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Town of Barrhead hopes to win $100,000 from ParticipACTION a second time

Municipality hopes to become Canada's Most Active Community on its way to $100,000
Town of Barrhead Mayor Dave McKenzie and recreation coordinator Baukje Strawson hope residents will take advantage of the communities recreational amenities in June as the municipality competes in ParticipACTION Community Challenge.

BARRHEAD - In 2014, Barrhead was crowned the Kraft Celebration Tour winner, taking home the $75,000 grand prize for the curling club.

The Town of Barrhead hopes that lightning will strike again, except this time, they hope to win the ParticipACTION Community Challenge as Canada's Most Active Community, earning the municipality $100,000.

But to do that, they will need the community's help.

In addition to the top prize, smaller provincial prizes are also available. Alberta's is $15,000.

ParticipACTION is a not-for-profit society that started in 1971. Its goal is to inspire and support Canadians' efforts to make activity part of everyday life.

The challenge begins June 1, National Health and Fitness Day, and lasts the entire month.

Director of projects and stakeholder relations Diana Dampier said they started the Community Challenge, which is going into its fifth year, in 2019, as a public engagement initiative to encourage everyone to become active. In 2020, ParticipACTION was forced to cancel the Community Challenge due to the pandemic, and in 2021, a hybrid event was held. 

"We really see it as a way to engage communities, organizations and individuals to get active, learn what is available in their communities and look for ways to reduce barriers for underserved groups and populations and use it as a platform to celebrate physical activity," Dampier said.

She added that becoming Canada's Most Active Community will not be easy, noting that well over a thousand communities nationwide, including over 200 communities from Alberta, including the County of Barrhead, are vying for the top prize.

At the end of the challenge, ParticipACTION will narrow down the field to the Top 50 communities.

The finalists will be required to answer five questions to make their case for why they deserve to be named Canada's Most Active Community.

Among the questions are: Why does the community deserve the title? Moreover, what has the community done to help people be more active where they live, work and play? What did the community do to reduce barriers to participation in physical activity and sport among people who experience inequities, such as low-income populations, persons with disabilities, newcomers to Canada, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Intersex, Asexual, Two-spirit and Indigenous as well as racialized communities.

Historically, Dampier said Alberta communities have done very well, noting Red Deer won the title in 2022.

She added that Barrhead's winning the Kraft Celebration Tour shows that the municipality's residents know how to rally and support their community.

"I am sure that [the Town of Barrhead] will put up a good fight and stands a good chance of being one of Alberta's five finalists," Dampier said.

Town of Barrhead recreation coordinator Baukje Strawson said the municipality learned about the competition when she started researching potential grant funding opportunities through ParticipACTION. She added that the municipality applied and received a $1,000 grant.

The recreation department used the funds to make one of the rooms in the Agrena more accessible for fitness classes.

As part of the community's application, the municipality was automatically entered into the contest.

"If we are going to be in it, we might as well try to win it," Strawson said, adding she believes the Town of Barrhead has as good of a chance as anyone. "We are a very active community."

However, she admitted that sometimes people only realize how active they are once they start tracking their activity, which is easy to do with the proliferation of smartwatches, pedometers, and cellphone apps.

Mayor Dave McKenzie agreed, saying people don't realize how physically active they are.

"We are moving all the time," he said.

Both Strawson and McKenzie referenced many everyday activities, from walking their dogs to playing with their kids to grocery shopping that people do.

"It all adds up," Strawson said.

To help the town reach its goal, Strawson asks residents to visit the ParticipACTION website (, click the programs tab, and register as individuals or organizations, noting the website keeps track of people's communities through postal codes.

She added she hopes to leverage the activities people are already doing as part of organizations or teams.

"Just look at how many baseball teams there are in Barrhead," Strawson said.

She said the recreation department will be hosting several free or low-cost fitness events in June, many of which are still in the planning phase. She recommended that residents check the town's website and the Barrhead Parks and Recreation Facebook page for the latest updates.

As for what the community would do with the prize money, McKenzie said that unlike the Kraft Celebration Tour, which had the purpose baked into the application, the municipality would have some flexibility regarding what the money would go towards in this case.

According to ParticipACTION's website, money from the challenge can go towards capital builds, such as playgrounds, trails, and the renovation of existing facilities, new or existing programs that serve inactive or equity-denied groups, purchase of equipment and supplies to enhance physical activity programs, developing a physical activity strategy along with its implementation, and strengthening the capacity of organizations that deliver physical activity and sport.

"Our recreation department is always futuristic," McKenzie said. "A lot of times, what they would like to see or provide residents is held back because of a lack of funding. But when those funds become available, I am always so pleased with what they come up with."

He added one of the things the municipality hopes to do is create an atmosphere of active transportation.

"To do that, we need features that make it easy so that people can ride a bike or walk," McKenzie said. "We have benches to rest throughout the community.

More recently, he pointed to the bike racks that the municipality has installed bicycle racks, which look a bit like a leaf throughout the community.

If, for some reason, the Town of Barrhead doesn't win the big prize, or even if it does, Strawson said she plans to continue registering the municipality in the ParticipACTION Community Challenge to get more money and keep residents active.

Barry Kerton,

Barry Kerton

About the Author: Barry Kerton

Barry Kerton is the managing editor of the Barrhead Leader, joining the paper in 2014. He covers news, municipal politics and sports.
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