SPOTLIGHT – Julie Morgan by Tom Kernaghan

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If every long journey begins with the first step, imagine how far you could go if you turned your steps into strides. For Julie Morgan, a registered social worker and the owner of Making Strides Counselling, it begins by pushing aside the stigmas of mental health, reaching out for support, and confronting your fears. Julie is here to guide you along that path which most of us find confusing and overwhelming — the walk toward our healthiest, happiest self. 

With 15 years of counselling experience and a bachelor’s degree in social work from UBCO, Julie helps you to navigate tumultuous emotions and overcome the insecurity, depression, anxiety, and anger keeping you up at night, impeding your progress, and affecting your ability to create a better, more fulfilling life — the one you deserve. It’s about discovering what is in your way, what is immobilizing you, what is keeping you from moving forward. The foundation of this mutual exploration is a solid therapeutic relationship. 

You are not alone. Julie passionately believes in the importance of building her clients’ trust, so that they can feel safe in being open and honest about whatever it is they are going through. And her services cover the vast and varied nature of life’s challenges. Whether you’re seeking counselling for family and relationship issues, grief and loss, chronic illness and disease, career conundrums, youth struggles, caregiver strain, and more, Julie is ready to take that first step with you, no matter how small.  

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SPOTLIGHT – Karly Fiddes by Tom Kernaghan

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When you first meet Karly Fiddes you feel as though you went to high school with her, worked together on a fundraising project, or met at summer camp. Okay, you may say fostering familiarity is a core skill of any successful radio host, but it’s more than that. Karly’s uncommon mix of verve, vulnerability, and verbal vivacity can connect and wake you up faster than a large cup of extra dark roast. Yet within her strong voice whispers a deeper quality that makes the morning easier: a kind and unpretentious heart that feels the strain along with us … and then magically makes it fun. 

That’s certainly the feeling I had when I first met Karly and during the two times I shared the stage with her — first as one of the storytellers at BWB’s Storytelling Tuesday five years ago, and then as a one-time co-host of that same event, a role she performed with electric energy for a couple of years. Not surprisingly, Karly was way better at speaking off the cuff to a crowd than I was. She is a pro, after all. But I digress. 

As for Karly’s quips and digressions, they are hilarious. Those who have met her or who  have listened to B Mack and Karly on Virgin Radio will already know this. Together they create a sonic space popping with possibility. And what makes Karly so engaging is her saucy candour, her ability to laugh at herself, and her willingness to share her foibles and struggles. What makes her inspiring is how she has turned her challenges into advantages and landed her dream job.

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SPOTLIGHT – Matt Stewart by Tom Kernaghan

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“It’s not about being perfect, it’s about being one percent better than yesterday.” 

When Matt Stewart delivers this line in a recent LinkedIn video promoting careers at  the Staples Studio, where he is the Community Manager, I am reminded of the warm and encouraging impression of the man when I first saw him as a co-host for Balance Well-Being’s Storytelling Tuesday a few years ago. 

Matt, an executive coach with over twenty years of experience, exudes acceptance, inclusiveness, and positivity. His sense of hope and compassion is a salve in these stressful days of division and our demands for perfection. But that doesn’t mean he suffers excuses or bad behaviour. While he can parry ignorance and small-mindedness with class and poise, he is equally capable of blunt and salty language, as he boldly demonstrates in another video: “The right shit, for the right why, for the biggest impact.” And he’s not afraid to employ a well-placed F-bomb, too. After all, activating potential is not for lightweights, and he activates a lot. 

Matt — a.k.a. “Community Cultivator,” “Connectorpreneur,” “Den Mother,” and “The Bearded Leader”— has lived all over the world and advised senior leaders across North America, in the worlds of finance, film, healthcare, and major sporting events such as the Olympics, Paralympics, and the Pan Am Games. He is also a TEDx speaker who has also shouldered profound personal battles, living with leukemia and the long-term effects of Covid-19, while actively supporting many communities, including the LGBTQ community, of which he is a member. I also call him an inspiring survivor. 

