LEWISPORTE, NL — Over the years Captain Bernice Seaward has volunteered countless hours for youth of the community.
Since 2005, when Seaward began volunteering with the 617 Dambusters Royal Aid Cadet Squadron, that dedication has impacted many young lives.
Something like driving to St. John’s to pick up something for one of the cadets, or going to Gander and standing in a line-up for three hours to have a nametag made for a child heading to a competition — that’s standard practice for Seaward.
“It was for a child, so I did it — no second thoughts,” she said.
That commitment was recognized recently with a national award from the Air Cadet League of Canada through a Certificate of Recognition.
Seaward doesn’t know who nominated her for the award, but she is honoured and humbled by the recognition.
“The things I do, I do them from my heart, not to receive recognition for doing them,” she said. “That’s the kind of person I am, I just do it. I don’t need any thanks.”
For four and a half years Seaward had served as the Dambusters Commanding Officer (CO). It wasn’t until her husband required palliative care in February that she stepped back from that role.
Over the years she hasn’t missed a single community event that the Dambusters have been involved in – which are many – from parades to tree lighting events and other activities, in addition to attending regular cadet meetings/practices during the week.
“I had a broken foot and a sick husband, and I never missed a thing,” she said. “When you commit to something it’s a commitment – you have to see it through or walk away.”
Seaward has always expected that same level of commitment from the cadets. Right now there are 55 cadets on parade. Seward noted that is one of the highest enrollment numbers for cadets in the province.
She attributes the fact the cadets are so involved in the community to its success.
“We brought the Cormorant (helicopter out),” she recalled. “The visual I think is what creates the interest – we had it (Cormorant) here twice now. Every cadet flew and we had a lot of children who were interested in flying gathered around the field.
“We are in all the parades, tree lightings, Happy Tree launch. . . it shows other youth that it’s fun.”
Something she also noted that parents might not be aware of is that the cadets program is offered at no cost to parents.
“We ask the parent to buy a $5-nametag – that’s it,” she said. “Everything else is paid for by DND (Department of National Defence).
“Where else can you get a pilot’s license and it doesn’t cost you a penny?”
Cadets offers real world experiences and training to members by offering opportunities such as aircraft maintenance, leadership and survival programs, international exchange, biathlon, marksmanship, band, drill, camps and more. Some of the six-week camps can help participants earn credits for high school.
“There’s so many opportunities there,” Seaward said. “All of it can be found on the website for the Air Cadet League of Canada. It tells you everything about cadets.
“Google it – it’s one of the best kept secrets in Canada.”
Seaward has seen cadets bring out the best in young people.
“When you see a child develop and grow and mature and become a respectable adult, it means so much,” she said.
Seaward continues to volunteer with the Dambusters as an administration officer. She will continue to do so until the completion of the annual ceremonial review in the spring. In January she will be relocating from Lewisporte to Gander. She is due to retire in just over a year.
“It’s going to be bittersweet,” she said. “I think I’ve done my time, but it will be painful in that I’m not going to see all these children we’ve helped nurture and grow because I’m leaving Lewisporte. But I will find something to do in my retired life.”
Seaward’s only regret is not getting involved with cadets sooner.
She welcomes anyone interested in joining the ranks of the Dambusters to drop by Lewisporte Intermediate on a Tuesday or Wednesday evening when the cadets meet. Remember to bring along a copy of the youth’s birth certificate and MCP (or originals and photocopies will be made).