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Pitt Meadows loses community champion

Former citizen of the year Sandy Wakeling passes away at 42 after battle with cancer
Sandy Wakeling shows off this years Terry Fox T-shirt.
Sandy Wakeling volunteered with the annual Terry Fox Run for the past 19 years

The date has been set for a memorial service for Sandy Wakeling. That will happen a week today, on Aug. 7, at 3 p.m. at South Bonson Community Centre.

Everyone’s invited – and the more the better, says his wife, Ali Wakeling.

Because that’s just the way Sandy wanted it.

The community volunteer, Canadian history buff, supporter of public education and political organizer loved community events, Ali said Tuesday.

Sandy, 42, died Saturday of a rare cancer called gastro intestinal stromal tumor, after several years fighting the condition.

According to Ali, a gastro-intestinal tumour can be treated, but usually the cancer cells become resistant to chemotherapy.

Since March, Sandy had joined in two drug trials with the B.C. Cancer Agency that were tough physically and emotionally, but which he wanted to go through so that future patients could benefit.

Ali said in his final days, Sandy continued to lobby on behalf of patients to gain access to “orphan” drugs and spoke with MP Randy Kamp on the issue.

“He never took a sick day. He never took a sick day from his cancer. He had minimum recovery and then he’d be back at work. He had an incredible work ethic,” said Ali, an elementary teacher in Pitt Meadows.

Sandy most recently worked as communications director with the Langley school district, but had to give that up in June.

He also spent five years as chair of the Pitt Meadows Economic Development advisory committee and another year when it transitioned to the Economic Development Corporation.

He served as the director for the chamber of commerce and spent two years on the Pitt Meadows official community plan review committee.

He was also the 2013 Pitt Meadows Citizen of the Year.

“He was a friend to many, a supporter and a believer in building community,” Pitt Meadows Mayor Deb Walters said.

As a supporter of the B.C. Liberal party, Sandy was key in the recruitment effort to get Premier Christy Clark to put her name into the race for the Liberal leadership in 2011. Sandy started a Facebook campaign, which drew hundreds of supporters and persuaded Clark to enter the race, acknowledged B.C. Liberal party executive-director and former campaign manager Mike McDonald.

“The other thing is Sandy’s own credibility. He’s a guy who’s well known and well respected,” McDonald said.

“He’s a true grass-roots B.C. Liberal.”

Previously, Sandy was the constituency assistant to former MLA Ken Stewart and was executive-assistant to Health Minister Mike de Jong.

“You always had the impression that he put his community first,” McDonald added.

“As important as his political contributions were over the years, it always seemed to be in service of his community.”

Clark also called him recently, while McDonald visited Sandy last week, and noticed the Canadian flag outside his house.

“He really was a great guy,” McDonald said.

“The premier was very fond of him and was definitely very saddened by the loss.”

Most Pitt Meadows residents will remember Sandy as one of the faithful organizers of the Terry Fox Run, which starts off in Hammond Stadium every September.

Sandy first started helping in 2000 before his cancer. Terry Fox was Sandy’s hero, as he was to Ali.

“It was something we had in common. We’ve been doing it for 19 years and I never missed a run.”

This year, Ali is hoping people donate $42 to the run, the age at which Sandy lost his battle.

In addition to politics and education and fighting cancer, Sandy loved Canada and its history, his wife added.

“He’s got a collection of artifacts and figurines that make supposedly dull Canadian history come to life.”

He also wanted to drive across Canada from one end to the other, starting in Newfoundland and heading west.

“He really wanted to do that trip. He used to watch these shows about national parks and he always wanted to go and see all those things.

“I think that was one of my greatest disappointments is that he never got a chance to do that.”

Ali, though, plans on doing that next year, and bringing their two sons, William, 11, Sebastien, 9 .

Sandy wanted his ashes spread along the highway from coast to coast.





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