Awards honouring athletics, grades, and volunteering handed out by Langley Township

Walnut Grove’s Prabhasha Wickramarachchi earned Pete Swensson Outstanding Community Youth Award

An individual who helped shine the national sports spotlight on the Township of Langley, people who promote sustainable agriculture, and a top student committed to humanitarian causes have been honoured for their exceptional volunteer efforts.

Each spring, the Township recognizes volunteers during a celebration, which includes the presentation of the Eric Flowerdew Volunteer Award, the John and Muriel Arnason Award, and the Pete Swensson Outstanding Community Youth Award.

While this year’s event was cancelled due to COVID-19, the recipients were recently presented with their awards by Township of Langley Mayor Jack Froese in small, socially distanced ceremonies.

“Volunteers play such an important role in our community,” said Froese. “Everything they do and the time and expertise they generously give has a huge impact on everyone around them. Volunteers truly make a difference and it is our honour to recognize them and let them know how much they are appreciated.”

Eric Flowerdew Volunteer Award

Named after a former parks and recreation commissioner, school trustee, and municipal councillor – the Eric Flowerdew Volunteer Award recognizes an individual who promotes an active living lifestyle that enhances Langley’s quality of life and community spirit through creative, cultural, physical, or social pursuits.

The 2019 Flowerdew Award was presented to Nigel Easton.

For 17 years, Easton was manager of the Langley Curling Centre and served on the board of directors for Curl BC.

He helped bring several high-profile events to Langley Township, including the 2020 New Holland Canadian Junior Curling Championships.

Working with the Township, the curling club, and volunteers – he helped ready the George Preston Community Centre for the national event and ensure its success earlier this year.

Easton has helped individuals in wheelchairs get the training they need to enjoy curling and worked with the Township to build an access ramp at George Preston.

He is also active with the Nicomekl enhancement society.

As treasurer, Easton applied for government grants and reached out to the Pacific salmon foundation, putting the society in a profitable position and allowing it to improve salmon habitat.

John and Muriel Arnason Award

The John and Muriel Arnason Award is named after former Township of Langley councillor and freewoman Muriel Arnason and her husband John.

It is given to two people who volunteer together to make the Township a better place.

The 2019 Award was presented to Carol Paulson and Dave Melnychuk.

As founding directors of the Langley sustainable agriculture foundation – who serve as secretary and president – the pair have been helping ensure farmers and food production thrive into the future since the volunteer-run organization was created in 2011.

READ MORE: Young violinist and pianists lauded by Langley Community Music School

As a team, they educate farmers and the public through workshops, educational materials, and community events, and recently launched the new Langley learning farm.

They are the driving force behind the ecological services initiative, which was undertaken with the Township to reward farmers for voluntarily maintaining ecologically sensitive areas on their land.

Melnychuk has served on the Township’s agricultural advisory committee and Paulson has been a member of the economic development and the recreation, culture, and parks advisory committees.

Also nominated for the Arnason Award were Langley animal protection society volunteers Karen and Rob Hunt.

Pete Swensson Outstanding Community Youth Award

Presented to a student in Grade 11 or 12 in recognition of their athletic achievement, academic accomplishment, leadership, and commitment to the community, the Pete Swensson Outstanding Community Youth Award is named after the Township’s first recreation director, an internationally recognized athlete, photographer, and originator of the Langley Walk.

Winner of the 2019 – 2020 Award was Prabhasha Wickramaarachchi.

With an average of 97 per cent, Wickramaarachchi is one of the top graduating students at Walnut Grove Secondary, having received outstanding academic awards for pre-AP biology, pre-calculus, and French.

She was the Concours D’art Oratoire French Speech Champion for Langley in both 2015 and 2018 and topped her school’s chemistry contest.

A member of the Walnut Grove track and field team who trains with universal athletics club, she has excelled in local, provincial, and national competitions.

Wickramaarachchi is the Fraser Valley champion for 400 metres, a member of the junior girls 4 x 100 provincial championship team, and won gold at the BC Summer Games.

In 2019, she placed sixth in Canada for U18 Women’s 400 metre hurdles, in her rookie year in the event.

Wickramaarachchi has committed over 400 hours to her school’s humanitarian club, is part of Langley’s youth homelessness initiative, serves with the Starfish Backpack program and ocean research team, and raises funds for several causes.

As well, she is the founder of operation safety, health, and education – which purchases supplies for a girls’ orphanage in Sri Lanka.

Nominees for the Pete Swensson Outstanding Community Youth Award included:

• Alex Sol – Langley Fundamental Middle and Secondary School

• Brooke Balharry – Langley Secondary School

• Kari Stam – Credo Christian High School

• Lexi Kowalewski – Aldergrove Community Secondary School

• Makenna Gardner – Langley Christian School

• Shannon Kao – R.E. Mountain Secondary School

The Swensson Award winner received a $750 scholarship and the Flowerdew and Arnason Award recipients received $750 to contribute to a recognized charity or society of their choice.

“Congratulations to this year’s recipients and thank you to the hundreds of hard-working volunteers whose contributions help make the Township of Langley such a wonderful place,” Froese said.

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Is there more to this story?

Email: ryan.uytdewilligen@langleyadvancetimes.com

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