Heather Hartridge has had a 40-year love affair with Quesnel and she has been nominated for the community honour of Volunteer Citizen of the Year. Humbled by the nomination, Heather said she does what she does because she loves it.
Her and husband Chris moved to the North Cariboo from the Lower Mainland 40 years ago and built their log home on Longbar Road.
“My family had a quarter section and it was the right place and the right time for us,” Heather said.
“We learned log building from Al Mackey and while I worked at Willis Harper, Chris built the house.”
They built up their place with gardens and livestock and were well on their way to self-sufficiency.
“Chris is a musician and at the time was playing in both the ZigZag Mountain String Band and Bobby B and the Beaumonts.”
Then the children came along.
“After two kids I knew I had to get back in shape,” Heather said.
“I’d always been active with a childhood background in dance. Once I began attending classes, I realized something, ‘I could do this’ and would enjoy it.”
Once certified, Heather was one of the first fitness instructors at the Rec Centre. However, it was through continuing education that she first began helping with a seniors fitness class.
“From that small beginning, the Keenagers program grew,” she said.
“We had to keep upsizing the space and through it all the Legion has been wonderful.”
After just a few years, Heather knew this program was her favourite and quit billing continuing education.
“I love working with seniors; its such a privilege and a pleasure. The history in the room is astounding.”
Heather said the 45 seniors are also inspirational.
“When you see an 80-year-old in very fit condition, you can’t help but appreciate how they value good health and fitness in their life,” she said.
“Of all the people I work with they are the most rewarding but also the most challenging because their have all sorts of health issues.”
Twice a week for more than 25 years, Heather has been the volunteer leader the Keenagers fitness class. She said too often seniors are sometimes the forgotten ones, however for her they are the stars.
She has also willingly shared her passion for fitness with the community but she is looking forward to retiring in the next few months.
She is closing her fitness studio and handing over her beloved seniors to a very capable replacement.
Her and Chris have an extended bicycle trip planned but she has every intention of returning to Quesnel for her senior years.
“Once I retire, in addition to our passion for cycling and travel, I’m looking forward to growing old with my Keenagers, playing with my grandchildren and enjoying life with Chris.”
The Quesnel Volunteer Citizen of the Year banquet and award ceremony is April 22, Royal Canadian Legion Hall. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., dinner at 6 p.m., awards ceremony begins at 6:30 p.m. and music by After Eight starts at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $25 each, available at City Hall.