Wade Stayzer, Meridian Credit Union’s chief people and culture officer, says sponsorship of the Niagara-on-the-Lake leg of the 2022 Niagara Canada Summer Games Torch Relay is a nod to the organisation’s historical presence here.
“Clearly, part of our roots are in Niagara–on-the-Lake,” the lifelong Niagara resident says. “It goes back to the Niagara Credit Union days. When we looked at it from the symbolism perspective, that’s definitely where we wanted to be, in this community.”
Stayzer was chosen as one of the dozen torchbearers for July 30, when the iconic symbol of the games will make its way from Queenston Heights down to the Meridian Credit Union Arena. He’ll have the honour of walking it into its final destination for the day, at about 12:30 pm.
“It’s very special for me,” Stayzer says. “There will be lots of Meridian folks there when I walk it into the arena. It’ll be nice to bring it home, and I’m pleased to be a part of it for the people of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Stayzer doesn’t have to carry the torch to be a part of the games, though. Meridian is also the volunteer sponsor and Stayzer sits on the board of directors for the games.
“We were in pretty early,” says Stayzer, who is also the credit union’s vice-president of business banking.
“It’s an amazing opportunity to align our culture from a volunteerism perspective. It’s driving some great engagement within our organization.”
As a board member, Stayzer says he understands the potential of the games as an economic driver for the region, as well as the impact it could have on the culture of the community, bringing the whole region together.
“The torch relay is for all abilities, it’s walk, bike or roll,” he explains. “That’s a key piece of the Canada Games. It’s the only event where the athletes and para-athletes compete at the same games. That’s a really important piece for us.”
Stayzer has chosen to walk for the event, saying he’s not a runner. Neither is St. Davids resident Linda Chang, but she has chosen a slightly faster pace for her section of the relay, which is from Line 5 to Four Mile Creek Road.
“It won’t be at a fast pace,” Chang laughs, “I do stay active. I hike a lot and do a bit of yoga too. But I’m definitely not a runner.”
She’ll be joined by her husband Cam and their 18-year-old son William, and she couldn’t be more excited to have been chosen to carry the torch.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” says Chang. “I wanted to represent a segment of the population (Asian-Canadians) that is not visible as far as being engaged in the community. We’re sort of under the radar. I wanted to add some diversity to the mix.”
Chang is also a breast cancer survivor, and that ordeal has certainly influenced her desire to take on the torch relay challenge.
“After you’ve had a life-threatening illness, you want to do something different all the time,” she says. “You want to live life to the fullest. It sounds cliche but it’s true. I would never have applied for this if I hadn’t fought cancer. When you don’t know how long you’re going to be around you just want to do everything.
Chang’s cancer was diagnosed as stage two in 2018. She underwent a year of chemotherapy and 26 rounds of radiation, and also had a double mastectomy. Through it all she did her best to continue working at the headmaster’s office at Ridley College.
“I didn’t want to sit at home and feel sorry for myself,” says Chang. “I would have treatment, it would knock me out for five to seven days, then I would go back to work. I’d work a week, then it was back to the chemo chair. It went on and on like that for about six months.”
She became involved during that time with Wellspring Niagara, taking all of their programs that support cancer patients, and eventually became a volunteer there.
And Chang is quick to laud the staff at the Walker Family Cancer Centre in St. Catharines for providing her with the best of care.
Chang is definitely not an attention seeker, and was actually a bit reluctant to sit for this interview. But she says that part of her reasoning for wanting to be a torchbearer is to advocate for other women to take care of themselves and know the signs of breast cancer.
“Too many of us are too busy to check, too busy being moms, too busy to take care of our own well-being,” Chang laments. “We must take care of ourselves. Regular self-exams and early detection are so important. We need to be proactive about it. It saves lives.”
Another cause that is near and dear to her heart is the Days for Girls charity. In 2011, Chang spearheaded the formation of a NOTL chapter of the international organization that provides sustainable, reusable feminine hygiene kits for girls and women around the world.
“I love crafting and sewing, and when this came along I felt it was a great way for me to help other women, too,” she says. “When I started to do it, I was handing my kits to a chapter in Ottawa. I decided to form my own team, and it was a one-woman show for a little while I helped chapters in Grimsby and Hamilton.”
Eventually, local resident Linda Enns contacted her and began to help with the sewing. Enns was instrumental in growing the team, holding sewing nights at the Niagara United Mennonite Church on Niagara Stone Road. Their kits have gone to girls in Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Malawi and other places through the international network. Some kits have also gone to local women through Community Care and United Way Niagara.
Enns has since taken over the operations for the local chapter as Chang stepped back behind the scenes, doing some administrative work and the occasional presentation.
As for the torch relay, Chang says even though running is not her thing, she’s not doing any real preparation for July 30.
“I’m pretty active, so I don’t think I’ll have any problem running one kilometre,” she chuckles. “I’m really too busy to think about it. I’m really just telling everyone about it, hoping to raise awareness that the Canada Summer Games are here.”
Chang will also be volunteering at both the opening and closing ceremonies of the games, and hopes to be a spectator when she can, as well. And one of those events is happening right at NOTL’s Memorial Park.
“I’m interested in tennis,” she says, “and rowing as well. I’ll be out there watching both of those events.”
“This is really about people,” she adds. “It’s about all the 12 municipalities, and the hundreds and hundreds of us involved.”