Photo: Fall Family Challenge kicks off at Stanley Park Lost Lagoon

S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Green Squad member Sincere Cheong showing off the banana slug on her hand.

By Winnie Hwo Public Engagement Specialist

When was the last time you put a banana slug on your hand and still managed to smile for the camera? Sincere Cheong, a member of the S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Green Squad, did just that last Saturday. "It wasn't the first time I've touched a slug," said Cheong, who admits she had done it before with her equally adventurous friends. "The coolest part about touching a slug is when it leaves a thin layer of slime on your hand."

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The 12th-grader, who is also a member of the environment and philanthropy clubs at her school, is stoked by the role she played in connecting families with nature during the weekend walk from Lost Lagoon to Beaver Lake in Stanley Park on September 14. "I think the event was really successful in exposing the public to nature and helping them see how easy it really is to be connected with each other and the beautiful environment around us," Cheong said.

The weekend connection was only the beginning of a month-long public engagement initiative led by the S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Green Squad to help kick-start the David Suzuki Foundation's Fall Family Challenge. S.U.C.C.E.S.S.'s chief operating officer Kelly Ng, who joined the nature walk, believes when newcomers to Canada are engaged and connected with the natural environment, it can only help empower and enrich Canada's multicultural fabric — exactly the kind of work S.U.C.C.E.S.S. has been involved in for the past 40 years.

"One of the reasons many immigrants choose Canada as their destination is because of the lush forests, mountains, clean water, air, and food, green spaces, good climate. Projects like the Green Squad can educate immigrants about their relationship with the natural environment (in particular how their actions impact it), as well as the importance of preserving — and improving — the natural environment for future generations," Ng said in his opening speech.

More and more, newcomers to Canada are increasingly aware that for our lush environment to remain green, public awareness and care are important ingredients. For example, the 30-plus participants in the Stanley Park nature walk learned a precious lesson about the unique ecology in Beaver Lake and the challenges it faces today.

Beaver Lake is shrinking — from 6.7 to 3.9 hectares since 1938. Today, it is only about 1.5 metres deep, which means it is not an ideal environment for fish to survive. SPES's executive director, Patricia Thomson, agrees raising public awareness through key partners like S.U.C.C.E.S.S. and the David Suzuki Foundation is one of the best tools to safeguard ecological well-being.

As long-time patrons of the Stanley Park Ecology Society and strong supporters of Canada's multicultural society, the David Suzuki Foundation's co-founders, David Suzuki and Tara Cullis, took time on Saturday afternoon to join the Fall Family Challenge launch. As expected, Canada's most trusted Canadian was the focus of media and public attention and also managed to reconnect with old pals and meet some new friends.

You can view the rest of the pictures from this event on flickr.

When asked about her most memorable moment, Sincere Cheong said, "Definitely seeing and meeting Dr. David Suzuki. I've always been active on environmental involvement and because of that I have always been a fan of Dr. Suzuki."

The youth-led S.U.C.C.E.S.S. Green Squad's nature-engagement work has just begun. For the next three weeks, Green Squad leaders will continue to connect and recruit new members to the Fall Family Challenge. As well, the youth leaders will provide help and encouragement to participants in the upcoming challenges.

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September 20, 2013

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