Monthly Archives: April 2008

Rita Wong and Gary Geddes big winners at BC Book Prizes Gala

Rita Wong and Gary Geddes big winners at BC Book Prizes Gala

April 26, 2008, Fairmont Waterfront Hotel, Vancouver


Children's author finalist Meg Tilly and Poetry Prize
winner Rita Wong shared a story about reading one of Rita's poems
together during the BC Book Prize tour in the Kootenays – photo Todd

The winners of seven BC Book Prizes, as well as the recipient of the fifth annual Lieutenant Governor’s Award for Literary Excellence, were feted before an audience of authors, publishers, media and friends.

Todd Wong and Leanne Riding, co-presidents of Asian Canadian Writers' Workshop attended the ceremonies. ACWW secretary Ann-Marie Metten is also on the board of the BC Book Prizes.


Todd Wong with Gary Geddes, winner of the Lt. Gov. Lifetime Achievement Award. Only just a few days earlier at Government House in Victoria, Gary and Todd had celebrated Todd becoming a recipient of the BC Community Achievement Award. – photo Leanne Riding


ACWW/Ricepaper gang
Marisa Alps, Megan Lau, Rita Wong, Walter
Lew, Todd Wong, Leanne Riding.

Todd and Leanne celebrated with friends and winners, Gary Geddes,
recipient of the 5th annual Lt. Gov. Lifetime Achievement Award.

Meg Tilly, finalist for children's literature
George McWhirter, finalist for poetry
Shaena Lambert, finalist for fiction
Patricial Roy, finalist for non-fiction

Brian Lam, publisher of Arsenal Pulp Press
Howard White, publisher of Harbour Publishing
Marisa Alps, editor Harbour Publishing

For a full list of winners see:


Todd Wong – where's your kilt? Todd poses with kilt wearers Bill Horne, a book layout specialist from Wells BC, and Pipe Major John Mager. 

“Where's your kilt” asked the Lt.Gov. Stephen Point to me at the BC Book Awards. Sometimes people just don't recognize me if I am not wearing a kilt.  Funnily, It had taken Lt. Gov. Stephen Point a moment to recognize me after presenting me with the certificate for the BC Community Achievement Award a few days before on Wednesday in Government House.

see more pictures from Todd's Flickr site:

BC Book Prizes Gala

BC Book Prizes Gala

Kamini Jain gives paddle clinic to Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team

Olympic paddler Kamini Jain gives paddle clinic to Gung Haggis Fat Choy dragon boat team


came out to give a paddle clinic. She is coach of the False Creek
Mixed and FC Mens teams
– that brought home medals from the World
Championships last September in Sydney Australia.  Kamini is also a
two-time Olympic paddler at the Sydney and Athens summer Olympic games.  And she is v-e-r-y “Gung Haggis” with both South Asian and Italian ancestry.

watched the team paddle out for their warm up from the coach boat,
while Todd got used to steering the boat with a little out board and
very sensitive throttle grip.


Then Kamini climbed into boat and gave a drill:
forward with your hand along the gunnel of the boat until your arm was
parallel with the water.  That's how far your reach should be she said.
A 2nd drill:  paddling only with the bottom hand… and reaching as far as the first drill

  • She went down the boat making
    adjustments for each paddler. 
  • She gave demonstrations for the reach and how to grip the paddle (no champagne glass two finger grips)


Kamini makes Stephen M utilize all his potential r-e-a-c-h!

Kamini did some paddle correction with each paddler
most notable:

  1. more stretch
  2. more forward lean
  3. working the hinge at the waist
  4. bottom hand placement


Good s-t-r-e-t-c-h Jane!

some of the corrections she made on the video were:

  1. more reach
  2. bottom arm extended straight out (more reach)
  3. top hand staying high (not dropping out of the boat)
  4. exit – not flaring out
  5. recovery – not pulling the paddle into your body
  6. move head forward when you pull
  7. don't lean too far out
  8. get paddle deep in the water for the catch
  9. don't exit too late
  10. don't sit back too far at the end of your stroke
  11. use hips more

There were lots of compliments:

  1. good reach
  2. good top hands
  3. good
  4. good rotation
  5. good hips
  6. deep paddles
  7. rookies are looking real good

Attending the practice today were, in order of appearance on the video:

LEFT SIDE of the Boat

1) Gayle
2) Hillary
3) Keng
4) Alyssa
5) Joy
6) Ernest
7) Steve Behn
8) Joe
9) Raphael
10) Don
11) Christina

RIGHT Side of the boat

1) Tzhe
2) Jane
3) Cindy
4) Colleen
5) Leanne
6) Stephen Mirowski
7) Steven (“Yoga”) Wong
8) Devin
9) Sean John
10) Paulette
11) Pam


both Tuesday and Wednesday practices.  We will take the dvd to “The
Clubhouse” japanese restaurant – where we can watch the dvd, on a large
screen, while we enjoy cabohydrate replenishment.

