2021 Faces of Wellness program honourees
Grand prize winner
Steven Prudhomme was awarded an expense-paid trip to Banff, Alberta, for his heart-wrenching and inspiring testament to perseverance through a time of extreme hardship.
Steven’s struggle with addiction and substance abuse led him down a dark path many simply cannot find their way out of, but he did. His road to recovery included two and a half months at Alberta Hospital, a year at an addiction treatment centre and two more years in a post-treatment facility.
During this time, he became involved in the sober community and began volunteering—eventually becoming a board member of a sober organization and helping to guide other men through their early recovery days. He was encouraged by a director at the post-treatment home to become a social worker, and so, at the age of 35, he enrolled at MacEwan University and recently completed his social work program with a placement to follow.
Today, Steven is committed to helping others discover live beyond addiction, working with both the Boyle McCauley Health Centre and e4c to support vulnerable Albertans.
“I went from this cookie cutter perfect kid to an image of a character you’d only see in the movies. After the hospital I went into an addiction treatment centre with the idea that I would play along and then I’d be free and I’d go back to what I knew. Well, I was wrong.”
Payden Vair was in a life-threatening lawn mowing accident in 2018 at the age of 19, which took one leg plus a part of her other foot. She was an athlete at the time on a soccer scholarship, and though this life-changing injury changed everything for Payden, her commitment to sport and her athleticism never faltered.
An amputee of three years now, Payden continues to smile and is always trying to live her best life.
Since her injury, Payden has gone on to do amazing things, including being a Paralympic athlete for sitting volleyball. She feels the reason she has thrived is because of her lifestyle of healthy eating and regular exercise. Without those, her recovery would not have been so successful.
Payden currently plays the attacker position for the Canadian women’s sitting volleyball team. In February 2020, she helped Canada secure a spot for the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo by winning gold at the World ParaVolley final Paralympic qualification tournament in Halifax. 1
“When people come into our business and see her and see the glow that comes from her face, people are in awe of how a young 23-year-old girl can still be so positive and happy about life. She has no regrets and has never looked back and only looks forward; anticipating what her life will bring.”
– Kristina Olsen, Payden’s colleague
When Candice Janzen’s first child was eight weeks old, she experienced Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), spending two weeks in the NICU before they were told she could be taken home. Sadly, due to the lack of oxygen caused by SIDS she was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy and cortical blindness. Candice was unable to go back to work after her maternity leave ended due to her daughter’s complete dependence and daily therapy to help her growth and development.
Candice’s daughter is now eight years old. She can walk using her walker, see lights, shadows and colours. She is funny, smart and incredibly beautiful. Candice says that her daughter has taught her more in her short life than she had learned in her lifetime prior to being a mother.
To support others who had gone through similar experiences, Candice began a non-profit called the Children’s Disability Support Network, which helps families with children who have disabilities to connect with resources, support and information.
Candice’s mission is to help as many parents be the biggest advocates for their children and for them to know that they’re not alone. Her next passion project is an inclusive, accessible and adapted indoor play park for all children with all abilities called I Can Play 2. This will feature specialized equipment (wheelchair swings, harnesses for extra support, ramps to different areas, lifts, electric adult sized change tables in the washrooms and more) alongside common play structures so peers, siblings and new friends call all play together in a safe, inclusive environment.
“I don’t want anyone else to feel alone or to struggle in the areas that I did, knowing it’s something that can be fixed by having one place to go where you can easily find what you’re looking for and things you didn’t even know you needed.”
Lorna Harrison is a senior who helps lead a hiking group for other seniors.
Lorna is living her best life and supporting the wellness of others by helping small groups of seniors come together to explore the mountains safely, hiking with groups for up to twice a week, year-round. Lorna and her groups of hikers enjoy the outdoors while keeping physically and socially active. The hikes range from easy to challenging and can be up to 20 kilometres in a day.
“I have been doing this for 11 years and thoroughly enjoy taking new people out to enjoy our beautiful back country.”
