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Inspiring women

Mentors up for auction at Kathy Barnett Leadership Luncheon


Zip Trekking with Whistler's first female mayor.

A yoga class and goal-setting/coaching session with a lululemon athletica director.

A tour of the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program facilities with the executive director of WASP.

Inspiring women — "inspiring" as both a noun and a verb — is what next week's Kathy Barnett Leadership Luncheon is all about. And if the thought of flying through the trees with Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden doesn't inspire you, maybe seeing first-hand what disabled athletes can achieve will.

Chelsey Walker, the executive director of the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program, is one of five mentors available to the highest bidder in a live auction at the March 9 luncheon. Others include Nancy Richardson, director of digital and brand experience strategy for lululemon; Stuart Rempel, senior vice president marketing and sales for Whistler Blackcomb; RD Stewart, executive chef of La Rúa and twice voted Whistler's Best Chef; and Mayor Wilhelm-Morden.

The sub-title of the luncheon is "Create a ripple, instigate change," something Kathy Barnett did as co-founder and publisher of Pique Newsmagazine, as a director of both the Community Foundation of Whistler and the Whistler Chamber of Commerce, and as a mentor to other women in business. The intent of the luncheon is to continue that theme, building support for the next generation of female leaders in the Sea to Sky corridor.

Kerry Chalmers, chair of the event committee, said this year's mentor auction is even better than last year's.

"It's a great fit with the event because Kathy was a mentor to many people in so many ways. Kathy and the CFOW and the event are all about giving back to the community.

"It's an opportunity for senior members of the community to give back but at the same time it's an opportunity for younger members of the community to learn. It's almost a 'pay it forward' scenario."

And that learning opportunity is unique to the luncheon.

"If you want to have time with these people you have to come to the event," Chalmers said.

Faye Wightman, president and CEO of the Vancouver Foundation, Canada's largest community foundation, is the guest speaker for the luncheon. A leader in the field of philanthropy, Wightman was president of the B.C. Children's Hospital Foundation for 14 years. She has also served as vice president of external relations for the University of Victoria and executive director for Sunny Hill Foundation for Children. A 2004 recipient of Business in Vancouver's Influential Women in Business Award, she is the current chair of Imagine Canada and serves on the board of Emily Carr University.

Carol Coffey, executive director of the Community Foundation of Whistler, stresses that the afternoon is not a women-only event. Men are encouraged to attend.

Following the luncheon a VIP reception will be held at La Rúa Restaurante. The reception was spawned by feedback at last year's luncheon that many people were interested in networking and socializing after the event. The reception, which is limited to 50 people, includes a silent auction. One-on-one lunches with another group of mentors will be open to bids. The mentors include Mei McCurdy, executive director of the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation, Pique movie columnist and editor Feet Banks, and New York based consultant Jessica Houssian.

Tickets for the luncheon, which runs from noon to 2 p.m. at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler, are $65, or $600 for a table of 10. Tickets for the VIP reception, from 2:15 to 4 p.m., are $35 each. Tickets are available through the Whistler Chamber of Commerce,,com_dtregister/Itemid,760/eventId,612/task,event_register/type,reg_options/%20.

Proceeds from the day go to the Kathy Barnett Memorial Fund, which provides leadership grants to women living in the Sea to Sky corridor who want to improve their skills for the betterment of the community.