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SPOTLIGHT – Tom Kernaghan by Shawna McCrea

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Tom, I first met you on May 10, 2016, at one of our first BalAnce Storytelling Tuesdays. You had recently made the big move here from Toronto, and it was great to hear you were happy to be in Kelowna. And I remember you were so inspired by Storytelling that you wrote a beautiful blog post about your experience. I was blown away by what an amazing writer you are. You joined the BalAnce Well-Being team as our Spotlight writer in 2017 and since then have created the most wonderful BalAnce Well-Being member profiles. Also, you have been to most of the Storytelling Tuesdays.   

I’m very thankful to count you as a friend.

What inspired you to come to the Okanagan, and how has your life evolved?

First of all, the friendship feeling is mutual, Shawna. Thank you for your kind words, that warm welcome to the BalAnce community, and this Spotlight!  

I had an epiphany during a trip here in June of 2015. I was visiting dear Toronto friends of mine who had moved here two years prior. In the span of a few days we hiked, mountain biked, floated down a river, jumped into the lake from the Wibit floating obstacle course, watched open mic comedy, and ate great food! Also, it didn’t hurt that every day was sunny, hot, and dry. I was sold on those things alone! 

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SPOTLIGHT – Shawna McCrea by Tom Kernaghan

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When I first met Shawna McCrea at a Balance Well-Being event over five years ago, I thought, “Wow, she really understands people and sees possibilities for them miles away.” When I learned she’d had years of leadership experience in the financial industry and community building, my engaging first impressions came into fuller view. 

Shawna supports individuals and companies on their voyages to viability. Like a ship’s captain focused on land, she can spot hazards and help you to steer in the right direction. Motivated by a deep caring for others and a desire to see them succeed, Shawna also knows that in order to keep firm hands on the helm means you have to have fresh thinking about the money.  

Shawna is the owner of Balance Financial, through which she encourages her clients to challenge their beliefs and assumptions about wealth and envision what a truly fulfilling life means to them. Her unique power lies in the heart-centred honesty she brings to her expertise. Shawna gets to know each client thoroughly, addressing their anxieties and discovering their dreams, so they can form healthier habits and make more meaningful choices. 

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SPOTLIGHT – Courtney Kafka by Tom Kernaghan

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Courtney Kafka strums the body electric, to borrow from Walt Whitman’s famous poem. For Courtney and her clients, however, the song of the body can be discordant or staccato when afflicted by injury, stress, or other imbalances in life. The owner of GPS Fitness, Courtney practices Bowen Therapy, a modality of treatment developed in Australia in the 1950s and now practiced in 40 countries around the globe. 

Bowen Therapy is unique in the world of body work in that it doesn’t use strong force or rubbing. Rather, Courtney gently “plucks” the tendons, ligaments, and muscles like guitar strings, and then pauses so that they can communicate with the brain. By slowly pushing and pulling these soft tissues, she helps to create a vibrational conversation between problem patterns and the neurological system, releasing tension, realigning joints, and reestablishing harmonious flow within the body, both energetically and physiologically. The health effects can be far-reaching, from managing pain to addressing fertility issues, for everyone from newborns to the elderly. Call it the search for the perfect body rhythm! 

Courtney understands the struggle to achieve mellifluous inner music from years of experience with her own injuries and imbalances. After suffering a childhood bike accident, she began receiving Bowen treatments. Years later, as a personal trainer in Vancouver, she suffered myofascial constriction and pain in her back so severe that it restricted her ability to work, sent her back to Bowen Therapy, and inspired her to become a practitioner herself. 

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SPOTLIGHT – Carla Van Voorst & Daneaya Ziolkoski by Tom Kernaghan

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Relax, let your cells talk amongst themselves, and “unwind your story.” Whether breaking the bonds of old traumas or increasing a client’s career effectiveness, Carla Van Voorst and Daneaya Ziolkoski offer a range of life improvements that are as impressive as they are inspiring. Not only can their treatments help to unburden you from the harmful effects of the past, but they can help you say goodbye those unhealthy patterns for good. They have an uncommon approach. 