Tuesday roster
will be limited to 22 paddlers, as last week we had the max, and not
enough on Wednesday to go out. Very sad and unfair to the paddlers who
came out on Wed.

please hit reply
to myself and Stephen Mirowski, so we can have a roster count confirmed for each day. 

you can only attend on Tuesday (some paddlers have classes on Wed) they
will be priority for Tuesday.  If you can attend either – please come
on Wednesday.

If there are 14 or 16 paddlers on each evening, it
makes it easier for me to do more one-to-one work with individual
paddlers.  If there is a full boat, I am less likely to do individual
paddler corrections. hint… more personal coaching on Wednesday!!!

see all the pictures:

Gung Haggis dragon boat paddle clinic with Kamini Jain

Gung Haggis dragon boat paddle clinic…

Cheers, Todd

Joy Kogawa celebrated at Kogawa House and receives George Woodcock Literary Achievement Award

It was a wonderful busy busy day of celebration at Joy Kogawa House on April 25th.

3pm press conference, introduction of formerly anomnynous $500,000 donor (Sen. Nancy Ruth) + baby cherry tree planting


At 3:40pm, we sat inside the living room of Historic Joy Kogawa House and listened to CBC Radio One's Arts Report by Paul Grant.  Paul had interviewed Sen. Nancy Ruth, Bill Turner and Joy Kogawa for his story on how the house was saved, and how Sen. Nancy Ruth's formerly anonymous gift of $500,000 was important.  In this picture Hon. Iona Campagnolo, Sen. Nancy Ruth and Joy Kogawa.- photo Todd Wong

Hon. Iona Campagnolo (former BC Lt. Gov. speaks about importance of preserving culture and heritage represented through Historica Joy Kogawa house.  She stands next to Joy Kogawa, Bill Turner (TLC executive director), Senator Nancy Ruth, Ujal Dosanjh MP for Vancouver South, Ellen Woodsworth (former Vancouver City councilor) – photo Todd Wong

4pm VIP reception – where we sold 6 baby cherry trees that will be planted at designated public sites (I want to plant one at Government House in Victoria)


Joy Kogawa signs books for MP Ujal Dosanjh and Vancouver councilor Heather Deal – two of the politicians we first contacted in 2005 to find ways to save the house and ensure its heritage designations. – photo Todd Wong

8pm  Music and Poetry with Joy Kogawa and Friends, featuring poets George McWhirter, Heidi Greco, Marion Quednau, soprano Heather Pawsey, flautist Kathryn Cernauskas, pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwassa, and composer Leslie Uyeda.

Author Joy Kogawa reads to a packed house in her childhood home. Composer Leslie Uyeda stands 2nd from left.  Vancouver Public Library Community Programming director Janice Douglas sits in the front row, 3rd from left. – photo Todd Wong

Following the music, Joy was presented with the George Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award from BC Bookworld Publisher Alan Twigg, Vancouver Public Library Community Programs Director Janice Douglas, and historian Jean Barman.

Alan Twigg speaks of Joy's acomplishments

Joy Kogawa accepts the award

Alan Twigg speaks of Joy's accomplishments         Joy Kogawa accepts the George Woodcock lifetime achievement award

This morning Joy Kogawa sent this email out to our Historic Joy Kogawa House Society

Dear Friends,
For a day of unalloyed happiness —
have had many many wonderful days in my life — but this one!  It was
the happiest. If ever I've felt at home…. Or felt the love that
underlies all…
My friend Heather Pawsey, soprano wrote:

Last night was one of the most beautiful and profound evenings of my musical life.  Heartfelt thanks to everyone behind Kogawa House.  May it continue to rise and spread its wings.

Pictures and more details to follow.

Kogawa House April 25 2008

Kogawa House April 25 2008

Raymond Louie hosts Wayson Choy reading

Wayson Choy Reads for Raymond Louie

Raymond Louie is hosting celebrated author Wayson Choy for a special reading in support of Raymond’s campaign for mayor.

