A Kaslo man says he was taken aback when he was recognized for his contributions to search and rescue operations in the area.
Dr. Don Hunt was selected as one of six recipients of the 2020 Public Safety Lifeline volunteer awards last month.
“I was just amazed and shocked,” says Hunt. “It was very nice to be recognized.”
The awards, which are granted annually, recognize people who have made “exceptional contributions to emergency and disaster response” in the province. Hunt was recognized for his road rescue work.
Hunt joined Kaslo Search and Rescue six years ago, after retiring from a long career as a dentist in the village. In that time, he not only worked on the road rescue team, but served as treasurer and manager of the Kaslo SAR.
“It’s hard on you,” he said of the sometimes-grim incidents he attended. “But it helps to have the team, to talk about it afterwards.”
At 74, he recently retired from search and rescue work. But he says the time he spent with the group was deeply rewarding.
“I learned an awful lot. The camaraderie is wonderful – there’s some really nice people who are just interested in helping,” he says. “I miss the people, but I don’t miss being on call 24/7.”
The head of Kaslo SAR, Stefan Lettrari, said the lifeline award is an honour Hunt well deserves. “Don’s one of these guys who has a great heart. He is always willing to help and mentor others,” he says. “We have a bunch of new recruits on the team, and he’s a great role model for the next generation of rescuers.
“His leadership skills, his wonderful knowledge of our backcountry – if he didn’t know where a certain location was, you were in trouble. He has awesome knowledge of the area you could plug into, which is invaluable.”
Hunt is the second Kaslo resident to be recognized for their service to SAR in as many years. Paddy Flanagan was given a Lifetime Achievement Award under the same program in 2019.
Hunt was one of six award recipients from the more than 10,000 volunteers in the province who dedicate their time to helping others in crisis. Hunt was recognized for his work on road rescue; others were nominated for their air and ground search and rescue work, helping set up communication networks, and general support and co-ordination efforts for victims of natural disasters.
“This is challenging and difficult work, both physically and emotionally,” said BC Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth in a pre-recorded address announcing Hunt’s award. “Still, when the call came in, he was there, always available, always ready, to lend a hand to people in terrible situations.
“Don’s sincere dedication and commitment to helping the community of Kaslo and surrounding area is evident in everything he has done and continues to do.”
Hunt’s plaque will be on its way to his home soon. Most of the usual pomp and ceremony that surrounds the issuing of the awards this year has been cancelled due to the pandemic.
In the meantime, the double-retiree isn’t slowing down. He’s spending his days enjoying the great outdoors – hiking, climbing, ATVing, and skiing.
– Valley Voice