Community shines during a difficult 2017

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So long 2017 it hasn’t been that good to know you.

Although the past 12 months have had some highlights news wise in the Okotoks area for me — the smiles on the faces of the hard-working Foothills Falcons after winning their third-consecutive provincial football title for example — for the most part it left an emotional lump in my throat.

Okotoks was tragically the centre of one of the biggest news stories of the year when Tara Roe, 34, was murdered along with more than 50 other people when she was killed while attending a country music festival in Las Vegas in October.

My heart went out immediately to her husband, Zach, who had gone to the concert with his wife to celebrate their love and commitment to one another, only to experience the horror of losing it all due to an idiot with enough guns for a small army.

Roe was in the prime of her life — a mother of two, an education assistant and strong volunteer with Okotoks Minor Hockey.

What a tragic loss.

However, I was warmed by the efforts of the Okotoks and surrounding community. The Foothills School Division immediately set up counselling services at schools for not only students, but staff at the schools where Roe had worked. The community also stepped up, the Okotoks Oilers holding a special night in her memory. Okotokians also pitched in with various fundraisers for the family.

Okotoks and the Foothills area also made headlines when Lloyd Smith and Turner Valley’s Jason Podloski died as a result of ammonia poisoning at a Fernie arena, also in October. Smith was a former employee with the Town of Okotoks.

I got reminded of the human aspect of this job during an interview when it dawned on me I knew Smith’s family from High River fairly well.

Lloyd sounded just like the family members I know — proud of community, family and striving to make the world a better place.

Giving his sister a hug was a moment I won’t forget.

So, I’m glad to put 2017 in the rear-view mirror.

Although the past 12 months had horrific news, it also showed how community comes together in hard times.

Happy New Year.

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