When: April 28, 7-9PM
Where: Mekong Restaurant, 1414 Commercial Dr.
Admission: Free

I have known both Wayson Choy and Raymond Louie for a number of years.  I find them both very genuine people, dedicated to their communities.  I first met Wayson while I was on the inaugural One Book One Vancouver committee.  I first met Raymond while his wife was on the Vancouver Asian Heritage Month Society.  And we all worked wonderfully together.

The Mekong Restaurant plays a special role in Wayson's forthcoming new book, “Not Yet.”  It will be the sequel to his first critically acclaimed memoirs book “Paper Shadows.”

Wayson says this about Raymond Louie:

“Raymond emerges from the world I’ve described in my stories. His
parents came here with next to nothing, and he worked his way up and
proved himself again and again. He understands the struggles immigrants
face because he’s been there. His success is an amazing Canadian story.
Fortunately, there are still chapters yet to be written, and I would
trust Raymond to invest his integrity and his wisdom of the past to
secure in those pages a just and equal future for all.

Wayson Choy, author of “The Jade Peony”

A Musical Evening with Joy Kogawa and Friends

Language of Music, The Music of Words

A Musical Evening with Joy Kogawa and Friends

When: Friday, April 25, 8:00 to 9:30 p.m.

Where: Historic Joy Kogawa House, 1450 West 64th Avenue, Vancouver

Cost: By donation. Space is limited. To secure a seat, please RSVP by emailing Wine and cheese will be served.

composer Leslie Uyeda presents two song cycles written to accompany
five of Joy Kogawa’s most exquisite poems. “Stations of Angels” will be
performed by soprano Heather Pawsey and flutist Kathryn Cernauskas and
“Offerings,” by Heather Pawsey and pianist Rachel Kiyo Iwaasa. These
performances are the world premiere of both song cycles, which were
composed especially for these three artists.

complement the musical performance, poets Joy Kogawa, Heidi Greco,
Marion Quednau, and Vancouver’s poet laureate George McWhirter will

The evening will close with a stellar
presentation: the Vancouver Public Library will award Joy the George
Woodcock Lifetime Achievement Award for an outstanding literary career
related to British Columbia.

This National
Poetry Month event takes place in Joy Kogawa’s childhood home—a place
that is representative of the many properties owned by Canadians of
Japanese descent that were confiscated during the Second World War when
their occupants were interned. After a hard-fought effort to save the
house from demolition, the tiny bungalow is being restored and will
host a writer-in-residence program.

from this musical event will fund the honorarium for the first writer
to live and work at the house, beginning in March 2009.

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the League of Canadian Poets.


Globe & Mail: 'Instead of dying, it's been given a second chance' – story about Joy Kogawa's childhood home and beloved cherry tree

Globe & Mail: 'Instead of dying, it's been given a second chance' – story about Joy Kogawa's childhood home and beloved cherry tree

1) Joy and Timothy @ Kogawa House circa 1939 2) Joy and Timothy with friends circ 1939 3) Rev. Tim Nakayama, Roy Miki, Joy Kogawa and Todd Wong May 2005, at the Obasan Launch for One Book One Vancouver, Vancouver Public Library.

This is truly a miracle story.  I remember in the early 1980's shelving “Obasan” on book shelves while I worked at the Vancouver Public Library.  Just the existence of the book spoke to me about Asian-Canadian history and identity.  I was inspired to learn more about Japanese-Canadian history as part of my own Asian-Canadian history, as part of my own identity as a Canadian. 

The very first time I met Joy Kogawa was at Expo 86.  She gave a reading, and read a poem titled “Oh Canada,” about the sorry and loss of the internment.  I introduced myself to her friend Roy Miki and he gave me Joy'
s copy of the poem.

Many years later, I am honoured to call these great Canadians as friends.  It is a pleasure to be president of the Historic Joy Kogawa House Society, with so many good-hearted people on our board.

As I told CBC arts reporter Paul Grant, back in 2005 when we had just re-started the Save Kogawa House campaign, “Saving the house is a calling.  It's something that has to be done.

Today, we have a literary and historic landmark for not only the City of Vancouver, but for all Canadians.  And we still have work to do.  We must restore the house to its 1942 qualities when Joy and her brother Tim lived in the house, before they were sent away to the internment camps and beet farms.  We must build a writer's-in-residence program for this house.

