Pair of Langley women in running for YWCA award

Cheryl Young and Mary Reeves among nominees for Women of Distinction awards to be handed out on June 8 in Vancouver

Two Langley women have been nominated for a YWCA Women of Distinction award.

Cheryl Young, founder of the Fibromyalgia Well Spring Foundation and Mary Reeves, executive director of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Langley are among 87 women from across Metro Vancouver who are being recognized for their contributions to their respective communities.

The 33rd annual YWCA Women of Distinction awards gala evening takes place on Wednesday, June 8 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Originally, Young was not scheduled to be in town to receive the award, should she be selected.

Young is leading the groundbreaking walk to Banff — a 40-day and 40-night trek from Langley to Banff to raise awareness about Fibromyalgia and other invisible illnesses.

This walk begins on May 24 at the Fibromyalgia thrift store in Langley City and passes through Aldergrove, Abbotsford on the way to Manning Park and beyond, ending in Banff.

“I’m very honoured to be nominated,” said Young. “We talked it over and decided it was important for me to be at the YWCA awards, so I’ve made arrangements for me to walk from Langley to Chilliwack, (from) where I will drive to the awards banquet,” said Young.

Once it is over she will catch up to the rest of the walkers, who will likely be in Penticton.

In 2006, Young founded the Fibromyalgia Well Spring Foundation, the first Canadian charity specifically designed to help individuals suffering from Fibromyalgia.

In 2009, the office and drop-in centre moved from Young’s kitchen table to the foundation’s thrift shop in the City of Langley.

Young moderates four local support groups and manages Facebook pages and groups, which educate the community about the invisible disease.

She has previously received the Arthritis Society Mary Pack Award and was a finalist for the Township’s Eric Flowerdew award for volunteerism.

As someone who has had Fibromyalgia all her life, she expects to have bad days and good days on the road.

As part of the “Just One More Step” awareness walk, Young will be walking 1,100 km.

There are 17 walkers committed to make the whole trek, with many joining in from their respective towns, she said.

“We have walkers with chronic fatigue syndrome, even rheumatoid arthritis, Lyme disease, IBS, MS and depression to name a few,” she said. “It’s a really cool group of people, the team is wonderful.”

The other Langley nominee for the Women of Distinction awards has worked hard to help young people reach their full potential.

Mary Reeves, Executive Director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Langley (BBBSL), has helped grow Big Brothers through her nine years at the helm of the agency.

Under Reeves’ leadership, BBBSL has risen to the top 10 per cent of BBBS member agencies, fulfilling its mission to provide young people with the highest quality, volunteer-based mentorship programs.

“It’s a real honour to be nominated, but I definitely didn’t get here on my own. This is a real team effort,” said Reeves about the BBBSL organization.

“By the end of 2016, there will be 400 children served in Langley this year,” Reeves said.

“Our programs are all about prevention. When we are in the schools doing programs there, it is teachers who have identified children at risk.

“We are trying to get to kids before they spiral down the wrong path. I always look to the saying, ‘It is easier to support a child than fix an adult,” said Reeves.

Big Brothers Big Sisters offers three main programs. One is the traditional one-to-one matches between Bigs and Littles.

There is also an in-school mentoring program, which requires volunteers to spend one hour a week in an elementary school environment with their match. The in-school program, includes both an inter-generational aspect and teen mentors.

“We have 60 to 70 teens this year, which is just awesome,” Reeves said. “The teens are learning social responsibility and the kids have a mentor to look up to and learn from.”

There is also an after-school group program, which has been hugely successful in its three years of existence, thanks to funding from United Way.

Reeves said the demand for BBBSL’s services has grown recently in Langley.

She is proud that her agency can offer all its programs because it has created sustainable funding.

“We are so fortunate in Langley to have such community support,” she said. There are several fundraisers each year, including a golf tournament and bowling.

Reeves’ vision has led BBBSL to build relationships and formalize partnerships with mayors and councils, MPs, businesses, public service organizations and schools.

While sitting on the Greater Langley Chamber of Commerce’s board of directors, she initiated its first non-profit committee, where she connected local organizations and led educational workshops.

Prior to working in Langley, she  served as mayor of Abbotsford.

“I have been fortunate in my life that I have been in a position of influence to make a difference,” she said.

“That feels good.”