Enderby, British Columbia is a small city of 2,964 people situated where the Okanagan and Shuswap regions meet. Our little city is full of community-oriented people who have a passion for making Enderby thrive. So when we learned about ParticipACTION’s Community Better Challenge through emails and advertisements, Enderby and District Recreation Services saw an opportunity to challenge our citizens to sit less and move more, to try new things, and to celebrate what we already do to stay active.

The idea was we had to track and report more ‘physical activity minutes’ than any other community in our region, and ultimately in Canada. Easy, right?

We already had three factors working to our advantage: We live in an area with four distinct seasons, there were many opportunities to be active in our area’s natural playground, and local recreation and sport opportunities for all ages have grown enormously in the last five years. The Community Better challenge provided an exciting new tool to ignite the “move more” movement in our own front yard, and come together as a community for a very positive cause. 

How it all began

The ParticipACTION Community Better Challenge ran between May 31 and June 16, 2019. Our goal was to create local awareness and interest in the challenge from the very beginning – and start it with a BANG!

As a Fitness Instructor of almost 25 years, a BCRPA Registered Fitness Leader, and the Recreation Coordinator for Enderby and District Recreation Services, I was able to directly apply my knowledge about motivation, leadership and the many benefits of exercise to encourage and inspire our residents to participate in the Challenge. In a small community, I have learned the importance of not just offering what you think people should do, but listening to their needs, goals and desires, and creating programs and schedules that work for them, and that is the approach we took to build engagement in the Challenge.

Recreation Services collaborated with other fitness organizations, as well as the local schools to offer a full day of events for our May 31 “challenge kick off.” There were activities planned for all ages and abilities all day – from guided trail walks, fitness classes including Aqua-fit & Stretching in the Park, a paddleboard challenge, and most the popular, a flash mob at the Market. The local elementary students grades K to 6 even took part in a school-wide Dance PL3Y activity that promotes physical literacy through music, dance and play.

Throughout the two weeks of the challenge, we built on the elements that already existed within our community. Our Recreation Department reached out to many different organizations and programs to encourage them to get involved. The time of year was ideal, with youth and adult sports programs all in season including soccer, baseball, slow-pitch, lacrosse, and swimming. It was also the time of year that people were out gardening, walking, and biking. Most impressive was the engagement of Senior citizens!

The local schools got engaged through their physical education programs, as well as by hosting special events during the challenge to encourage even more active participation. Some of these included the foam fest-style obstacle course the high-school put on for the whole student body, and the week-long swim program at the outdoor pool that every student in the local elementary schools participated in.

Contest highlights

Almost instantly there was a drive to be even more active and accumulate those important active minutes that would put us on top. Now families were planning more activities to be active, neighbours were getting together to go for walks, community social groups were creating challenges, and even housework and gardening served a new purpose.

The competitive spirit of our citizens in Enderby came to fruition when, for example, our small outdoor pool broke their aqua-fit record with 31 participants, but overnight this class size became the new normal for the remainder of the summer! All of a sudden, we realized that our little City was in the top 10 in Canada only a few days into the race!

The excitement was contagious as we continued to see the community activity efforts accumulate. After not too long, we were being recognized on a national level as we climbed up to top 5.

Now the goal to win the challenge, which seemed fairly unattainable when we started, was within reach. Conversations were not just about winning, but how fantastic it felt to be active, how much fun it was to try new things, and just how much opportunity there was to “sit less and move more”.  This part – the awareness and engagement – was the most rewarding from my point of view.

Crossing the finish line

As the challenge period came to a close on June 16, we were #1 in our Region and #2 in Canada. There was a tremendous sense of pride and accomplishment throughout our community. However, there was still more work to be done.

The second part of the challenge required a written submission from the top five finishers in each region. This was our opportunity to prove why Enderby should be Canada’s Most Active Community. Recreation Services put the submission together using the stories, testimonies, and successes of Enderby that were both inspiring and heartwarming.

And, finally, on June 28, Enderby was crowned Canada’s Most Active Community! This prestigious title also came with $150,000 towards active initiatives in our community.

What does winning look like?

Winning this challenge has had a tremendously positive impact on Enderby. The awareness of the importance of being active and the diversity of ways in which individuals can be active has resulted in more interest in community sport and recreation programs overall. Our aquatic and recreation departments have seen an increase in registration and many new faces have joined because they tried something new during the challenge. I have personally witnessed a different attitude around being active in our community. There is less fear and hesitation, and more appreciation of the importance of making it fun, and being “Active for Life”.

A community celebrates

The title of Canada’s Most Active Community was celebrated on July 1 with a Float and City Center Flash mob as part of our Canada Day celebrations. And then on August 14, a full day of events were held, including welcoming the PartcipACTION team from Ontario who presented the $150,000 prize cheque to the District.

Enderby celebrated in their “Active in Enderby” style that day, with a high level of community spirit, showcasing fantastic events.

Reflecting back, our biggest success in being part of ParticipACTION’s Community Better Challenge has been the connection and relationships built within the community. Along with the obvious health benefits, another key success is seeing so many people overcome fear and stigma around being active. I personally supported a resident who struggles with obesity to remove her oxygen, on her request, and participate for the first time in a water fitness class. I watched a mom and her three children dance together in our Flash mob, and I supported a senior with a recent seizure diagnosis find the courage to work with our fitness staff to create a plan so she can continue to attend her Aqua-fit program.  I have observed citizens connect and encourage each other to hike the Enderby Cliffs, go for a walk along the River, and set goals or make plans to be more active.

Being a part of the ParticipACTION Community Better Challenge not only reminded our residents just how important and fun it is to be Active, it inspired the “Active in Enderby” movement! This is something we will continue to build on, and I am most certain the competitive spirit of the citizens will have them ready to defend the title in 2020.

About the Author:

Sheryl HaySheryl Hay is the Recreation Coordinator with Enderby & District Recreation Services. She is a wife and mother of 3, and is proud to say she has made her passion for fitness her career and has worked in Aquatics and Recreation for over 24 years. In addition to being a BCRPA Registered Fitness Leader, she conducts mental and physical training for athletes from within her own company, ProFormance Training. Sheryl can be reached at sheryl@enderbychamber.com.

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