Above and Beyond: Cst. Mariya Zhalovaga – Vancouver Police Foundation
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Above and Beyond: Cst. Mariya Zhalovaga

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the past few weeks (besides the value of toilet paper!) it’s that adaptability and innovation are two aspects at the core of resiliency. Constable Mariya Zhalovaga, School Liaison Officer at Windermere High School is a prime example of this.

A few years ago, she started a running club for students. Anyone is able to join – regardless of fitness level or previous running experience. The purpose of the club is to give the students a sense of place; to help them with goal setting and achievement; overcoming challenges; and moving past failure. Each year, the high point is a destination marathon – this year, it was scheduled to be in Jasper, AB.

And then COVID-19 hit. Schools are closed, gatherings cancelled. Cst. Z as she is affectionately known by her students, was worried for her kids. Kintec had just confirmed an incredible donation of brand-new shoes for all of the Running Club members, which is now on hold. The marathon was cancelled. And now, they can’t even connect in person. (Kintec is still on board and when it is safe to do so, will host a shoe-fitting event for the Club at their Vancouver store.)

Cst. Z has stayed connected to the kids, to provide encouragement, help lessen anxiety and fear, and to be a virtual shoulder for them. She’s always thinking about ways to engage them and to support them, especially now when they don’t have their friends around or the support offered through school. She found a virtual marathon site online. While the kids won’t be running together, they will still be able to try and achieve their goal. While practicing appropriate physical distancing, they will run their marathons (or 10K) and track their progress via technology. Upon completion, they will be sent a medal and certificate.

One of the students is already done! Neeko completed his 10K this week and Cst. Z was on the sidelines cheering him on. Neeko’s story is pretty special in and of itself and we’ll share that with you soon. Another student has already completed a half-marathon! Let’s cheer them all on.

There are 44 youth in the Running Club this year and we are rooting for all of them to achieve their goal! We are so grateful for Cst. Zhalovaga and all the VPF grant recipients who put their heart and soul into these programs.

You can help! Click here to support the VPF and help the kids achieve their goals. And a special shout-out to Kintec and all of the local companies who step up or have stepped up to support our community during this time.

Read More about the work Cst. Z is doing in the community by going here.