberni Parks, Recreation and Heritage Department. She worked on children’s and youth programs for many years and then changed her focus by working on adult leisure programs for several years. Starting in the spring of 2012, after a brief retirement, she moved into working on fitness and seniors’ programs, including work with the Echo Sunshine Club.

Freethy has coordinated a variety of special events throughout her employment with Parks and Recreation and Heritage, including: Our Town,“Sunshine Club Tea and Bazaar, Seniors Week, Sunshine Club Craft and Bake Sale, Sunshine Club Open House, February Family Fest, Family Literacy Day, Family Day Celebrations, First Night, Walk With Your Doc, Health and Wellness Fairs, Community Living Fun Fair, Easter Bunny Express, Starlight Movie Night and Halloween Swim.

The dynamic involvement of this well-known practitioner has contributed to place our community among the best in the province in the field of leisure and recreation. “I believe in the value of community events and believe they help create a healthy, vibrant community,” she says.

“I chose this line of work not only because I am an active person myself, but also someone who believes in the value of recreation and leisure as an integral part of the people’s well-being and something that helps the community.”

Freethy, who was born in Port Alberni and lived in Victoria for nine years, is currently the parks and recreation programmer, a position she has held for 16 years, and is responsible for the coordination of dozens of fitness and leisure related activities for seniors in our community. Under her coordination, the Sunshine Club offers a wide variety of programs for its members, from classes and sessions on pottery, painting, line dancing, tai-chi, ukulele, to card games, carpet bowling, quilting, Spanish lessons, among others. All these programs, along with special activities and seasonal programs are detailed in the monthly “Echo Sunshine Club Newsletter” she puts together along with members of the club. The newsletter is available free of charge to the membership and others in the community.

The Echo Sunshine Club is about to celebrate its 52nd anniversary since its foundation in 1967. It has more than 1000 members and over 300 volunteers.

“The Sunshine Club is an amazing organization for active adults and seniors! We offer a wide range of activities to include many interests. There is something for everyone,” she says.

In addition to her busy schedule, Freethy has pursued education and experience with the Community Emergency Response Program, specifically in the area of Emergency Social Services.This training helps to provide food, shelter and support for a Reception Centre and Group Lodging during an emergency. “This work is satisfying as it is wonderful to be able to help your community during a time of need.”

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