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.

Just Posted

Sagmoen’s arrest was valid, Vernon RCMP officers say

Curtis Sagmoen saga continued Tuesday with defence counsel questioning validity of warrant

Tax increase allows for more firefighters in Vernon

City of Vernon councillors approved a 4.91 per cent tax increase in 2020

Truck fire spreads to property in gated Vernon community

A loud bang rang out as flames spread to the grass

RCMP traffic services moves to Falkland to slow down speeders

Falkland detachment to serve as new HQ for RCMP’s North Okanagan Traffic Services

Mr. Mikes Vernon to recognize local charities with $500

Restaurant looking for Deeds Well Done in 7th annual holiday campaign

B.C. woman charged in connection to stolen vehicle smash-up in Kamloops

Kersten Ina Peters was arrested in the Fraser Valley on Friday, Dec. 6

VIDEO: Harbour Air makes history with first electric aircraft test flight

Successful flight marks first of its kind in the world

Salmonella outbreak in Canada linked to rodents and snakes

92 cases of salmonella across six provinces, including B.C.

Meng Wanzhou wins right to more documents involving arrest at Vancouver airport

Defence lawyers allege the Huawei executive was unlawfully detained, searched and interrogated

Truck with body inside found at bottom of lake near Kootenay ferry

Investigators believe no foul play is expected but are unsure how the vehicle ended up in the Arrow Lakes

VIDEO: Calgary man narrowly escapes from avalanche while running at Lake Louise

Bryon Howard caught the entire wild experience on camera

Former Summerland lifeguard to be sentenced in January

Edward Casavant has pleaded guilty to child assault and pornography charges

Map points to mysterious ‘Waterdome’ in the middle of Salmon Arm Bay

City would like to have map marker removed, pilot recalls its significance

Most Read