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

Just Posted

Vernon Vipers captain wins Duncan Wray Memorial Award

Connor Marritt exemplifies late owner’s catchphrase: ‘Once A Viper, Always A Viper’

Salmon Arm beats Vernon in BCHL video final

Silverbacks to meet Cowichan Valley Capitals in league’s simulated video Fred Page Cup final

Vernon player double winner at TRU Awards Night

Basketball player Micheal Rouault earns pair of honours in final year

Coldstream’s Korol top UBCO graduating female athlete

Jordan Korol goes out as one of the all-time best to wear a Heat uniform

Vernon nordic centre loses out on 2021 nationals

Sovereign Lake was to host 2020 Canadian championships, canceled due to COVID-19

‘Better days will return’: Queen Elizabeth delivers message amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Queen said crisis reminds her of her first address during World War II in 1940

Mitchell’s Musings: Pandemics and parking meters don’t add up

Despite COVID-19 crisis, City of Vernon insists on paid parking downtown

Emergency aid portal opens Monday, cash could be in bank accounts by end of week: Trudeau

Emergency benefit will provide $2,000 a month for those who have lost their income due to COVID-19

Education, not enforcement: B.C. bylaw officers keeping a watch on physical distancing

A kind word, it turns out, has usually been all people need to hear

COVID-19: Hospitals remain safe for childbirth, say Vancouver Island care providers

North Island Hospital has been asked to share its perinatal COVID-19 response plan

Canadian cadets to mark 103rd anniversary of Vimy Ridge April 9 virtually

Idea of Captain Billie Sheridan in Williams Lake, B.C. who wondered what to do in times of COVID-19

Most Read