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City of Calgary Helping Local Businesses Recover from COVID-19 with Digital Main Street ShopHERE Pilot

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The City of Calgary is piloting a new initiative aimed at helping artists and small businesses recover from the impacts of COVID-19. Working with Digital Main Street to join the ShopHERE program, powered by Google, the City will aid up to 90 local businesses and artists in their transition to online stores. 

The growing digital economy of recent years has been massively accelerated by the Coronavirus pandemic, as people have increasingly turned to online alternatives and contact-less deliveries for everything from groceries to clothes to entertainment purchases. Now more than ever, for small businesses to be successful, participation in the digital economy is key. 

In May, Google Canada announced a $1 million investment for Digital Main Street to expand the Toronto-based ShopHERE program across the country. In Calgary, Digital Main Street’s ShopHERE program is now available to artists or registered small independent businesses and nonprofits that are commercial or home based, have fewer than 10 employees (25 for restaurants or bars), and are not a corporate chain or franchise. 

As a participant in the ShopHERE program, businesses will have access to hands-on assistance in setting up and launching their online stores with customized information and branding. Members will also receive digital marketing, shipping and inventory support to aid in the successful maintenance of online shops.  

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi speaks on the ShopHERE program

Operating on a first come, first serve basis, the program will help up to 90 independent local businesses and artists enter the online sales sphere. “We remain optimistic and more determined than ever that technology is the toolkit for a world of opportunities,” says Sabrina Geremia, VP and Country Manager, Google Canada, “Our $1 million investment will go towards expanding the ShopHERE program nationally, so we can help small businesses across Canada navigate the challenges ahead.”

To learn more about the ShopHERE program or to apply, visit https://digitalmainstreet.ca/shophere/.

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

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Calgary Local Changing Lives with Senior Safe Project during COVID-19

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A member of the Dover community in SE Calgary stepped up this past year to fill a gap in the system by providing a unique way for senior citizens to participate and engage with the community from the safety of their own residences. 

Throughout the lockdown measures that were present in varying degrees for the majority of 2020, many of us struggled with feeling removed and isolated from the community. For senior citizens, many of whom already experience loneliness and isolation in greater capacity during normal times, the pandemic has severely exacerbated the negative mental health impacts of extreme seclusion. 

In July 2020, Karen Begg applied for a grant through the City of Calgary public art department to fund a senior’s community art project in Dover. “I thought about all the senior citizens who had lost a partner, or maybe never married, and were now going through this alone, and I had to do something,” she says. “I coordinated a senior safe activity that would allow them to contribute to the beautification of their community by featuring their art in a public space.” 

Begg’s original project design featured the distribution of 50 art kits to various participating seniors residences throughout the city. Each kit contained 8 2 oz. containers of colored paint, brushes, stamps, stencils, a canvas for the artists to keep, and a cutout to be returned for inclusion in the final installation. Upon launching the project, Begg described the response as overwhelming, and the original projection of 50 participants was quickly expanded in order to accommodate the tremendous expression of interest.

A total of 74 senior citizens from Riverview Properties, the Calgary Vietnamese Women’s Association and Grand Avenue Village Seniors participated in the project from October to late December. The project features a diverse range of painters, with the oldest participant being 92 years old.
Begg cites her own great grandmother, who lived to the age of 104, as an inspiration behind the project itself. “My great grandmother was a huge influence on me. She taught me a lot about aging and the importance of community,” she says, “so when COVID struck, I thought about my great grandmother, who had been a widow most of her life, and how she would have coped.” 

The installation, officially named Birds and Blooms after the various nature inspired cutouts, which feature bird, flower, dragonfly, butterfly and leaf prints, was revealed on December 19, 2020. It is located at the Twin Views Communal Garden in Dover, at 2951 26 Ave SE. Since then, the feedback from the seniors and the surrounding community has been unbelievably positive. “It really brightened up a dark corner,” says Begg, “and now everyone who uses that pedestrian path can enjoy it.” 

