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Big Sky Summit Inspires New Wave of Ideas

Edmonton, AB –The Big Sky Summit asked the question “How Big is Your Sky?” to more than 400 Albertans at the Shaw conference centre on April 4. The event shared stories of successful initiatives in rural communities and explored future possibilities to support strong communities.

 “As a rural Albertan, I feel a great sense of pride when hearing so many stories about what has been accomplished,” said Jann Beeston, Chair, Rural Alberta Development Fund. “I know even more Big Sky ideas are forming. If we can move these ideas to action, I am confident rural communities throughout the province will continue to become more sustainable and vibrant.”

World-renowned speakers Eric Saperston and Bill Strickland shared inspiration and encouragement to the community leaders in attendance, whose fierce determination has revitalized small communities throughout Alberta. Saperston relayed motivating stories of his trips from one end of our continent to the other; Bill Strickland showed how making the impossible possible is a simple matter of believing in people and big possibilities. Summit goers were also treated to presentations by slam poet Shane Koyczan, featured at the 2010 Winter Olympics, and Albertan author, Doug Griffiths.

One of the Summit’s highlights was the launch of a new series of case studies called Small Town, Big Sky, which will profile innovative projects and the communities behind them. The first in the series showcases the Warner Hockey School. With more than 30,000 volunteer hours, Warner residents worked to create a girls hockey academy, all in an effort to keep their school open and save their town. Through sheer determination, Big Sky thinking and a little funding help from the Rural Alberta Development Fund, the school remains open and the town now boasts one of the best hockey academies in North America.

“It’s amazing to see so much support for what we’ve created,” remarked Sandra Nelson, who is one of many Warner residents who helped make the Warner Hockey School reality. “As long as people believe in their neighbours and are willing to put time into their town’s future, small prairie towns will have a strong future.”

The remaining case studies in Small Town, Big Sky will be launched on www.radf.ca over the coming months.

Rural Alberta Development Fund is a not-for-profit company that inspires innovation, collaboration and growth across rural Alberta. In 2007, it was capitalized with $100 million by the Government of Alberta as part of its Rural Development Strategy. So far, $77.5 million has been committed to 71 projects. Applications are now being accepted for the remaining $22.5 million, which must be committed by March 31, 2012.

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Editors Note: Event photos are available at http://www.flickr.com/radf

For more information contact:
Courtney Mosentine
Director of Communications
Rural Alberta Development Fund
780.436.9585 office;  780.399.7336 cell
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