Stroke Recovery Branch White Rock/South Surrey member Simone Tuazon heads to check out the lunch fare offered up at the July 16 salmon barbecue – held annually in honour of the late Grand Chief Bernard Charles – as her husband entertains the crowd on flute. (Tracy Holmes photo)

White Rock/South Surrey stroke-club barbecue a time to celebrate, remember

July 16 event held in honour of late Semiahmoo First Nation Grand Chief Bernard Charles

An annual barbecue held this month in honour of the late Grand Chief Bernard Charles filled the pavilion in Peace Arch Park with people, food and optimism.

Laurie McFarlane, community co-ordinator for the Stroke Recovery Branch White Rock/South Surrey, said she remembers getting goosebumps the first time she heard the Semiahmoo First Nation drum ceremony that typically launches the affair.

“I wanted to know more about this great man,” McFarlane told attendees.

In addressing the crowd of stroke survivors, their family members, politicians and other guests, Charles’ niece, SFN band councillor Joanne Charles, described her late uncle as “so inspirational.”

He joined the local stroke club after suffering a stroke in 2003. While he initially “really didn’t want to go,” it was through attending that became inspired in his own recovery, through people he met and activities he became involved in, Charles said.

“He was feeling like sometimes many of you felt… he wanted to communicate but maybe he couldn’t,” Charles said. “He didn’t feel like he was contributing.

“And (then) he went to the stroke club and he did all sorts of cool things.”

McFarlane told Peace Arch News last month that she has seen all manner of success and camaraderie in her three years with the club, which meets Tuesdays and Thursdays at White Rock’s Centre for Active Living.

It’s not unusual for as many as 30 stroke survivors to pack the small CAL room for aphasia class and chair exercises.

READ MORE: Stroke survivors finding ‘magic, family’ with White Rock group

At the barbecue – where Charles and her cousins Leeann and Samantha Wells prepared wild B.C. sockeye salmon – local club members welcomed a handful of members of the Richmond stroke club. Tribute was also paid to past members of the White Rock/South Surrey group, through names and photos carefully hung on a memory tree.

Charles sang a prayer song, extending a blessing “on each and every one of you.”

“It’s a great honour for us to be here, to help celebrate a year of accomplishment, a year of meeting new people, a year of life.

“To do this together, is a wonderful thing,” she said.


A volunteer (left) helps serve lunch for barbecue attendees. (Tracy Holmes photo)

A memory tree paying tribute to stroke club members who have passed away is backdropped by a display that shares the history behind the annual barbecue, in particular, its connection to the late Semiahmoo First Nation Grand Chief Bernard Charles. (Tracy Holmes photo)

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