Public invited to submit feedback on short-listed options for Rapid Transit Project

5 12 2008

Kara Bertrand
Staff Reporter, Community News South
Published: July 2, 2008

Waterloo Region’s Rapid Transit Project Team has short-listed rapid transit routes connecting Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo. Public meetings were held in June to gather input from residents in deciding which alternative is best for the region.
The region is collecting feedback until July 11.

A light rail transit (LRT) system and a bus rapid transit (BRT) system are both being considered for the region.

The LRT would run roughly from Water St. and Ainslie St. in Cambridge to King St. and Northfield Dr. in Waterloo, running through downtown Kitchener and uptown Waterloo.

The BRT would be similar except that it would travel the 401 from Hespeler to Highway 8. Both systems would connect to ‘Inter-Regional Bus Service’ as well as to existing Grand River Transit routes to allow all members of the region to participate in the system.

Emily Schmidt, from the consultant firm hired by the region, EarthTech, said a priority of the initiative is to make it as fast as possible to get to any location.

A timeline is still being decided, however construction starts are not anticipated for a few more years. Difficulties that exist for developing rapid transit are narrow roads, buildings close to the street, on-street parking and buried utilities. These issues are being taken into account with the alternative routes being considered.

Similar transit initiatives are in Bremen, Germany, Long Beach, California, Ottawa, Montpellier, France, Houston, Texas, and Portland, Oregon.

More information and comment forms are available by calling 519-575-4757 ext. 3242 or at

Your Neighbourhood Credit Union raising funds to support Guide Dogs

5 12 2008

Kara Bertrand
Staff Reporter, Community News East
Published: July 2, 2008

A 10-week old black Labrador Retriever puppy named Pina will soon begin training with Dog Guides, primed to change the life of her future owner.

“It’s amazing to think when looking at her that she’s got such an incredible future,” said Kate Neff, Manager, Marketing and Community Relations for Your Neighbourhood Credit Union (YNCU).

YNCU held their second annual barbeque in support of Dog Guides on June 6, the first of many events in the hope of fundraising $25,000 to cover Pina’s care. Last year, the company raised $15,000 for a yellow lab named Dreyfus who was given to an elderly woman, Thea, in Edmonton.

Neff was almost brought to tears when she told of the message she received from Thea. “She said, ‘my world was getting really, really small… Dreyfus has changed my life.’”

YNCU will sponsor the training of Pina until she graduates from the program and passes the medical, social and intellectual testing. Dog Guides trains dogs in programs such as Hearing Ear, Canine Vision or Special Skills. Its breeding facility for all of Canada is in Breslau, which Neff said was an even better way to ensure YNCU is supporting the community.

Pina will be fostered by Helen and Dave Kindy for a year to work on socialization before she will begin official training for Dog Guides.
“It was always something I wanted to do,” said Helen.

Jennifer Piccione, part of the puppy staff at Dog Guides, said a new program was added to train Seizure Response dogs and the organization also has breeding dogs to ensure their labs, and terriers are pure-bred.

She said Pina’s mother was one of their breeding dogs and her father is actually a guide in California. Piccione said dogs that enter the special skills program, which Dreyfus was entered into, need to be quite smart and be problem solvers. For example, they must be able to retrieve remotes and phones but also be strong enough to stabilize their partner in case of a fall.

Dog Guides is always in need of foster parents and donations. Visit their website for more information. YNCU is accepting donations at all 13 branches.

Community Spotlight: Jason Gingrich

5 12 2008

Volunteering is his favourite thing to do

Kara Bertrand
Staff Reporter, Community News South
Published: July 2, 2008

Jason Gingrich, 29, has been volunteering for 14 years. He’s built homes with Habitat for Humanity in Jamaica and Kansas, and been involved in the Mennonite Relief Sale and ‘Rock Revival Air Band Lip Sync.’ Most notably, Gingrich has dedicated countless hours to the J. Steckle Heritage Homestead and its haunted barn over the past 14 years.

On June 12, Gingrich was honoured with the Helping Hands award at the 2008 Volunteer Impact Awards. He said he was surprised at winning.

“I thought I might have a chance, but seeing the other nominees and the age of everybody else, I thought, ‘I won’t come anywhere close to that,’” he said. “They’ve had so many more years to volunteer.”
An electrician by trade, Gingrich uses his expertise to make the haunted barn ‘high-tech.’

“I love the final product of the people that are going through it and how much they love it,” said Gingrich. “That’s what makes the whole year of working on it worth it.”

All the money raised at the haunted barn goes to help out the Steckle family.

“I think it’s important that it goes to them because they’ve been hosting it for so long,” he said. “It’s a great property in what they do with the kids.”

Gingrich went to Jamaica twice and said he would love to go back to build another house with Habitat for Humanity, but can’t afford the expense for the trip.

“It’s important for the habitat build for the families,” he said. “It’s a great thing to help them out – even if it’s far away like Jamaica.”

Gingrich now does the Mennonite Relief Sale mostly as a memorial to his father. There, he helps out making over 2,000 pancakes.

