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Meet a Squamish volunteer who has had a remarkable impact

Behind the scenes, Cindy Cardiff has had her hand in many events, some of which continue to be enjoyed today.
Cindy Cardiff in downtown Squamish.

As a reporter, it’s essential that I be on time for interviews. And to me, on time means at least five minutes early.

But on an early April day, Cindy Cardiff beats me to our scheduled meeting at Stan Clarke Park. With a friendly wave from afar, she and I sit at a picnic table.

Early on, she tells me she’s still recovering from two separate knee surgeries.

“So, I’ve had to really slow down,” she lamented. “I’m not that kind of a person; I like to be busy.”

And those that know Cardiff understand that sentiment, she’s had a hand in supporting all types of community events from Squamish Days Loggers Sports to the Santa Parade to the Canada Day celebration. She’s even helped dig parts of the BMX race track.

So, it’s safe to say the surgeries won’t slow her down for long.

“Now I am bionic,” she said with a laugh. “And as I recover, look out world.”

Her up-for-anything attitude, friendly spunk and behind-the-scenes organizing are just a few reasons why Cardiff is one of Squamish’s volunteer and community icons.

In the thick of events from the very beginning

While Cardiff wasn’t born in Squamish, it didn’t take her long to get involved in the community. She moved from Nanaimo in 2006 with her two sons, who are now in their 20s.

Early on, she began a photography business which ultimately started her down her path of community events.

“It probably started off with Santa photos because I moved here in September,” she said. “I found out that there was going to be a Santa actually in front of the arts building. And so I said, ‘Do you want some Santa photos?’ And they jumped at it.”

The Santa photos snowballed into an array of Christmas events with a Christmas market and even a contest where the winner would get a helicopter ride with Santa. While some of these events have since stopped, the yearly Santa Parade stemmed from these early Christmas events.

“We believed in the spirit of Christmas and we wanted to take it farther,” Cardiff explained.

Around that time, her oldest son, she said, was very much into BMX racing. When she found out someone was making a BMX race track, she jumped aboard.

“Got involved right at the ground level,” she said. “And like literally ground level, we were shovelling dirt into wheelbarrows and raking.”

Then came hockey and Scouts Canada and help with Logger Sports such as organizing the volunteer dinner, taking photos and being a timer. Cardiff even says the bed race course we watched just this past year is still similar to what was originally schemed.

Soon thereafter, she was approached to organize Squamish’s Canada Day celebration, which ran until 2019. At first a modest event, it eventually ballooned into an all-day extravaganza with games, art, live music and, of course, fireworks.

“It would take me about six months to organize Canada Day,” she explained. “And then I would switch over and it’d take me six months to organize the Christmas stuff.”

Although these are just a handful of the events she helped with, the throughline always was her desire to build community.

“There were a lot of things that could have stood in my way from having me do all of those different things,” she said. “But I really felt that it was important to be a part of the community and to go to everything and to support local businesses. And, if somebody else was doing something, to go out there and cheer them on.”

Balancing work, family and community

All of this organizing and event planning certainly helped with the photography business, Double Shutter Images, but with two kids in tow, Cardiff said that more pay was a necessity.

While she could have taken on a simpler job, Cardiff instead took on a role as a life skills worker with Sea to Sky Community Services.

“I’ve been working there for 13 years with adults with disabilities,” she said.

With a degree in psychology, she said the role was flexible enough so that she could still get to go to photography gigs or one of her kid’s school events if needed. While balancing all of that may sound tough, Cardiff said it was what her family needed.

“I had two full-time jobs. Maybe three,” she joked.

And Cardiff knows she’s not the only person in Squamish trying to make ends meet with multiple jobs. Nevertheless, she recognizes how impactful community events can be, so she encourages people to really put themselves out there.

“My advice to people is to get involved in the community,” she said. “Find out what kind of things you’re interested in, and if there isn’t something happening for it, then start it.”

“There are people that are looking for things to do, and so either start it or jump in where there’s already something.”

Cardiff does say that she wants to retire, however. But her version of retiring sounds a little different.

“I’m ready to retire from doing as much,” she said. “It’s time to be thinking about what to do until I’m 80 or 90.”

Cardiff admits it probably won’t be something with as much “running around” as she has done before, likely a little quieter. Still, she says she definitely won’t just be disappearing.

“I have so many connections, and I really like connecting with people, so it’ll be something in the community.”

And when asked if we really won’t see her down in the pit at Logger Sports taking photos or timing competitors, she responded that she might still be at the event but just in a different spot.

“Maybe from the stands with my camera,” she said.

“And a beer.”

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