Friends Carla and Daneaya have their individual businesses — Carla owns Holographic Healing, and Daneaya owns Naya Hypno — but they work together as a powerful duo with decades of combined experience and learning. While both are certified in energy healing modalities, such as Reiki and BodyTalk practices, each brings a unique set of skills and insights into their sessions. Carla focuses on intercellular communication, microbiome health, and stress-related epigenetic expression, to find and correct our inner imbalances and let the body heal itself. Daneaya, a trained and certified clinical hypnotherapist and neurolinguistic therapist, helps clients settle into their subconscious and access the source of the emotional pain and obstacles affecting the body and life.     

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SPOTLIGHT – Shawn by Tom Kernaghan

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pastedGraphic.pngI listen intently, the phone hot against my cheekbone, as he revisits key details of his fascinating and nomadic life. Shawn is clearly a man who has lived and learned through some tribulations I have not. Beneath the fluidity of his words lies a calm confidence produced by years of fortifying fights and realized visions.

Growing up with traditional learning challenges, Shawn crashed against the limiting and stigmatizing mold of mainstream education. He was a teenage father. He has travelled the world in search of opportunities. And he has spent years challenging the conventional thinking of a school system for which I, by mere chance, was fairly well suited. Seemingly, we come from different worlds. And yet I can sense a fundamental connection — something in his intention. His voice compels me to find it.

“We are all storytellers. The problem is, most of us aren’t very good at it. The school system encourages and rewards only one way of learning, and it prepares us for a workplace devoid of individuality and full of vacuous clichés. We have lost our way in the world. Stories bring the human being back into focus and help us remember what is important. By expressing our true selves, we connect with others and inspire each other to act toward unifying goals — whether team building, convincing your kids cooperate, wooing a date, or building a more respectful and responsible society. But there is a structure to consistently good and persuasive storytelling.”

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SPOTLIGHT – Sofia Simeonidis by Tom Kernaghan

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“Together we are strong,” “be a helping hand,” and “never lose hope” may not be the sort of words one usually associates with a customer loyalty program, or its operator. But then, Sofia Simeonidis isn’t like most people I’ve met. Her focus, after all, is on our happiness and our financial well-being.

Sofia is an Independent Lyconet Merchant Marketer, which is affiliated with myWorld, a vast network connecting businesses to customers who can earn cashback and use interchangeable loyalty points wherever they shop. It’s about everyone getting the most out of the shopping experience — on both sides of the ‘register’. The program is powerful, but it’s Sofia’s warm personality that really shines as she extols the benefits of living well and shopping smartly.

Sofia served as a treasurer and bookkeeper for the ISCO (Intercultural Society of Central Okanagan), the Kelowna chapter of Toastmasters, and the parental advisory of her children’s school. Her sunny nature is matched by her ability and determination. In the words of one of her local clients, “Sofia displays a level of creativity, wit, and analytical thought unmatched by most. Her research skills are phenomenal, and when Sofia is on task, nothing will stop her from reaching her goal.” Socially, many will know Sofia from her online trail-walk videos, which she begins joyously: “Good morning, world!”

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SPOTLIGHT – Debra Kelly by Tom Kernaghan

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Debra with Flora Farm hearts

Debra Kelly — Storyteller & Motivator

“We’ll figure something out.” 

We say these words all the time, but when Debra Kelly said them at the end of our first chat, to schedule our second one, I sensed they flowed from a hard-earned knowingness that runs deep beneath her friendly and confident demeanour. 

Debra is a storyteller, speaker, and real estate agent who lives here in the Okanagan and in Cabo San Lucas. I can say I’ve never met a person in whom the seemingly disparate aspects of life seem so well integrated into a way of living. Now, that is. Back in 1993, Debra’s purpose, passion, and pleasures had yet to blossom from the soil of pain, fear, and darkness she found herself pushing through as a single mother and expat in Mexico. Her money was dwindling, her hope was flagging, and her determination was screaming — but her aim (especially for killing scorpions) was improving. 

She has a kick-ass memoir for you to read. Having just finished Wait a Year, an Amazon international best seller, I can see where Debra’s confidence comes from: damn, she’s been through it! As a fellow storyteller who loves a cracking good tale about life’s trials, travails, and triumphs, especially one with dark humour, I can say this book will delight you, move you, and leave you wanting more. And I can see how Debra’s story will motivate others to find their voices, set healthy boundaries, and design a better lives for themselves. 

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