By Michel Beaudry
“It takes a village to raise a child.” This old African dictum has been so oft-repeated in recent years that it’s become nearly meaningless. So let’s consider its apposite corollary: “It takes a child to raise a village.” Know what I mean? Let me put it this way: I believe that it is in the lives of Whistler-born kids like Claire Daniels that we can begin to discern what this mountain village — the every-day Whistler community of mums and dads and kids and dogs and mortgages and dreams — really stands for.
Claire will turn 21 tomorrow. An exceptional young woman by any standard — a perennial Athlete of the Year, and winner of the Outstanding Student Award and Valedictorian for the Class of 2004 at Whistler Secondary — Claire is one of those positive-minded people who constantly manages to fill the space around her with fun and laughter. In many ways, she embodies all that is good and wholesome about what people like to call the “Whistler lifestyle”.
Above all else, however, she represents an incredibly promising future for this community — if we can convince Claire and her generation of young mountain-nurtured folk to stick around for a while.
“For me, growing up in Whistler really worked,” admits the U Vic student. “A small school, a tight social group (over a third of my graduating class of 42 had been together since Dandelion Daycare!) and a community of broad-minded adults willing to share their knowledge with us — it really suited my temperament.” A giggle escapes. “I remember going out for the school cross-country team only to realize that the team consisted of me, our teacher Mr. Titus (a world-class runner) and his two sons. I mean, you couldn’t get better coaching than that…”
When asked about her fondest memories, she doesn’t hesitate. “The first snowfall of the year, for sure — and all the kids scampering to school with their Krazy Karpets and the teachers having to really work hard to get us to go inside. The excitement and anticipation of that first snowstorm: that’s what I remember most.” She smiles at the memories. “It’s pretty amazing when I think back to those early years. We were the last group to go to school in the village.” Another giggle. “There were only 12 kids in my kindergarten class… and most of our parents were already friends. It was like being part of a great big family.”
In her 2004 Valedictory speech, Claire addressed some of the unique aspects of growing up in this valley. “We have been among the fortunate ones,” she wrote. “For Whistler, as a place to grow up, has provided us with all the right conditions in which to learn and realize our potential. This nurturing environment has come from supportive families, dedicated teachers and school staff, enthusiastic coaches and community workers who have all given tirelessly and generously of themselves to guide us on our journey.”