Throughout his 26-year involvement with search and rescue, Armstrong’s Don Blakely has been involved in hundreds of call-outs.
None may have been more poignant or vital to a community than the one in May 2006 when a local Armstrong girl was kidnapped.
“Don and his team were quick to respond and they did in record numbers,” recalled former Armstrong Mayor Jerry Oglow. “The girl was found safe and search and rescue stood down, receiving grateful thanks from the girl’s family and the community.
“I could not find the appropriate words for search and rescue’s work on this matter. Don came forward, shook my hand and said ‘No words are necessary, the girl is safe,’ and the command centre disappeared down the road.’”
Oglow’s letter to Armstrong council was among five pages of career highlights for Blakely, who was bestowed with the city’s Community Recognition Award of Excellence Monday for his devotion to search and rescue.
Blakely, married with two daughters, was honoured for achieving regional, provincial and national recognition in the field of search and rescue.
He has been a manager with Vernon Search and Rescue for 24 years, and a director with the organization for 16 years.
Blakely is a founding member of the Fort Nelson Search and Rescue organization, founding member of the Search and Rescue Volunteer Association, and is a former director for B.C. Search and Rescue.
Blakely has also co-authored B.C.’s search and rescue strategic plan, which is still in use, and delivered seminars, been on experts panels and set training standards at the national level.
“As a volunteer, Don often set aside business, family and even personal health to contribute to search and rescue,” said current Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper in announcing Blakely as the latest award of excellence recipient.
“His technical skills and excellence have led to increased leadership responsibilities, and into training and program development of others involved in search and rescue.”
Blakely was recently honoured with a national search and rescue award for exemplary service.
Accompanied to the award ceremony by his wife, Sue, and longtime Vernon Search and Rescue colleague Pete Wise, Blakely was quick to share the honour.
“When I was in the army as a young lad, I learned about giving back. A community is only so good as what the people make it,” said Blakely.
“I’m proud and honoured that the city has seen fit to honour my contribution.
“However, none of those things on my resumé I did alone. I’ve missed birthdays, Christmases, New Year’s and holidays because dad’s been away on a lot of searches and training. My family and my colleagues are all deserving of this.”’