Recent History – 2004
April 12, 2004 – By Gary Rusak, Daily News Staff
It will come as no surprise to anyone living in Dawson Creek that John Van Spronsen has been recognized with a British Columbia Community Achievement Award.
“It is always the one person who gets the trophy, but it is the great team that deserves it,” said Van Spronsen modestly on Thursday.
The long-time Dawson Creek resident was formally recognized for his work in creating The Ark, a recreation centre utilized by more than 300 Dawson Creek youth every week.
“We have had so much support from the community and from volunteers over the years,” he added.
Van Spronsen opened up The Ark in October of 1989 after a heart attack cut short his career.
“I just felt that the best investment you can make is in the youth,” he said. “When you build a house you start with the foundation, and I wanted to help the foundation in the city.”
A proud grandfather of 16, Van Spronsen felt that there just were not enough recreational facilities for children in town and he took his own resources to do something about it.
Now, The Ark plays a central role in the youth community in Dawson Creek offering a myriad of events including ball hockey, skateboarding, basketball, and rollerblading. It runs entirely on private donations and is as a great example of a community institution that reacts to the ever-changing wants of young people.
“When you work with youth you can never be stagnant,” he said. “You always have to keep up.”
By all accounts The Ark has kept up and fills an important niche in the community. With more than 50 volunteers and a full time program coordinator Van Spronsen can concentrate on fundraising efforts and enjoying what he has help to create.
“My first love is young people,” he said. “I am really fortunate to be able to work with them all the time. It keeps me young.”
The awards were announced by Premier Gordon Campbell last week in Victoria and are designed to honour “the spirit, dedication, imagination and contribution of outstanding British Columbians to their community.”
Thirty-six awards were announced and recognized citizens across the province. The campaign was launched in 2003 by the government as a way to “celebrate B.C.’s spirit of excellence”. The local winners are Van Spronsen, Tumbler Ridge resident Kevin Sharman and Pouce Coupe resident Carol Walmsley.