Pat Steinke's unrelenting commitment to the fight against cancer, and her desire to involve young people in that fight, has earned her a provincial award.
Steinke was presented with a provincial Lieutenant Governor's Award of Distinction from the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) at the CCS's provincial convention earlier this month. Steinke spent two years as the co-chair of Estevan's Relay for Life, and has been a fixture on the local relay's steering committee.
She also spearheads the relay's Team ECS (Estevan Comprehensive School) – a group of young people at ECS who support the relay, and help organize the Mini Relay for Life, which is a condensed relay tailor-made for a school.
“Saskatchewan was the first place to have successful miniature, school-based relays,” said Steinke.
And Estevan was the first community in the province to have a successful mini relay, she said. Steinke attributed the success of the local mini relays to Team ECS.
“We started off … going up to the high school, looking for students that wanted to be involved in mentoring younger students,” said Steinke. “After I gathered five students, we went to Oxbow, Lampman, Midale and Stoughton, and talked about the relay.”
One Team ECS member wondered why they weren't going to the elementary schools in Estevan
The first mini relay was held at Pleasantdale School in 2009. Since then, four other elementary schools in Estevan have hosted a mini relay.
This year's mini relay will be May 30 at the Bienfait Weldon School.
“We use all the talent at the school,” said Steinke. “We spend days teaching awareness in sun safety, smoking, physical activity and healthy activity. And then on the last day, we hold the mini relay.”
Team ECS helped write the pamphlet that is distributed to anyone in Canada who wants to host a mini Relay, Steinke said. They explain what worked for them, and what they would have done differently.
Steinke said the Relay for Life is a gift from the CCS, because it allows volunteers like Team ECS to go into the schools, speak to the students, and show them what they can do for their community.
Young people are terrific problem solvers with great energy, she said, and they need to be shown and taught that they can be leaders.
“Once we give them a taste of volunteering, there's no stopping anybody,” said Steinke. “Once you've had a taste, and felt the joy of giving, you're hooked for life.”
Young people who have been part of Team ECS and the mini relay have been invited to speak at cancer summits and conventions, so that they can explain the impact of volunteering on their lives. Kalina Barlow, who is a Team ECS alumni and the co-chair of Estevan's Relay for Life committee in 2010, was part of the committee that organized the first Relay for Life at the University of Saskatchewan.
“They've gone on to make their mark, and that was brought up at the awards supper, is how Team ECS have pretty well all continued to volunteer, wherever they've gone,” said Steinke.
Steinke said the Lieutenant Governor's Award has given her another opportunity to speak about the commitment of young people to the Relay for Life, and a chance to promote what young people can do.