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Daily Dose — Local Educator Maia Vezina Honoured by New Annual Award

Ari Lord
By Ari Lord
November 16th, 2023

Maia Vezina, a local educator who passed away in the spring, is being honoured with a new fund through the Osprey Foundation.

The Maia Vezina Education Award will go out annually to a graduate of L.V. Rogers Secondary School in Nelson pursing Education-related post-secondary studies. Vezina graduated from LVR in 2012.

Veniza majored in English and Education at the University of Calgary, and was an advocate for life-long learning and emotional intelligence learning in gifted children.

The family hopes to receive matching funds from the public and expects the first award will go out in Spring 2024.

“Maia was a teacher, and she loved it, and she was quite good at it. I’ve heard her teach. I’ve seen all these wonderful notes that students and parents sent her. We just knew she was meant to be an educator,” says Pat Henman, Vezina’s mother.

When Vezina passed, the family knew how they wanted to honour her.

“It was quite fast how we decided, why don’t we develop and invest in an award in Maia’s name to honour her and support the fact that Maia believed in education and wanted kids to do well. This seemed like the right legacy, the right way to go,” says Henman.

The family approached the Osprey Foundation and started the fund, investing the first $5000 from Maia’s estate.

“What we know is that once it gets to a certain point with donations, then the interest on that money is what’s given out annually to a grad and the original fund never gets touched, so it just grows as years go by. We have the opportunity to top up the award if we want. We’re hoping the fund will grow so that the grads get a nice award to help and support them,” says Henman.

Henman hopes the word spreads about the new fund.

“The word needs to get out there that we are trying to raise as much in fundraising as we can so that we can give a decent amount in the award to assist a grad from Maia’s high school.”

Vezina was working as a teacher of children on the Autism spectrum at a Vancouver at a private school, Magnussen, when Covid hit, and her plans changed.

“Maia was in Vancouver all by herself, and decided she wanted to come back home. We decided we were going to sell our home downtown (Nelson). She wanted to buy it because it was her childhood home. So Maia bought that home,” says Henman.

Vezina was tutoring privately in Nelson, and applied for a substitute teacher job. She got it, and was supposed to start in September 2023.

Henman says her daughter was an incredible person.

“She was a dedicated friend to many, a beautiful person, super generous, she loved her siblings, loved family. She was smart, she was a social being. She had so many friends. I could go on.”

Maia did have challenges.

“She suffered greatly from chronic pain from the crash that she and I were in in 2013 when we were hit by the drunk driver. Even with all of the injuries- she had steel rods in both legs, her hips, her pelvis, and both arms, she had a lot going on with pain, and she was still a smiley, happy person who wanted to celebrate and enjoy life,” says Henman.

Every June 9th, mother and daughter found a way to celebrate life to mark the anniversary of the crash.

“We were blessed to be able to come through that crash because the odds were that people don’t. And [Maia] got that.”

Henman (65) is a veteran of the Canadian theatre and music industry, a trained actor, vocalist and writer. She volunteers and works in the arts in Nelson, directing plays and mentoring artists. She volunteers for MADD Canada, the Victim’s Advisory Commission to the Parole Board and Corrections Canada, and the BC Arts Council.

Henman is the author of a memoir, Beyond the Legal Limit: Surviving a Collision with a Drunk Driver, that turned into a performance that she toured to Calgary, Golden, Trail, Castlegar, Nelson, Kaslo, and Creston in Spring 2023.

“Never did I think I was going to write a memoir and then have it turn into a play. But that’s the way it goes. You just have to be open to everything, stay vulnerable, stay open, allow things to happen,” says Henman.

This performance tour, which was delayed two years due to Covid, meant so much to Henman.

“The response from the audience was pretty overwhelming. It was an amazing experience for me and my small cast. There were 4 of us, including our stage manager, that we went on the road. I feel I’ve accomplished what I set out to do. It was so wonderful to go out and meet community members from all over the West. It was absolutely fantastic.”

The show streamed all over North America from the Capitol Theatre in 2021 and was purchased and run at the Rochester Fringe Festival in New York.

Henman was recently one of five annual recipients of the 2023 Courage to Come Back Awards in Vancouver for physical rehabilitation through Coastal Mental Health.

“It happened two weeks after Maia passed, and the awards ceremony happened on the 10th anniversary of the crash of 2013. That became an amazing platform for Larry and me to be able to get up there and talk to the biggest audience I’ve ever had- 1700 people and talk about the injustices of being hit by a drunk driver,” says Henman.

Henman shared vulnerably that day about things she is passionate about.

“The injustices that victims go through, plus the stigmas that are placed on people like Maia and I. People who go through trauma and PTSD, which at times create mental illness issues and lead to everything that we have gone through as a family due to one person’s terrible choice of driving drunk. I connect everything that’s happened in the last ten years back to that day in terms of everything good and bad.”

Henman says she is still healing but hopes to return to her arts-based volunteer work in Nelson soon.

“Time and creativity is a great healer,” she says.

The family is grateful for all contributions to the award.

“Larry and I appreciate everything everyone has done for us. All of their beautiful notes to us. Anyone who donates to the fund, Larry and I are so grateful. And we are just so happy that this award will go on and honour Maia’s name forever,” says Henman.

To learn more about the fund or to donate, click here.

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