Olympian brings message of support for students navigating emotions

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Karen Furneaux guest speaker at Riverside Education Centre

MILFORD: Karen Furneaux gave Grade 6 students a message of always remembering to dig for your goal, just like she did in her parents back yard many moons ago.

Furneaux, who grew up in Silversides subdivision in Waverley, started off her speech as part of Riverside Education Centre’s well-being week talking about Waverley’s rich gold mining history.

“I would always be digging looking for these nuggets of gold,” she said. “Now my mom did find a nice size nugget, she took it to the bank and she cashed it in. So you can imagine as this eight-year-old girl, I was extremely excited about finding the gold in the earth.

“It took me many, many years to find out that the gold wasn’t only in the earth around me, but it was also in me, and it’s in each and every one of you.”

Karen Furneaux of Waverley, a three-time Olympian, spoke at REC in Milford about ensuring students were aware there is help available for those navigating their emotions at such a precious age. She spoke of Kids Help Phone as one option to reach out too. The presentation was part of REC’s wellness week.

The three-time Olympian wanted the students to be able to find and dig for that special, sparkling, brilliant gold that each of them have. Furneaux represented Canada, and her club Cheema based out of Waverley, at Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia in 2000; Athens, Greece in 2004; and Beijing in 2008. She is also a two-time world champion.

She told a story of her younger years when her favourite sport was gymnastics.

“At my first gymnastics competition, I remember going to the gymnasium at a Lower Sackville school and opening them doors and looking around and seeing everything,” she said. “I walked up to the bars. I signalled to the judges that I was ready to go. And I started going through the routine and everything was going exactly as I pictured it the night before.”

But it was about to get a bit, how do you say, embarrassing.

“I get to the toughest part of the routine, the hand stand on the bars,” she recalled. “I kicked up to my handstand, and I farted.

“I wanted to run out of that gym and never ever come back. It was so horrifying, so embarrassing. I was mortified. This huge sound came out of me. I got back to my coach, and he said to me “wow Karen, that was some jet propulsion.”

She said in that moment she knew that always it was okay to just be herself, to show up and just be herself.

“No matter what comes out it’s all okay,” said Furneaux. “That’s a really important message.”

Furneaux then went in to speaking to the students about what each letter of POWER from her inaugural book Strong Beauty: Power Up the Champion Within, Released in 2018. A copy of the book was given to the school for their library.

She did a couple of exercises with the group that had them stretching and then touching the floor, and a breathing exercise, getting them moving about during her 45-minute or so presentation.

At the end she took questions from the students who asked very good questions of Furneaux, who now calls Halifax home.

In ending, she left the students with a simple, pointed message.

“When we feel our emotions, we don’t have to become our emotions,” said Furneaux. “We can breathe through our emotions. We can move through our emotions. We can be creative with our emotions and use our energy to help us.

“Anytime you have difficulty with emotions, I want you to know you can always reach out. There’s an amazing group at Kids Help Phone for you to reach out too

“Understand there is support there for you if you can’t navigate through your emotions on your own.”

MAIN PHOTO: Olympian Karen Furneaux poses for a photo with two Grade 6 students at Riverside Education Centre in Milford after her presentation as part of the school’s wellness week events. (Healey photo)