— Lorna Harrison
At close to 80 years of age, Bud Luchka was an energetic, active and outdoorsy individual. His friends and family believed him to be invincible as he hiked, skied, walked and biked; bringing anyone who wanted to tag along with him on his many adventures. Bud was an inspiration to others to stay active and partake in the many outdoor experiences he enjoys.
Alas, in January 2021, he awoke one morning to realize that he'd had a stroke, affecting the left side of his body and causing him to lose his ability to walk or use his left arm and hand. Bud had to go to a rehabilitation facility before he could return to his home. However, he never gave up on his dream to walk again and ride across Canada.
During his recovery, Bud researched and bought himself a tricycle which has been integral to his rehabilitation and mental well-being. It allowed him to get outdoors, explore his community and have a degree of independence. His family and friends are continually inspired by his resilience and refusal to let a stroke hold him back.
“Each day, I'm inspired by his drive to get up, do his exercises and not dwell on how things should be different. One day on a 40-kilometre bike ride to Johnson Canyon and back, a young gentleman stopped Bud and said, ‘You are my new idol! You are amazing! I don't have an excuse anymore!’ Bud has taught us that none of us do!”
—Genia Luchka, Bud’s wife
Natalie Van Duesen
Natalie Van Deusen was diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsion Disorder (OCD) while pregnant with her first child. Though the diagnosis came later in life, it was something she dealt with for years.
When particularly stressed, daily life can be hard for Natalie. Sometimes leaving the house feels impossible. Many people would have kept their struggles private, but Natalie is different.
Since her diagnosis, Natalie has spoken out about mental health and the struggles of OCD. She shares her story on social media, within the classroom where she works as a professor at the University of Alberta and in department meetings.
Natalie also fought for better mental health coverage from the Association of Academic Staff at the University of Alberta and became a mentor through the Alberta OCD Foundation.
Natalie’s dedication to ending the stigma of mental health and OCD has helped save the lives of other individuals who are struggling. Natalie will no doubt continue to save others through her selfless and tireless advocacy.
“Natalie chose not to hide her struggle and it quite literally saved my life. Like Natalie, I have dealt with OCD for my entire life. I recognized the signs but hid them out of shame. But when the pandemic hit, my symptoms began to take over my life and I was drowning. Having seen Natalie's posts on social media, I reached out to her. Because of her, I was able to get help right away, get a diagnosis and get proper medication.”
Chelsea Calverley has always put the needs of others first, volunteering for local, youth sports non-profits and helping family and friends. But it was always at the expense of her own needs.
Chelsea experienced abuse both as a child and later as an adult.
Over the last year and a half, she has fought to overcome multiple challenges on her path to restoring her health—not just physically, but emotionally and mentally. In 2019, she completed counseling for trauma and began introspection on how she could regain her health further.
She ended up leaving a long-term, toxic marriage and since May 2020, she lost 85 pounds through exercise, nutrition and learning how to practice self-care. Chelsea also returned to university with the goal of becoming a clinical psychologist.
Chelsea’s impact on the community and her circle has been larger than anticipated. She has inspired her family and friends to take their health seriously. She has also advocated for her son, who has a disability, to provide him with access to resources that will improve his quality of life.
“I want to use my experiences in life to be a supporter for others, in particular the LGBTQ+ community and those who may have a difficult time finding support in a non-judgmental setting. Even on the days when life feels overwhelming, I make mindful choices to get active, meditate and read. I encourage others to be authentic too.”
In September 2019, Samantha Stainer started a journey to health and recovery by adopting a healthier way of eating, designed for those with an addiction to food. In under two years, she lost over 150 pounds. She went from being sedentary to running six kilometres three to four days a week and going on intense, high-elevation hikes with her husband and regular bike rides with her kids.
In addition to supporting her own wellness journey, Samantha has mentored people from across the globe in healthy eating—from daily check ins, FaceTime encouragement calls, walks and heart-to-hearts with individuals on their own journey.