According to Begg, this project has highlighted the need for more senior safe activities, which she intends to continue working on. “I’m so proud of the creativity we saw from the seniors,” she says, “and I hope to keep this up.”

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

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September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month – This is Auralia’s Story

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September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. 

According to the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS), childhood cancer is the #1 cause of death among Canadian children past infancy – more than asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and AIDS combined. In 2019, the Government of Canada Canadian Cancer Statistics Report estimated that 1,000 children between the ages of 0 and 14 would be diagnosed with cancer throughout the year. 

That is 1,000 families whose lives have been irreversibly changed as they face the battle of a lifetime before their child has even finished middle school. 

For Ryan and Trinda from Calgary, Alberta, this day came on November 14, 2018, when their daughter Auralia was diagnosed with Leukemia, just 16 days before her 8th birthday. Two days later, she was taken in for her first surgery. 

“It’s hard for people to understand,” says Trinda, Auralia’s mom, “because they don’t ever think it will happen to them. Then one day, you’re told something you never thought you’d hear, and you’re making decisions you never thought you’d have to make.” 

As parents of a daughter with childhood cancer, Ryan and Trinda have learned to take things as they come, knowing every day is its own rollercoaster. They celebrate Auralia’s successes and support her during the most difficult days, standing in solidarity with their daughter and weathering the ups and downs of each new stage of treatment together. “Losing her hair was, of course, hard,” says Trinda, “before she lost it to treatment, she had gorgeous, waist-long hair. Now, Ryan keeps his head shaved, so his hair is never longer than his daughters.” 

Auralia is 9 years old now, 2 years into her 2.5-year Leukemia treatment. She loves animals and the outdoors, and wants to be a zoologist one day. Her reality for the past two years has been filled with doctor’s visits and daily chemo, isolation periods, and unexpected obstacles such as sudden illnesses and emergency hospital trips that have derailed her treatment. In the face of such monumental adversity, however, Ryan and Trinda are continually inspired by their young daughter’s perseverance and compassion. “She is so kind.” Says Trinda, “She just wants to help. Even with Leukemia, she is still out helping Ryan shovel the elderly neighbors walks all winter long.” 

For the month of September, Auralia, Ryan and Trinda are participating in the Believe in the Gold Virtual Run/Walk for Childhood Cancer

Believe in the Gold is a charitable organization established in 2013 that works to raise awareness and provide financial and emotional support for families impacted by childhood cancer. Based out of Calgary, Alberta, it was founded in memory of Jacey Uphill, who passed away after a fight with Ewing’s Sarcoma in October of 2012, at the age of 19. 

Believe in the Gold has helped Ryan and Trinda mitigate some of the uncovered costs incurred by Auralia’s treatment over the last two years, and they are participating in the fundraiser as a way to give back to the organization and help other families who have experienced the difficulties of childhood cancer. “They’ve done so much for Auralia and for our family,” says Ryan, Auralia’s dad, “this is our chance to do what we can for them, while doing something we love.” 

Auralia and her family have always been outdoor enthusiasts and avid hikers – something that they’ve continued to pursue at an adapted rate following Auralia’s diagnosis – and the family decided to participate by hiking. For the month of September, Auralia and Trinda each set a 10 km goal, and Ryan set a 100 km goal. 

According to Trinda, when she was first diagnosed, Auralia was unable to walk more than a few blocks before her dad had to carry her. This month, Auralia and her mom have already accomplished their original 10 km goals, and Ryan is now at 87.5 km.

After smashing her 10 km goal well ahead of schedule, Auralia has showed no signs of slowing down. “The first thing she said when we finished was that she wanted to increase her goal by another 10 kilometres,” says Ryan.
“She just wants to keep helping.” Says Trinda. Their most recent has hike put Auralia at over 17 km! 

The family has now raised over $2,700, more than doubling their original fundraising goal, and will continue to push as hard as they can to support Auralia and raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer. 

You can follow Auralia’s progress and support her cause here.

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

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