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Community Champion: Renate Terpstra helps swimmers achieve greatness

‘I love to encourage people to try to accomplish things they think they cannot achieve’
Renate Terpstra is the October 2020 Community Champion. (Contributed)

A bike trip in the year 2000 introduced Renate Terpstra and her husband to the beauty of British Columbia. On the journey, they developed a friendship with a couple they met at Christina Lake and the pull to move to Canada was born. They left Noordwijkerhout in the Netherlands and moved here in 2002.

As a kinesiologist, Renate taught physical education in schools, recreation centres, and ski resorts as well as offering private lessons.

While in the Netherlands, Renate started an outdoor sports organization that included running, speed skating, ski trips, mountain bike trips and hiking in the Alps. The organization still exists today.

Renate kept her active lifestyle here in the Okanagan, including as a ski instructor for five years at Silver Star Mountain Resort until 2007.

In the pool, Renate coached the Vernon Kokanee Swim Club for 10 years, finishing as head coach after four years in 2015. She returned temporarily last year to help the club out while their head coach was on leave.

But, Renate’s true passion is working with children with physical disabilities. Many love to swim in the Aqua Adapt program at Vernon’s Aquatic Centre.

However, there was nothing offered for the competitive swimmer.

So in 2015, Renate approached Vernon’s Recreation Centre managers with an idea to offer a competitive program for children with physical disabilities. The result was the creation of the Okanagan Para Swim program originated by Renate and where she coaches four days a week during the season.

Now after five years of coaching, these young swimmers are taking part in provincial, national and international competitions. Renate travels to various competitions as a volunteer to support her swimmers in their achievements.

One of her students, Jacob Brayshaw went to Lima, Peru last year to participate in the Para Pan American games. She says he loved being part of a team.

“I love to encourage people to try to accomplish things they think they cannot achieve, but yet they do,” she said.

Renate is genuinely pleased with each swimmer’s progress.

“It makes me happy to see the children discover they can do more than they realize and it builds their confidence,” she said. “It is beautiful to see children progress and I see it providing them with a sense of self. It is also very good for parents to see their child thrive.”

With COVID-19 protocols being worked on, Renate is looking forward to the pool re-opening this month and to resuming her coaching with the Vernon Masters Swim Club and the Okanagan Para Swim program.

The monthly Community Champion feature is submitted by Respect Works Here, which is an initiative of the Social Planning Council of the North Okanagan. They are also the host agency for the Local Immigration Partnership Council and the Thompson Okanagan Respect Network.

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