While their backgrounds and stories may all be different, three of the 10 finalists for the internationally renowned free Hawaii trip giveaway have a few things in common: they possess immense selflessness, unconditional love and an abundance of care and compassion, as well as they live in Central Alberta.
The three local finalists, chosen by Cody and Eva Borek out of Castor who are giving away a free trip they won to Hawaii to the most loving person in Central Alberta, may just live right around the corner from you, with both Brian Thomson and Tom Raba residing in Red Deer, and Brandy Forgeron in Lacombe.
They were also all nominated by other individuals hundreds of times for the work they have done to make the world a better place.
Forgeron’s aunt first nominated her based on the caring and compassionate life she lives and soon after her first nomination hundreds began to flow through the Facebook page.
Forgeron has spent her life giving selflessly to anyone who reaches out to her, and she has become well-known in the community as someone who people can reach out to for support.
Along with her husband and her three biological children, they have also adopted two children, to which she said she never even thought twice about doing.
Her work as a photographer has shown her compassion through the documentation of several individuals’ battles with cancer and their journey through chemotherapy.
“A hard time is always going to be a hard time, but if I can be a ‘pick-me-up’ to anyone then that’s a nice thing,” said Forgeron who is often times written to on Facebook by people reaching out to her for support.
Thomson, who has been a pastor for over 30 years, currently splits his time between the Red Deer Word of Life Church, several countries in Africa, as well as India and Nepal where he has started a number of orphanages, as well as food and support programs that have led to the saving of thousands of lives under the name of Home of Hope.
“I was shocked, to know that there were 15,000 people nominated – it was so humbling to even be nominated let alone in the top 10,” said Thomson, who was first nominated by a member of the Stettler Word of Life Church, which he was once a pastor at.
Thomson explained he began his journey to the formation of Home of Hope when in 2005 he first visited Rwanda and began to learn of the genocide that had taken place there.
His research led him to learn that at the time there was a ratio of one orphan for every 13 people and that it was the number one country in the world in need of orphan care.
“I had seen the commercials of starving children in Africa but they had never really affected me, but the day I saw a starving child first hand in front of me – my life was changed forever.”
Currently Home of Hope feeds more than 4,000 people each week, offers job training and micro loans to women, provides shelter for hundreds of children, sponsorship of children, animals to support families in the future and many other projects are in the works.
Also from Red Deer is Raba, who has recently received local recognition previous to being nominated for the free trip for the work he is doing to better the lives of Red Deer’s homeless population and is one of the youngest of the 10 finalists.
Raba spends his free time travelling around to shelters, distributing clothes and toiletries to which he first began purchasing with his own money, but has since began getting a number of items donated out of the back hatch of his car which has come to be known as ‘The Helping Hatch’.
He also works alongside a group of volunteers who work to feed over 150 people every week called Line of Hope, Red Deer Style.
“The main thing for me is to spread awareness of homelessness and to help inspire other people to give as well,” he said.
“To me it’s just normal what I do, it doesn’t seem so above and beyond so when I heard I was chosen as one of 10 of the most loving people in Alberta it really took me by shock; I don’t feel that what I do is too crazy and anyone can do what I do.”
One thing all three nominees agreed upon was that while they don’t do the things they do to be recognized, it is a nice feeling to receive recognition for the work they do.
A winner will be chosen for the trip via a random draw this Friday at 4 p.m. at Aspen Ford in Stettler.