'Instead of dying, it's been given a second chance'

Celebrated author Joy Kogawa returns to the house her
family lost during their wartime internment and revels in its future

From Friday's Globe and Mail

— As a girl, Joy Nakayama would write from her family's miserable shack
in the Alberta sugar beet fields to the new occupants of the
comfortable Vancouver home seized from her family during the wartime
internment of Japanese Canadians.

She begged the owners for a chance to get the house back. They never replied.

More than 60 years later, in a charming circle of history, Ms.
Nakayama, better known as the celebrated writer Joy Kogawa, stood once
more in her childhood home this week, eager to guide a visitor through
its emotional past.

From her former bedroom window, she gazed again at the famous
backyard cherry tree that forms the heart of her memories and so much
of her writing.

“It's the tree, more than anything else, that grips me,” Ms. Kogawa
said. “It's as if it has a message written upon it, that everything
we've gone through in life is known. … When it dies, I feel I will

Split in the middle, oozing sap, with many of its limbs missing, the
gnarled, ailing tree is nonetheless draped in a glorious display of
springtime blossoms, as much a miracle of survival as the house itself.

The modest bungalow in the city's now fashionable Marpole district
was just days from destruction when a last-minute, anonymous donation
of $500,000 allowed The Land Conservancy to buy it, with hopes of
establishing a writers' residence and a tribute to Ms. Kogawa and her
award-winning novel Obasan, about the tragedy of internment.

The donor's identity is to be disclosed at a ceremony this
afternoon. But The Globe and Mail has learned that the improbably large
sum came from Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth, sister of former Ontario
lieutenant-governor Henry Jackman.

“Why? Because I have a tremendous fondness for Joy Kogawa,” Ms. Ruth
explained, adding with a modest chuckle: “And also because of the tax
incentives of the Harper government. No capital gains on stock earnings
given to charity.”

Internment was a shameful act, she said. “I can remember reading Obasan and weeping at the pain.”

Yet, Ms. Ruth said, Ms. Kogawa retains a deep sense of faith in
humanity, that reconciliation and hope are still possible, even in the
face of things that are terrible.

Writers residing in the house in the future will have to deal with
that, Ms. Ruth said. “How can you sit at a desk and look out at that
cherry tree and not think from whence all that came?”

As for Ms. Kogawa, the six-year-old who once dangled upside down
from the tree's low branches is now grey-haired and 72, albeit with
undiminished energy and flashing eyes.

She can scarcely comprehend the astounding chain of events that has
brought her childhood refuge back after so many years, particularly on
a street where many residences were torn down long ago in favour of
larger, more expensive dwellings.

“I had given up. I'd gone to the realtors. I pleaded and begged not
to let it go. I offered to write books for them, to name characters
after their children. It all fell on deaf ears.”

Now, she marvelled, “such a strange thing has happened here. It's
all a bit surreal, dream-like. I don't know even how to describe it.
It's like some movie script, this sense of wonder and delight.”

During her tour of the house, Ms. Kogawa indicated how much has
changed over the years. New walls, doors and windows replaced, closets
ripped out.

“My mother's piano was right there,” she said, gesturing toward an
empty corner of the living room. “The gramophone was over there, and
that's where the goldfish

bowl stood.”

She headed into the basement. Suddenly, there were gasps of surprise.

“There they are! The windows and the doors!” She pointed to a pair
of fine French doors and old window frames, carefully stacked along a
wall. “And there's some of the cedar planks that my father put in.
Wouldn't it be great if things could be brought back to the way they

Ms. Kogawa brought back a few family possessions that survived
internment. Her brother's toy cars, her mother's Japanese tea set,
tattered picture books. “These are the pictures I grew up with.” And an
old apple crate. “That was saved, because it was useful when we had to
move,” she said, without bitterness.

It was a good day.

“The story of this house has come to a wonderful place, like a new beginning,” she said, groping to find just the right words.

“It had one birth. It lived its life, and then, instead of dying,
it's been given a second chance. That's a wonderful, wonderful thing to

“It's going to live again. It will breathe. It will bring life to
people. It will bring reconciliation. Those are the things this house
has been called to do.”

Todd's adventure in Victoria: Traveling to “The Party” at BC Royal Museum and behind the scenes at BC Community Achievement Awards

Todd's adventure in Victoria: “The Party” at BC Royal Museum

Victoria and BC has deep Scottish and Chinese roots. At the BC Royal Museum, I found nearby pictures of both Scottish and Chinese pioneers.  Okay the Scots were in the front, and the Chinese were in the back, and they seemed to be separated by more than the metaphorical space between them.

