It’s the smile that has been around Edmonton, closing in on six decades — and, with each look of pride, happiness and accomplishment a new level of excellence is set.
I first saw Kevin Shaigec’s smile in Jasper Place Arena in 1974. His grin, covered with sweat after he made a tape-to-tape pass as a defenceman with Jenner Motors in midget hockey, told the story. The smile got brighter as time ticked and Kevin’s journey continued: through junior hockey, and then university.
He joined his dad, Peter, with Stony Plain Agencies, an insurance company. Kevin’s smile got bigger when he married Gail in May of 1993, and then had two daughters: Laura and Amy.
The smile also is seen regularly during the summer at the Edmonton Country Club, when Kevin saunters off a green, seconds after putting an ever so gentle touch on a birdie putt.
But perhaps one of the biggest smiles I’ve seen Kevin flash was Thursday afternoon, a shade after 2 p.m., in Room E118, a seven-iron shot south of 112 Ave. Dressed in a snazzy, but conservative, grey sports jacket, smart shirt and jet black pants, Kevin stood behind a portable brown wooden podium. He embraced the moment.
He smiled, of course.
And then made a significant announcement.
Now, allow me to pause to share some background information. At the end of my column, you may have noticed a line saying I am the special projects advisor for Challenge Insurance.
When my newspaper career had a small detour in 2012, I had some time on my hands. Kevin found out about this and reminded me that I had always had a dream of writing a book.
“I have an empty office,” he said. “Get your butt there, every day, and write that damn book I’ve been hearing you talk about for the past, what, 30 years.”
I did. And then Kevin offered me a job to handle social media and marketing for Challenge Insurance.
Back to Thursday: Kevin and Gail presented the Glenrose Foundation a cheque for $100,000 for the design of a new classroom for children with physical disabilities. The room comes with state-of-the-art equipment, including an observation room with a two-way room so parents and pediactric professionals can make caring comments.
It began three years ago. Kevin heard about the classroom through his father-in-law Keith McDonald, a member of the Shriners Oriental Band, who made a $50,000 investment. But they needed more resources to make the classroom a reality.
“We’re hoping students can continue with their studies in a state-of-the-art environment and enable them to keep going academically while they deal with their rehabilitation programs,” Kevin said.
Off to Kevin’s right were several of the Challenge Insurance staff, an integral piece of the investment.
“The community has been great to us and I think it is a great idea to give back to those you give to you. The Glenrose touches so many people so it just made sense,” said Kevin.
After visiting with members of the Glenrose Foundation, Kevin walked out the classroom … smiling all the way.
(Cam Tait is the special projects advisor for Challenge Insurance.)