2021 Vital Award - Winner Interview Series
Ashley Roach-Poirier was nominated and became one of three Vital Excellence Award winners this year for being an “extremely dedicated and charitable person” (said by her nominator). Besides a full-time job at a construction company, Ashley has dedicated her heart to a long list of community activities, including teaching Zumba for all ages, fundraising, coaching sports teams at school level, being a board member of arts council, performing at nursing homes, churches, concerts, etc. in her hometown.
Snapshot about Ashley Roach-Poirier:
1. Where do you originally come from and what made you decide to settle down here in Cape Breton?
I have always lived in Cheticamp for 30 years, except 4 years that I went away for college. I love the small town life that Cheticamp offers. There’s so much to do for our little town. Everyone knows everyone and I like that. When you need it, the community is always there to support you.
I ended up returning to Cheticamp right after my college studies as I had met someone who is now my husband. He owned his own construction company and was settled already, so it was an easy decision to move home. I've been working for the company for 7 years now!
The photo was from “Stuff the Cruiser” where Ashley and her group did a Christmas carol while they collected donations for our local food bank.
2. Can you share some of the funding activities you did and what is your INITIAL INSPIRATION for what you have been doing?
I also love supporting fundraising for good causes. With our Rainbow Rockstarz fundraisers during Covid, we managed to raise roughly $3,400 this summer for both our causes, which are Relay for life and Cape Breton Cancer Patient Fund.
This was done by canvasing the sidewalks, we had music going and of course some dancing. When we can do our variety Concerts, we usually bump that number up to $5,000-6,000 per year. Let’s hope for 2022! (Editor: Read more about this campaign: https://www.invernessoran.ca/top-story/625-cancer-fund-run-cheticamp)
Our annual “Stuff the Cruiser” with the RCMP gets many food donations as well as monetary donations which amounted to over $5,000. The event is coming up on December 11th.
Our Gospel concerts are usually performed in one of our local churches. Donations are accepted at the door and donated to the church. Usually every concert we do raises between $1,000-1500. We try to do at least two concerts per year.
Our last Christmas concert raised roughly $2,000 for the Arts Council. We also participate in the annual Radioton for Arts Council which raises roughly $5,000 per year. We participate in the annual fall Radioton that is held for our local Radio (CKJM) and that also raises roughly $5,000 per year.
Ashley was in the rainbow canvasing the sidewalks as a fundraiser
Throughout the many different benefit dances that we have been involved in, the community of Cheticamp never ceases to amaze me. We usually see funds raised for families in need anywhere from $5,000$ to $10,000, sometimes even more!
Most every year we have a local “Papa noel/Christmas daddies” for our local “St Vincent De Paul” charity. We always make sure to participate in this event. I am not entirely sure of amounts raised but I know this is an important event as it raises money prior to Christmas and allows the charity to provide food during the holidays to many families in need.
Ashley in the Committee of Jackie Deveau Memorial Golf Tournament
I had forgotten to mention that I am also on the committee that organizes the Jackie Deveau Memorial Golf Tournament that raises money for various causes. Our last tournament raised just over 12000$ for these causes.
I've always been involved in many different activities even at a young age. I love a busy schedule and so being involved in the community keeps me occupied.
When I moved back home, my involvement was with the Radio board of directors and with coaching volleyball for about 5 years. More recently in the last few years, I teach dance at our local school to both young children and adults.
I also teach Zumba classes and partake on the Arts Council board of directors as well as the Cheticamp cooperative.
Ashley and her students in KIDS Zumba class
My inspiration for teaching dance comes from my involvement as a kid. Someone took the time to teach me, to coach me and now I feel privileged to be able to contribute to others.
Along with dance, music has always been a big part of my life. We sing at various benefits, concerts. But what I hold dear to my heart is singing at our local Foyer pere Fiset (a nursing home in Cheticamp).
La P’tite Brise, a group of young step dancers in the Cheticamp community, are students of Ashley.
The pandemic has really opened our eyes to how much things can be taken for granted. I have sang at the Foyer roughly once a month since 2011, but with the pandemic, we weren’t able to go. Just last week, I got the call that we’ll be able to start singing there again.
3. One REMARKABLE MEMORY in your journey?
There are so many over the years. One thing that I find extra special is our Christmas day. Every Christmas (of course apart from last year) for 6 years now, we go to the Foyer with a group of people and we sing Christmas carols throughout the halls to spread some Christmas Joy.
I can’t explain the feeling when we see the residents sing and follow along, the families smiling and joining in, and even the staff dancing and laughing. It is truly a special part of our Christmas day that we look forward to.
Ashley and her group sang at the local Foyer in Holiday season
4. Are there any MISTAKES that you learned by heart?
As everyone, I'm sure I've made my fair share of mistakes. I think the biggest lesson that I learnt is that not everyone is as committed as you.
Sometimes, when I get inspired and want to do something, I expect everyone to feel the same. I've had to realize that not everyone shares the same passions as me, so of course I had to lower my expectations.
I also had to learn that you can’t please everyone, so it’s finding a balance of doing things in the best way you can and being ok with that.
This was hard for me as I'm a go-getter and I like to achieve goals. I set the bar high for myself. So sometimes, it's just learning to be ok with not everyone being on board or accepting your best.
5. Who are your MENTORS? Could you share with us THREE MOST SIGNIFICANT THINGS that you learnt from them?
I have so many mentors that have inspired me. Throughout my life I've had knowledgeable teachers, sports coaches, stern but good bosses, dance instructors, loving parents, supportive friends and family.
I feel like there is a BIG list of things that I learnt but if I have to pick three it would be:
Ashley participated in the rainbow Rockstarz variety concert. Her team fundraised for Cape Breton Cancer patient fund and for Cancer society.
6. What CHANGES do you really want to make in your Community?
I hope that my involvement will inspire others to do something as well. I think everyone has a gift that they can share, a strength that they can use to help our community become stronger and better. I hope my love for dance and music is spread to the younger (and not so young) generation.
Someone asked me why I accepted to be on the board of the coop as my schedule is pretty hectic to begin with.
The way I see it is if I want things to ameliorate, I can’t help by being a bystander! For things to positively change people have to be active in their community!
7. Do you have any GOALS in the next 5 years?
I hope that we continue to move forward with live events, and strive to find our new normal.
I would love to develop more opportunities for dance in our community, as well as other similar physical activities. I look forward to working with others towards these goals.
I hope to be able to make a difference on the committees I'm currently involved in.
Sometimes new ideas and a fresh outlook can go a long way. God knows what new endeavors I’ll be doing in five years, but I look forward to it.
“If I want things to ameliorate, I can't help by being a bystander” - Ashley
8. Finally, how did you feel when you got nominated and finally became the winner this year?
To be honest, I had no idea I had been nominated let alone win! It is truly an honor to receive this award! I was so touched that someone would consider nominating me. I guess it really goes to show that you really never realize the impact you are having!
Interviewed and edited: Grace Le