I spent 8 hours in Victoria and about 9 hours travelling there and back to the BC Community Achievement Awards on Wednesday April 23rd.  We almost missed the 9am ferry due to the stupid delays trying to go against traffic through the Massey tunnel.  We arrived at the Tsawwassen ferry terminal 12 minutes after the 8:30am deadline for 9am reservations. 

“But I have to be at Government House to meet the Premier and the Lt. Gov. to accept an award,” I pleaded.

“You can try, ” the ticket sales person said apologetically, “the ferry is at over capacity already.  Go to lane 28.” 

It was 8:50 and cars rushed down beside us in lane 29.  Finally at 8:55 our lane started moving.  We got closer to the ferry.  Then we stopped.  Then we started again.  We kept following the car in front, as we drove past the lead car in row 29.  We were now heading towards the ferry….yippee!  A few cars behind us made it on.  Relief.

On the ferry, we got in line to have breakfast.  My dad waited while I checked the Pacific Buffet for my friend and award nominator David Kogawa. I came back to the line up, and told my girlfriend, I should go check around for David.  At that moment a dapper looking elderly Asian man with white hair appeared.  It was David on cue.

“Todd!” a voice called me, as I was carrying my breakfast to the table to join my parents.  It was Terry Hunter with his son Montana.  Terry was an award recipient along with his creative and marriage partner Savannah Walling, creators of Vancouver Moving Theatre and producers of the Heart of the City Festival on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.  We had a short chat, and we promised to find each other after breakfast.

I spotted another award recipient having breakfast.  It was George Puil, former Vancouver city councilor. I went to congratulate him.  I hadn't known or met George before.  He was very interested in hearing about the Historic Joy Kogawa House, and asked many questions about how we were able to save the house from demolition, where the house was, and our plans to restore the house and create a literary centre, and establish the heritage designation.

“My old high school teacher,” remarked Mel Lehan, when I told him I had bumped into George Puil.  Mel was on his way to Victoria to help his daughter move.  It's that time of year, after final examinations, and his daughter had been attending University of Victoria.

Soon, I was talking with Terry Hunter and his son Montana.  David Kogawa joined us. And soon we were talking about the Japanese Canadian community and it's historical role on the Downtown Eastside.  I told Terry that we were going to the BC Royal Museum to meet author Gary Geddes. David really wanted to go too, since there is a picture of his friend Joy Kogawa featured in the exhibit “The Party.”  Terry offered to give David a ride into Victoria, since they were going in that direction past the museum.

It didn't take long to drive down the Saanich Peninsula into Victoria. This was the first time my parents had been to Victoria in about 5 years.  My dad had been born in Victoria, and his father had managed the largest Chinese general goods store up to the 1920's in Victoria Chinatown.  I can remember many visits to Victoria as a child with my parents.  One visit in the 1960's was to the first agricultural hot houses on Vancouver Island which my mom's cousin's family, the Lum's owned.  My Aunty Roberta's brother-in-law Ed Lum had been the first Chinese-Canadian mayor of Saanich many years ago.

Our visit to the BC Royal Museum was a very exciting one.  Last year, the BC Royal Museum had contacted author Joy Kogawa because they wanted to include a full length picture of her for an exhibit celebrating 150 years of BC history.  But Joy didn't like the picture that the museum had selected, and the pictures Joy did like weren't completely full length.  I offered that my girlfriend Deb and I would do a photo session for Joy.  The pictures turned out wonderfully and the museum was happy when we sent them 6 pictures to choose from.

Then the museum called Deb and asked for pictures of Gung Haggis Fat Choy.  One of the 150 Years exhibits had the theme of food, and they found a picture they wanted on my website  Deb put them in contact with our photographers who had taken pictures, and a picture by Ray Shum of the 2007 Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner was selected. 

At the museum, we were soon met by my friend, author Gary Geddes and his wife Anne.  Gary had already seen the exhibit and said it was quite good.  We got our guest passes and followed him up.  As we entered the exhibit room, we quickly saw all the life size photos arranged like a celebratory birthday cake.  It is a riot of images of famous British Columbians in many different poses.  Some black and white, some colour.  Quickly catching my eye was the photo of Bryan Adams, and then an almost naked Dr. David Suzuki. Rick Hansen in his wheelchair.  Terry Fox up high, wearing his “Marathon of Hope” t-shirt.  But where was Joy?


