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As an adult it isn’t often you meet a new friend in a ball pit. That activity, normally reserved for small children, was one of the possibilities offered at the 2013 TEDx Fort McMurray, where one could climb into an adult-sized ball pit, take a seat, and make a friend. The only rules were that you climb in with a stranger, and with an mind open to what may happen. When I climbed in I found myself face to face with the most beautiful young woman, and I was immediately smitten with someone who is new to our community and now calling it home – the lovely Bianca Malouf.

THE SECOND TIME I MET BIANCA WAS TO interview her for this column. We met in a busy coffee shop, and with the backdrop noise of milk being steamed and espresso shots being pulled we talked about her decision to leave Vancouver behind, and come to Fort McMurray. Bianca, raised in Montreal, was in Vancouver finishing her Masters degree in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. She had cast the net wide in her job search, applying for jobs all over the country – but when the call from Suncor came asking her to interview for a position she says it was the highlight of her job search. Two job offers – one in Fort McMurray, and one in Langley – came in at the same time, and she and her partner Mike had to decide where their future would be – and they decided it was time to come north.

She says, with that brilliant smile that lights up her face, that she and Mike now both have jobs they love, her as an Industrial Hygienist working to improve the health and safety of oil sands employees (with more emphasis on the health part of that equation, where her true passion lies), and Mike with a local golf course where he is able to fulfill a lifelong dream of working in that environment. They encountered some of the usual problems of relocation – high costs for rent, and some homesickness for a city left behind, but when asked about the transition Bianca says, “It’s been extremely positive. The success we are both finding at our jobs, the numbers of people we have already met – it’s been very smooth, and I didn’t really expect it to be.”

Her excitement over her employment is obvious, but it is her excitement over being involved in this community that truly shines. Having only arrived in February of 2013 she has thrown herself into Fort McMurray, joining a pick-up Frisbee group that meets twice weekly, and attending events like TEDx to meet others in the community. Her advice to those who are considering a move here? “Come with an open mind and open heart, so you can be surprised. It is what you make of it – get involved. If you have enough drive and ambition you can do anything here.”

Bianca Malouf, young, urban, and professional, is exactly the kind of person we are trying to attract to this young, increasingly urban, and diverse community. She brings with her not only her professional credentials and her youth but a desire to contribute to community. She is a remarkable young woman in every respect, and from the moment I sat beside her in a ball pit at TEDx Fort McMurray I knew she was not the usual suspect. How does she sum up Fort McMurray, and how to become part of the community? “The second you reach out you’ll find 10 hands reaching back to grab yours,” she says, and fixes me with those incredible eyes and a smile – and then laughs, a young woman content with her place in her new home.


A freelance writer, blogger and professional communicator who is passionate about her child, her work, her pets, her community and the power of words, Theresa Wells believes perfection in life is achieved when she is surrounded by amazing people, fantastic stories, cold gin and really hot shoes.