It was a pretty great weekend to be in Bella Coola. Five very special and inspiring guests spent three days in the community relaying a positive message and having fun with the youth.
BC Lions players JR LaRose, Rolly Lumbala, and Will Loftus arrived in Bella Coola on Thursday afternoon and the three CFL stars spent the following day delivering workshops to youth at both SAMS and Acwsalcta Schools. The talks focused around ending violence, reaching your potential, and being the best person you can be.
LaRose is passionate about many things and carries within him an infectious energy and delivers his story with raw honesty. He credits his successes to his own choices, and takes full responsibility for his own actions.
“It’s up to you, it’s about the choices you make,” LaRose told the students. “I had a dream, I know you do too, and it’s totally possible to make that dream come true.”
Staff and students were thrilled with the visit, commenting on how relatable and inspiring the three players were. “They spoke about making the right choices, not just wanting but also working, having a dream, and stepping over that line to dare to be great,” said SAMS Principal Jeremy Baillie. “It was an incredible message from JR Larose, Rolly Lumbala and Will Loftus.”
The fun continued with a Cultural Night at Nuxalk Hall featuring the younger Nuxalk Singers and Dancers, and a Fun Ball tournament in memory of Renee Tallio the following afternoon that left everyone laughing and having a great time.
Not only did the teams have to play a very interesting version of basketball; they also had to partake in a whole lot of funny antics in between that kept the whole crowd engaged and involved the entire day.
That evening the community gathered at Lobelco Hall for an evening of speeches, music, and a whole lot of laughter.
“I came here thinking I was going to give you guys a message but it turned it was the other way around,” said Lumbala. “Everyone here has been so welcoming, and to see your culture was amazing and beautiful. It’s been such an experience to visit Bella Coola and I can’t wait to come back.”
Award-winning Cree country artist Shane Yellowbird was on hand to share his story, a first for the artist, who freely admitted that speaking in front of a crowd is terrifying for him.
Having grown up with a debilitating stutter, Yellowbird’s speech therapist encouraged him to sing past it, and that’s what got him into music.
“I can sing in front of thousands of people but speaking is very hard for me,” Yellowbird shared with the crowd. “I was a shy kid, I was bullied because of my speech impediment and I really never thought I would be on stage because of it, but here I am.”
The evening closed with a special performance by Inez Jasper. A member of the Sto:lo First Nation, Jasper is an award-winning artist, registered nurse, motivational speaker and mother of two. She has already made a presence in the community in the past few months, coming in as a youth worker and assisting the community in dealing with recent losses.
“We’re not only surviving but we are thriving, and we’re coming together all across Turtle Island,” Jasper told the crowd. “It’s time for us to stand up and be proud of who we are as First Nations people.”
An event like this doesn’t happen without the support of a huge number of community agencies and individuals. There are dozens of people to acknowledge, but some who stood out are Melinda Mack, the Nuxalk Nation Transition House, Vancouver Coastal Health (Carole Clark), Nuxalk Nation Chief and Council, Nuxalk Forestry Limited, the Bella Coola Music Festival, and Nuxalk Health and Wellness. Thanks again to everyone who made this possible by supporting our fundraising initiatives through donations of baked goods and items: the effort was much appreciated.