Toshie Okada has been named October’s Respect Works Here Community Champion for her diverse involvement in society. (Submitted photo)

Behind the blue and white Vernon Carnival clown mask

Toshie Okada is named October’s Respect Works Here Community Champion

Toshie Okada is someone who has brought a smile to many people through volunteering, and says she enjoys “doing small things” and not attracting attention to herself.

This is certainly true as she has played the role of jopette, the blue-and-white mime, for many years during Vernon’s Winter Carnival.

READ MORE: Vernon Winter Carnival hands out hardware

She likes meeting new people, being part of the community, and focusing on the positive. Okada immerses herself fully in new experiences, often led by her wandering curiosity, which she attributes as a factor in her arriving in Vernon from Japan many years ago.

Okada had studied musical engineering and classical piano, graduating with a degree in music. She also worked for Japanese families tutoring their children, and returned to school to improve her English.

Seeking a new challenge, Okada began working as a companion to adults with acquired brain injury. While this work was more rewarding, she soon felt uncertain about her future and curiosity about the bigger world set her on a quest to follow her dreams.

Okada applied for a working-holiday Visa and landed in Vancouver.

“I was wandering. I wanted to go to Rocky Mountains to guide in Japanese.”

But then she saw a job advertised in a beautiful place with mountains: Vernon. She moved immediately and began making and selling sushi. She met her husband while working in this job, and after returning to Japan for her snowboard and to update her immigration status, they have lived and worked in the North Okanagan valley ever since.

While settling permanently, Okada received training on applying for jobs from the Vernon and District Immigrant Services Centre and volunteered to improve her English.

To meet others in the community, Okada organized free origami workshops and she taught Japanese to Canadian-born children so they could talk with their grandparents overseas. Okada still enjoys representing her Japanese heritage, reconnecting with her culture and sharing it with others.

As she became more comfortable in her new home, Okada started volunteering extensively with organizations including the Vernon Public Art Gallery, the Okanagan Science Centre, the 55+ Games, and Special Olympics.

And she’s putting her musical training into service with a local choir group.

Okada is petite with boundless energy and her capacity for giving to others also seems boundless.

She earned a certificate in Special Needs from Okanagan College and works for Kindale Developmental Association supporting adults who participate in their day programs.

She treats everyone with respect and sees her role not as ‘helping’ but as teaching people with varying abilities how to do things themselves. Okada is very aware of the significance she has in their lives. Her perspective is: ‘You’re not just there for work, you are part of their life, and you should enjoy being part of their life, creating a good memory that they can remember forever as they get older.’

Okada’s focus on creating positive days for everyone is effervescent as she shares what gives her happiness in her own life: “I like to do small things that no one has to notice.”

READ MORE: 4th annual Multicultural Champions announced


@VernonNews
newsroom@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

New Lumby Disc Golf Course nears opening

Man behind new outdoor village activity says course will open “in a couple of weeks”

Vernon man arrested after reports of assaults on Kal Lake Rotary Pier

RCMP officers successful in taking man into custody after takedown on railway trestle

Lake Country UBCO grad wins top honours

Teagan MacDougall is the 2020 recipient of the Pushor Mitchell LLP Gold Medal Leadership Prize and $10K

Vernon man arrested after reports of assaults on Kal Lake Rotary Pier

RCMP officers successful in taking man into custody after takedown on railway trestle

Community Champion: no greater gift than giving, Lisa Kurulok says

July 2020 Community Champion volunteers in several organizations throughout North Okanagan

B.C. records 31 new cases, six deaths over three days due to COVID-19

There are 166 active cases in B.C., 16 people in hospital

Police issue warning after baby comes across suspected drugs in Kamloops park

The 11-month-old girl’s mother posted photos on social media showing a small plastic bag containing a purple substance

B.C. highway widening job reduced, costs still up $61 million

Union-only project scales back work to widen Trans-Canada

Kamloops man pleads guilty in vehicle-ramming incident that injured a Mountie

Adam Hibbert was arrested following a collision during a police pursuit on May 26, 2019

Greater Victoria nanny pleads guilty to child porn, sexual interference charges

Johnathon Lee Robichaud pleaded guilty to slew of sex crimes

Victoria man dies after skydiving incident on Vancouver Island

34-year-old had made more than 1,000 jumps

Most Read