By: Amie Wolf
On April 7th, 130 invited guests turned out to support the launch of Nigel Bennett’s new book, Take That Leap: Risking It All For What Really Matters, at the Delbrook Community Center in North Vancouver.
Bennett’s youngest adult son, Devon, did an excellent job as the Master of Ceremonies, showing off his quick wit, ability to improvise, and sense of humour. When he invited Starr Muranko to open the evening, she thanked the Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil Waututh First Nations for hosting on their territory. Starr then drummed and sang in Cree, wearing a beautiful skirt embroidered with a flower motif in the traditional colours of the indigenous peoples of Peru.
After an effusive introduction from his buddy, Dave MacDonald, Nigel expressed his profound gratitude to the many special people who encouraged and supported him to write, publish, and launch Take That Leap: his wife, Rieko; their three children, Kina, Devon, and Dylan; his sister Sue (with whom Nigel has shared many extreme outdoor adventures); lifelong friend, David Ash, Aqua-Guard CEO, Cameron Janz and colleagues; book editor, Shae Hadden; coach, Kevin Lawrence; audio visual director, John Stiver; event coordinator, Amie Wolf; and a list of youth in attendance.
Nigel’s eldest son, Dylan, traveled from Victoria to read from his dad’s book. Eloquently and with practiced Spanish, he shared the riveting tale of then teen-aged Nigel witnessing, for the first time, the catastrophic damage of an oil spill, taking photographs from the air, and almost being shot down from the helicopter he was flying in by FARC (the revolutionary armed forces of Colombia).
Next, Nigel spoke about the importance of giving. “Even if we feel there’s not enough time to get involved, we can start with something small. I once thought I was too busy,” Bennett explained encouragingly, “but when I started to give back, I realized it was the most important thing I could do.”
Jackie Leonard, representing Covenant House, explained the impact Nigel has had by participating in the non-profit’s annual Executive Sleep Out. Bedding down on the street with only a sleeping bag and cardboard for one night each year, Jackie reported that Nigel (with Rieko) raised $65,000 of the total $2.4 million that significantly contributes to the organization’s capacity to deliver services and provide shelter for homeless youth in greater Vancouver.
Jhaimy Alvarez-Acosta and Starr Muranko went on to present the work of The Children of the Seven Rays Foundation. Assisting children in the Sacred Valley of Peru, the foundation raises money to repair school structures, to purchase playground equipment, and to provide traditional foods and gifts at Christmas. Children of the Seven Rays also (among many other things) sends healthy snacks and art supplies to children living in the remote First Nations community of Attawapiskat, Canada.
Nigel concluded the evening by reading another story from his book. While observing cutter ants in the Amazon, he placed a metal bracelet in the ants’ path. Each little insect did their part to move around the formidable obstacle and carry on. This gave Nigel an insight. People are indeed capable of achieving a common goal, no matter how impossible it might seem, if we each make an effort to contribute. Working together is the key.
Jhaimy formally closed the evening with a traditional Andean prayer. Hands over our hearts, we all stood as the shaman blessed everyone, ringing a tiny copper bell between verses. I could sense a feeling of oneness still the room. It was as if Nigel’s reading about the cutter ants’ spirit of unity came to life. Many people told me afterward the Bennett Book Launch and Fundraiser was one of the best events they’d ever attended. The experience of plenitude and solidarity certainly made the evening extraordinarily memorable and worthwhile for me.