We followed Gary around to the other side, my eyes constantly stopping on every image I saw – wanting to identify each figure, but at the same time keep moving to find Joy.

We found her, tucked half way up the display, sandwiched between Betty Krawzyck and Karen Magnussen



It's a nice photo of Joy, and the photo credit is attributed to Todd Wong.  Cool!

There are also black cut-outs with segmented lines, representing missing people yet to be chosen.  If you think the exhibit is missing somebody that should be included, you can nominate them.  If you think somebody chosen, shouldn't be there – you can vote them out too!

If you think Toddish McWong and Gung Haggis Fat Choy should be part of “The Party” to represent multiculturalism in homage to BC's pioneer Scots and Chinese – you can click here!

Wouldn't this be a great image to include in “The Party?”, rubbing shoulders with “Mr. Peanut” and “Expo Ernie” as well as DOA, The Raging Grannies, Nicholas Campbell, Pam Anderson and David Suzuki?

CCNC launches 150 Years Culture Online Project – celebrating Chinese Canadian history and culture

Chinese Canadian National Council has launched the Chinese Canadian 150 Years Culture Online Project:

150 years is a short time for a culture that spans five thousand years,
but it is a long time when compared to a country that is only 141 years

Chinese Canadian history is not all about gold seekers, railway workers or the head tax.  It is also about adventure, endeavor and suffering – all universal experiences of every immigrant group to Canada.

The following is from the webiste at

The Chinese Canadian National Council is proud to present the Chinese
Canadian 150 Years Culture Online Project (CC150). This exciting new
online project showcases writers, musicians, videographers and artists
in the Chinese Canadian community. CC150 brings together a special
collection of exceptional work, based on the theme of 150 years of
continuous Chinese community in Canada with many submissions from

Through this community-based effort, we hope to provide a venue to
share our experiences and our stories and to instill pride and cultural
understanding. We encourage the public and Chinese Canadian communities
to connect, interact and to build understanding and respect for
Objectives of the Chinese Canadian 150 Years Culture Online Project:

  • To showcase Chinese Canadian perspectives and experiences from across the country
  • To enrich and educate everyone about the diverse Chinese Canadian cultures and histories
  • To be welcoming of youth participation
  • To build stronger relationships between communities and groups across Canada and abroad
  • To celebrate 150 years of continuous Chinese community in Canada

Features of the Chinese Canadian 150 Years Culture Online Project:

  • A special anthology of stories written by or about Chinese Canadians
  • A unique music and short video collection by Chinese Canadians
  • A showcase of Chinese Canadian artists
  • A one-stop resource page of relevant events and websites
This project was made possible with the support of the Chinese
Canadian National Council, Department of Canadian Heritage through
Canadian Culture Online and the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

I am one of 45 recipients of the BC Community Achievement Award for 2008

Just got back from Victoria from the BC Community Achievement Awards Ceremonies. Wow…

Todd Wong receives BC Community Achievement Award from Premier Gordon Campbell at Government House – photo Betty Wong

BC Community Achievement Awards 2008

From the April 23 news release

“The BC Community Achievement Awards recognize people from across
our province who enrich the lives of others, give freely of their time
and energy, and who embody the spirit of and passion of our
communities,” said Premier Campbell. “Through their actions, they
demonstrate the power of one person to make a positive impact on an
entire community, and an entire province. It is an honour to recognize
their achievements and celebrate their contributions towards making
British Columbia the best place on Earth.”

“This year's recipients demonstrate that British Columbians are
making a difference in every area of our province,” said foundation
chair Keith Mitchell. “Whether they live in smaller communities such as
New Hazelton and Tofino or the major centres like Victoria, Cranbrook
and the Lower Mainland, they have found ways making each of their
communities a better place to live.”

Please arrive by 1:15pm were the instructions to award recipients.  All
45 recipients were gathered in a room at Government House, where we
were explained the protocol of the event. What order, Where to stand on
stage, how to address the Premier and the Lt. Gov. Then Lt. Gov.
Stephen Point and Premier Gordon Campbell came into the room and shook
hands with each person. We had been instructed to say “Hello you
Honour, Premier,” and state our name and where we were from.

