The 250 Vimy Royal Canadian Air Cadets unit still actively trains and recruits members, despite Covid-19 restrictions. Captain Amy Sharpe, the Hammonds Plains squadron’s commanding officer, says while smaller units with 20 members can easily hold video meetings, 250 Vimy, with 80 members, has to be creative, using Facebook, Instagram and email to assign and share results of training challenges.
Sharpe says 250 Vimy cadets are currently working on “the Corona Cup Challenge, where we put out a new challenge every few days.” Each of the challenges targets mandatory skills. “Some of the challenges include a fitness component, an important part of what we do, and others are about community involvement, which is also mandatory,” says Sharpe.
One challenge asked cadets to create positive messages to their community. Sharpe says,“Some cadets made chalk drawings outside or put up signs of support for neighbours, and one cadet wrote a letter of thanks to hospital workers.”
Moving the entire training program to home-based activities isn’t easy, says Sharpe, “but we are privileged to have a phenomenal parents committee. We always strive to make cadets a a family commitment, and that has never been more important than now.”
Susan Stark, the parent coordinator for 250 Vimy, whose son Mitchell is a member, says the Corona Cup’s community involvement challenges are especially helpful for cadets and their families “to have a good feeling we’re doing something positive for our community.” Stark says her family was touched to see how many messages of support and caring posted outside homes in the area were made by cadets.
Sharpe says 250 Vimy will still hold its year-end awards ceremony on June 9, and “it will have everything our awards ceremonies always have, but using Zoom.”
Cadet recruitment is another important part of the program affected by Covid-19. Since the program is for youth aged 12 to 18, Sharpe says “we often recruit through schools, but we’re constantly looking for different ways to recruit, and we’re also turning to social media for that.”
Sharpe says cadet programs are an invaluable training resource for young people and “cost families nothing; all costs are covered by the program. And we get them out into the community, they travel, learn self-confidence, drive, and how to work toward their goals.”
Susan Stark agrees, saying 250 Vimy helped her son Mitchell, 18, achieve his goal of becoming a pilot. As a senior cadet, she says, “Mitchell is now using his computer skills and flying knowledge to inspire younger cadets with video from his time in the air, keep in touch with other young pilots on group chats, and prepare flying simulation programs to teach online this summer.”
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