Floyd Verge has a big laugh and an even bigger heart.
The lifetime valley resident is constantly volunteering in the community, from coaching sports, driving cancer patients to appointments, and helping fundraise for local families who need a helping hand.
Floyd and his family and friends’ best-known endeavor is the Verge for Youth Foundation, which donates money and equipment to youth and families going through ongoing medical treatment.
Since the foundation began 20 years ago, it has raised and distributed $350,000 to local families.
One of Floyd’s most memorable donations went to a 13-year-old boy from Cranbrook who was fighting cancer. After the foundation gave the boy $2,000, he asked, “Mr. Verge, is it OK if I give half of this to another boy who just got diagnosed?”
Moments like those are what inspires Floyd to keep giving, he said.
Floyd modestly calls himself “just the go-to guy,” saying the foundation wouldn’t run without the help of dedicated volunteers who make it happen.
“It’s everybody’s charity. When you have the opportunity to assist people, you just do it; whatever is asked, whenever you can do it.”
Floyd’s unassuming attitude is one of the reasons he said he was caught off guard when he was recently asked to be a medal bearer during the Radium leg of the Rick Hansen Relay on April 13th.
“It just totally blew my socks off. It’s a heck of an honour and its very humbling. We just do what we do; we don’t do things to get recognition.”
Floyd will be carrying the medal alongside Radium’s Kingston Peters.
“To be honest, it got me a little emotional when I found out,” Floyd admitted.
The outgoing go-getter admits he was not always so community-minded.
When he was 15 years old, Floyd lost part of his right leg in a piece of equipment at a Christmas tree farm. Doctors saved part of his leg, but a portion needed to be amputated and he was fitted with a prosthesis.
An avid sportsman at the time, Floyd struggled with not being able to play his favourite sports. He went through a tough period, but eventually found what he loves doing: helping other people.
Since then he has never looked back, and does as much as he can to pitch in.
“To me, I’m not disabled because I can get around,” he said. “I can still help people, and volunteering is just part of my life now,” he said.
“You know, things happen. To me, you should always be on the positive side.”
To be recognized alongside the likes of Rick Hansen is beyond imagination, Floyd said.
“It’s amazing that an individual like Rick Hansen just takes the bull by the horns and does what he does. Anything people can do that can enlighten the world about different disabilities, the better the world will be.”
Everyone has the ability to volunteer, Floyd said.
“It doesn’t matter what you do; we can all do what we can. People can always make the time to help out.”
Floyd lives in Radium with his wife, Shelan. They have two children, Doriena Hassett and Shayne Hassett.
By Kristian Rasmussen
Norm Gagatek playfully chases after his pet chihuahua in the living room of his Invermere home.
“I know you’re chasing Hammie. You’ve been stirring the pot today. You’ve got mischief in you!” jokes his wife, Kimberley Harris.
The 42-year-old father of two has a lot to be excited about. Once a volunteer firefighter, Norm suffered a stroke and resulting brain injury in 2008. The road to recovery has required him to relearn how to speak and, in the past year, how to walk.
On April 13th his fight for recovery will pay off, when he walks his 250-metre leg of the Rick Hansen 25th Anniversary Relay in Invermere.
Norm has been identified as a difference maker in the community, and has been given the honour of carrying Rick Hansen’s medal for a portion of the race.
“For me it will be a milestone. I will finally get more recognition for my disability,” Norm said.
“I think I was more excited about it than he was,” Kimberley added. “One of the people in the office phoned us. I said he will be doing it, as a matter of fact, he’ll be walking it. Norm just gave me this look of ‘What are you getting me in to?’”
Building up to walking in the relay was an extremely difficult task for the firefighter, but it was born out of love.
“He started walking at Christmas time in 2010. That was my Christmas present,” Kimberley said. “It was quite painful at first — it still is to a certain point — but it isn’t as hard for him as it used to be.”
To make things tougher, while learning to walk he battled pneumonia, C.Difficile and debilitating bone infections.
With so many changes to his mobility and access to the community, Norm has faced a whole new set of challenges living in Invermere.
Although the community is learning how to better accommodate people with disabilities, Kim said her family is often frustrated with people parked blocking access ramps, or at times a lack of snow removal downtown.
“He has been in the house all winter because he can’t get out. He can’t get into a lot of the stores because there are lips or a step up,” Kim said.
Despite the tough winter conditions and lack of access to certain parts of town, the family has never considered leaving the area.
“I think it was a no-brainer. He was born and raised here. There is no reason why people in this community should have to move to Kelowna, Calgary, or Cranbrook because they are now disabled. He is 43 next week. Why should he have to leave his home of 43 years to get proper care, assistance, and access?” questioned Mrs. Harris.
The other issue facing brain injury victims is the lack of access to patient-specific treatment.
“They [private care facilities] are also for people where Norm is now. They are not for people like Norm was before, lying in a hospital bed, being labelled a ‘bed blocker,’” Kimberley said.
“I think what we need to look at is getting, first of all, an influx of funding into local brain injury societies who are ground zero for helping people like Norm.”