Next we were to be piped in to the ball room by the Lt. Gov. personal bagpiper, Pipe Major John Major. As soon as the bagpipe music started, somebody pointed at me and my kilt.  I smiled and feigned covering my ears.  Back at the end of the line in the hallway, I could hear the sound of the audience clapping to the beat of the music.

Walking into the Government House ballroom was special.  An audience of 200 were clapping and full of smiles.  There were TV cameras filming us as we walked in.  My mother was standing beside them with her new point and shoot digital camera.  My girlfriend Deb waved enthusiastically to me, as I walked up the centre aisle to find my seat.

ceremony began with inspiring speeches from Kyle Mitchell, Chair of the
BC Achievement Foundation and Gordon Campbell, Premier of BC.

45 recipients were each named, and a very nice bio for each person highlighting their achievements was read by Keith Mitchell.

I listened to 44 remarkable bios, amazing in scope, but similar in dedication and commitment. From creating programs  for seniors, or suicide prevention to civic duty, fundraising, artistic creations and leadership.  You cannot help but be humbled by the achievements of these award recipients. 

Then… my name was called. I was last on the list.  And a bio was read about me.  It seemed amazing that they could find so many positive things to say about me, and I could only nod in acknowledgment.  I smiled at the audience, knowing everybody was watching me, as I had watched others on stage.  And it is humbling to simply accept the process, and not try to deflect any of the praise, but simply accept and to acknowledge that you are this person they are speaking about.  These are your achievements.

The speaker began be describing my contributions for promoting Asian-Canadian arts and literature.  Next he  described Gung Haggis Fat Choy, and people laughed in good humour.  And when they described the campaign to save historic Joy Kogawa House, heads nodded and faces smiled. 

Official picture: Lt. Gov. Stephen L. Point, Todd Wong, Premier Gordon Campbell.

Todd Wong is being honoured today for his devotion to community
service, building bridges and cross-cultural understanding. A fifth
generation Canadian, Todd is an avid promoter of Asian Canadian arts
and literature and was one of the founders and leaders of the
successful campaign to save the Joy Kogawa House. Todd created the
annual celebration known as Gung Haggis Fat Choy which honours Chinese
New Year and Robbie Burns Day. Todd has also contributed to the dragon
boat community as a race organizer and coach and he has spoken at Terry
Fox Runs since 1993. Wong exemplifies the impact one individual can
have to inspire others to be creative, build bridges and span cultures.

As I approached Premier Gordon Campbell, to receive my medallion, beautifully designed by Robert Davidson, he greeted me and said “Gung Haggis Fat Choy.”  I chuckled and smiled back at him, “Gung Haggis Fat Choy… you will have to come next time.” 

Then I shook hands with Lt. Gov. Stephen Point, he said “Congratulations,” and handed me a certificate.  I stood between these two men, and we looked at the official photographer in front of the stage.  My girlfriend Deb was right beside taking a few photographs, beaming proudly. 

My parents stood beside my friend David Kogawa who had nominated me for the award. And new friends author Gary Geddes and his wife Anne joined them.

The ceremony concluded with a speech by Lt. Gov. Point, in which he praised the achievements of the collective recipients.

So many people came up to me afterwards saying they had heard me on radio, or seen me on television, or had always wanted to come.  I may have even talked the Mayor of Kamloops into organizing a Kamloops Gung Haggis Fat Choy dinner now.  I know that I am one of the lucky ones that receives the media attention for my events and community service, but every single person's story was heart touching, and truly an example of the unsung heroics of community service.  There were no rock stars, jazz divas, industry magnates or basketball stars attending like at the Order of BC awards.  Everybody there was simply a hard working citizen, committed to their community.  And it is so nice that they can each be recognized.

It's a wonderful feeling to know that your creations and contributions in the world have reached so many people in a positive way, directly or in many of these cases… indirectly.  And to think I almost died from cancer back in 1989.  I would have missed this party!

Pictures to follow as soon as Deb loads them up…. stay tuned!

2008 recipients group photo
of BC's most dedicated citizens stand with Premier Gordon Campbell and
Lt. Gov. Stephen Point, and BC Achievement Foundation Chair Keith
Mitchell, following the ceremonies. I can be spotted wearing my cream
jacket directly behind Premier Campbell.  I am standing between my
Vancouver arts community friends Naomi Singer on my left, and Savannah
Walling on my right,T
erry Hunter is immediately behind Savannah.  Also on my left is fellow kilt wearer Gordon Barrett in his Irish Pipes and Drums uniform – too bad you can't see our kilts.