“It has been amazing to share this path not only with my family but friends and complete strangers I meet in online forums. It is a privilege to lead this healthy life with others. I have not arrived but always say that I am arriving every day. And I will continue to do this for the rest of my life.”
Over the course of the last six years, Jeremy Neufeld was diagnosed with heart failure (cardiomyopathy), chronic pain and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Although he quite often feels ill, he still gets up at 5 a.m. every day to work in the construction industry. Many co-workers will say that Jeremy works harder than anybody else on the job.
Despite his demanding work schedule, Jeremy strives to make time for self-care daily—socializing with friends, eating healthy, exercising and enjoying the outdoors with his beloved dogs. Jeremy also prioritizes his mental health by attending therapy on a regular basis.
In his experience, Jeremy has found that in the construction industry, therapy is not seen in a positive light. He has even faced mockery when talking about therapy, but Jeremy is committed to standing up to stigma against mental health at work by sharing the positives of therapy and the importance of taking care of one’s mental health with his co-workers. He believes everyone should have access to mental health resources and continues to be an advocate for this in his workplace.
“Jeremy Neufeld is a strong, hardworking, wellness-minded, caring and empathic role model in everything he does. He epitomizes what it means to be a face of wellness.”
—Jeremy Neufeld’s friend and colleague.
Dwayne Charles Yellowknee
August 29, 2021, was Dwayne Charles Yellowknee’s 18th year of sobriety. Dwayne has been helping those who battle addiction for the past 17 years.
Two years ago, Dwayne was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Instead of letting the diagnosis get him down, he became committed to hitting the gym and maintaining his sugar levels. Along the way, he’s encouraged others impacted by diabetes to join him.
As if Dwayne wasn’t dealing with enough already, in 2021 he contracted COVID-19, which later led to COVID pneumonia. Thankfully, thanks to his healthy lifestyle habits, Dwayne recovered and returned to the job he loves. To support others impacted either physically or mentally by the pandemic, Dwayne also started a COVID-19 support group via Zoom in hopes it would provide comfort and possible strategies for recovery.
Before she was 40, Cheryl Whitelaw was by all measures successful. She had a leadership role as a Dean in a college, the opportunity to influence and impact post-secondary education and was encouraged to prepare herself to step into an executive role as vice-president.
But Cheryl was also perpetually exhausted, battling a stiff and painful back and showing the classic signs of burnout. After losing her father, she silently battled depression and a concern that her genetic heritage of Multiple Sclerosis, which afflicted her mother and several other relatives, might be passed on to her given the ongoing levels of stress she faced. That was 13 years ago.
Since then, Cheryl changed her life entirely. She changed jobs and in 2013 began training Aikido at Abundant Peace Internal Martial Arts school—quickly falling in love with it. From 2013 to 2020, she trained with Sensei Brad Schultz as well as other top-notch Aikido teachers in North America. Her goal was to become a Being-in-Movement practitioner at the Columbus Centre for Movement Studies.
Cheryl realized her own experience of learning to care for herself through movement could be used to help others. She entered a four-year Feldenkrais practitioner program with the Feldenkrais Training Academy in Seattle in 2018. In 2021, she started Peace and Power Movement Services, a business to support people in finding wellness through movement with body-based coaching, mindful movement classes and hands-on movement training. Cheryl continues to work with clients recovering from operations, injuries and trauma, as well as individuals who live with Multiple Sclerosis, fibromyalgia and anyone struggling with the impacts of aging.
- Anita Lal
- Ashley Janssen
- Brandy Albulescu
- Carolyn De Leeuw
- Dakota Hanson
- David Jeffrey
- Eileen Jewitt
- Erminia Yarmuch
- Jerad Uytterhagen
- Kennedy Olson
- Leanne Myggland-Carter
- Lillian Burgoyne
- Lucynda Mills
- Michelle Gonzales-Ghrae
- Sabine Crandall
- Shirley Wilson
- Zsuzanna Sangster