A longtime member of the Sardis Kiwanis Club has been recognized by the Governor General of Canada for exceptional volunteerism with the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.
The award is a hard-earned honour, given to people who ‘have made a significant, sustained and unpaid contribution to their community, in Canada or abroad.’
It is the highest award in Canada for volunteers, and Brian Cleaver certainly fits the bill.
A longtime local who has been a member of a local Kiwanis club for 41 years — almost since its inception — Cleaver served as president for one year in 1981-82.
During his four-plus decades with the Sardis Kiwanis Club, Cleaver has worked countless hours on projects that benefit local youth. But his greatest passion is for Special Olympics.
Pete Somers, who penned a nomination letter for the Sovereign’s Medal, said Cleaver was instrumental in bringing the Special Olympics program to Chilliwack.
“Brian challenged the prevailing mid-set of the day, one that claimed it was the disability itself that prevented children as well as youth and adults from fully participating in play and recreation,” Somers wrote. “Brian felt it was simply a lack of opportunity, and given that opportunity, people with intellectual disabilities could acquire all the necessary skills to participate in sports and become physically fit.”
Cleaver started by introducing floor hockey, followed soon after by bowling, swimming, soccer, track and field and other sports. He dedicated himself to raising money so Chilliwack athletes could compete at the provincial, national and international levels.
“He wanted to make sure that his ‘kids’ got as much as he and the club could give,” Somers noted.
It was Cleaver who initiated the annual Sardis Kiwanis Club July 1 Pancake Breakfast, with profits going to purchase equipment and pay travel costs for Special Olympians.
Until recently, Cleaver chaired the annual Sardis Kiwanis Kids Christmas Party, and has been a key supporter of Meals on Wheels.
A former member of the Canadian Military Engineers, Cleaver actively supports the work of the Canadian Forces Base Chilliwack Historial Society, which maintains and displays archives to preserve the history of the Royal Canadian Military Engineers.
“With the passage of time, Brian has slowed down somewhat, but his passion to help those in need still burns bright,” Somers wrote. “He gives with his heart and rarely, if ever, asks for anything in return.”
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