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Impact: Enabled by Partnerships

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Each week I get to sit down for 30 minutes with leaders, volunteers and frontline life changers in the community.  The only difference with these visits is that they are done live on the radio thanks to airtime provided by KAOS 91.1.  I had been talking with Rick Kirschner (Executive Director of King’s Kids Promotions, operators of the radio station) about a talk format show to share inspiring stories for quite some time.  It finally happened in February 2016 and has been a wonderful vehicle to give voice to the stories of some amazing people.

The difference between IMPACT and other talk shows in the market is that it is intended to dig deeper into the human beings who are making a difference.  Other shows do a great job talking about events, programs, missions and mandates.  IMPACT was always intended to provide fresh insight and inspiration.

The guests in the first year of programming were amazing.  John Evans of UBS Canada and the United Way’s Board of Directors set the bar incredibly high in our debut show, taking us on a cross-Canada adventure when he ran away from home as a young teenager.  His deep empathy and understanding of the disadvantaged seems to connect back to this period of his life when he ended up scared, alone and broke in a downtown Calgary bus station.

“Fortunately for me, I always had this underlying belief and knowledge that somebody loved me,” he shared.  “I turned left instead of right.  I made a phone call and ended up going back home and finishing school.”

Fire Chief Darby Allen joined us in June for a one-hour special as he reflected on being at the helm of REOC (Regional Emergency Operations Centre) during one of the biggest disasters in Canadian history.  At one point he talked about the big decision to start moving half of the community north and the role of two gentlemen that worked side by side with him during the crisis: Dale Benfeld and Chris Graham.

“The simple and beautiful logic was: we will never get them all out south. We wouldn’t have done it,” he said.  “It was important. It was genius. I didn’t think of it at the time, but the important thing is that they did. We literally went to a map on the wall and Chris (Graham) got a pen out and we drew the line.  We said OK, everyone here is going to go north, everyone here is going to go south.  We didn’t know where people were going to go north. We had no idea.  We knew there were camps up there and industry was up there.  But we hadn’t arranged anything. We didn’t have time.  We just said go north. It was a significant point in the event, and I think a major reason that more people didn’t get hurt.”

Lynn Rhoddy leads a team at Stepping Stones Youth Shelter who provide transitional housing and support during times of crisis.  She shared great stories about growing up in a small community and expressing her unique personality by how she dressed. 

“Other kids were wearing normal clothes, I was going to school looking like Madonna,” she said. 

She loves connecting with young people and accepting them for who they are and what they’re going through.  It was great to hear from Lynn about their incredible record of successfully and safely returning youth into their family units.

More recently, we’ve had a number of different guests who work in the critical area of mental health.  Linda Sovdi is the Health and Wellness Manager for Some Other Solutions, specializing in providing grief and loss support.

“It is an unspeakable honour to be invited into precious places of vulnerability,” she said. “It’s a tremendous feeling to realize somebody is trusting you with very private, intimate, delicate, sensitive, moving, information. It’s their life.”

With support from KAOS 91.1, FuseSocial and the United Way’s Fire Recovery Fund, we’ve been able to attract a strong and diverse line-up of people who are helping us better understand this community and the marvellous work that is happening across the social profit sector.  If you know of a leader, volunteer, or frontline life changer who has a story that deserves to be heard and shared, please let us know.  IMPACT is a great platform to make it happen.


IMPACT is a weekly radio show heard on Tuesday mornings at 10:30 on KAOS 91.1.  It is a collaboration with The United Way of Fort McMurray and FuseSocial.


Russell is a 19 year resident of Wood Buffalo, a community builder, facilitator, social media practitioner, actor, director and artist. He began his Middle Age Bulge blog as a way of capturing his journey to wellness. It has morphed into a daily journal about all aspects of life in the north. Russell works with The United Way of Fort McMurray and co-owns Birdsong Connections with his wife Heather.