“That’s always fun because we just get family and friends to help out with it,” he said.

Gingrich said the biggest problem with committing so much of his time to volunteering in the community is “lack of pay and not being at work when doing the event.” With the haunted barn, he said he sometimes has problems making sure volunteers can commit to the event. He sometimes has to put in his own money into fundraising in order to make ends meet.

“I wish I had the money where I could do this all the time,” he said. “I would volunteer constantly.”

It’s clear that volunteering is Gingrich’s favourite thing to do and something he doesn’t see himself stopping anytime soon.

For more information on the J. Steckle Heritage Homestead haunted barn happening again this upcoming fall, see their website at

Water at Doon Heritage Crossroads

5 12 2008

Kara Bertrand
Staff Reporter, Community News South
Published: June 4, 2008

Water conservation was on everyone’s mind at Doon Heritage Crossroads on May 31 at the third annual Family Water Festival. The threat of thunderstorms didn’t hold back the 300 to 500 people expected to attend this year’s free event.

Families across Waterloo region came to learn about water conservation through several hands-on activities, including relay races, well demonstrations and booth exhibits.

Children attended the previous week’s Children’s Groundwater Festival which culminated in the Family Water Festival on the Saturday.

Susan Reid, festival co-ordinator for the Waterloo-Wellington Children’s Groundwater Festival, said approximately 4,000 students attended the festival during the week.

“They’re our next generation,” said Reid. “We’re getting them to be more aware and empower them to make simple changes.”

These changes, Reid said, are as simple as turning off the water when brushing your teeth, something children can surely handle.

The five day Groundwater Festival is in its 13th year in the region, teaching more than 47,000 children since its beginning in 1996. It was one of 22 festivals taking place throughout the province this year.

Reid said the festival relies on the involvement of 500 dedicated volunteers each year, many of whom are from area high schools.

The festival is sure to stay a constant in the area as we continue to try to understand climate change and water conservation. And considering the average Canadian household uses 1,400 litres of water each day, it seems there is always room for improvement.

Community Spotlight: Tanner Pearson

5 12 2008

Forest Heights student drafted by Barrie Colts

Kara Bertrand
Staff Reporter, Community News West
Published: June 4, 2008

Every young hockey player wishes to play in the NHL one day and for Ontario players, the OHL is the first big step. For Forest Heights resident, 15-year-old Tanner Pearson, the dream is inches away. At the beginning of May, he was drafted to the Barrie Colts. The draft was posted online and players and parents across Ontario waited anxiously to see their name on the screen.

“The day was pretty long, just sitting there waiting for my name to come up,” Pearson said. “I got pretty anxious and then it came up and the phone wouldn’t stop ringing.” He said he didn’t even see his name in the first place and was scared by his parents’ reaction on a different computer.

Pearson’s OHL dreams were in jeopardy this year after breaking his wrist right before playoffs on his Minor Midget AAA team, the Kitchener Junior Rangers.

“I think the broken wrist was a concern of his; would it affect his draft year or not,” said Pearson’s mother, Kim. “So when he got the letter that was he on the draft list, I think he was very happy just to be sure that he was that far.”

Pearson started playing organized hockey at the age of four and his first memories of playing were from the time he was six.

“I played a year up and I was in a tournament in New Hamburg and I was sick with pneumonia,” he said. “I didn’t want to stay home, I wanted to play.”

“He was fighting us tooth and nail,” said Kim.

She and Pearson’s father, Tim, said he never had to be forced to play, and always put 110 per cent into every game and practice.

“He’s been fortunate enough throughout his hockey here in Kitchener to be called up quite often to play with the older kids and it’s something that continued and helped his game, also pushed him a bit harder,” she said.

Pearson wasn’t the only player from his team who was drafted. His teammate, Derek Schoenmakers, was drafted to the St. Michaels Majors.

“Seeing one of Tanner’s team-mates that he’s played hockey with in Kitchener for nine years also be selected, I thought was great,” said Tim. “We counted up this morning and there were 16 kids that Tanner’s been on a team with throughout his time playing AAA hockey that were selected in the draft.”

Both boys will join their teams for rookie camp, from which up to four players from their age group will be chosen to play with the team next year. Both boys were chosen in the 14th round of picks.
Schoenmakers was drafted about 5 minutes after Pearson. The Schoenmakers’ power went out during the draft and had no way of knowing of the results. They were literally in the dark until a family friend called to tell Derek he was picked. The two friends text messaged back and forth when each was drafted and as Derek said, “it was a unique way to find out” about his draft.

Pearson said his father has been instrumental in his hockey journey.

“He always made me push hard to be the best player I can be,” he said. “He always says I’m going to the gym, working on my shot. Sometimes I complain but it’s all for the better.”

The Pearsons said they have been fortunate to have made so many connections and friends within the hockey community and they look forward to watching Tanner’s friends progress in their hockey careers.

It’s clear just how proud his parents are of Tanner.

“It’s been his dream, so we’re just really excited for him,” said Kim. “It’s the next level he’s been working towards. I think what’s gotten him this far is his passion for the game.”