Island Briefly: Project Candace
When it comes to project work, Candace Woodside is the main event
Text by Meredith Morrison
Photography by Alanna Jankov
Candace Woodside is in for the ride of her life on June 3 when she takes part in the Becel Heart & Stroke Ride for Heart PEI cycling event.
“This is awesome!” yells Candace Woodside, flashing a smile back at photographer Alanna Jankov and myself as she pedals down the pathway. The three of us are spending a Friday afternoon together for a photo shoot at Victoria Park, the starting point of the upcoming Becel Heart & Stroke Ride for Heart PEI cycling event happening June 3, an event Woodside is not only working on but will also be participating in. She’s openly admitted that it’s been years since she’s been on a bicycle, but judging by the laps she’s doing around us and how much fun she’s having, it’s not hard to tell she’s reignited her childhood passion for the sport. It’s all coming back to her now. Literally, it’s just like riding a bike.
No doubt, she’ll be ready to take on the 30 km she has committed to on June 3, if not more. She already has a plan as to how she’s going to do it. “I’m going to surpass 30 km. I’m just going to do it in increments,” reveals the life-long athlete who’s been busy taking spin class training at Dynamic Fitness to prepare for the event. “I’ll hop on a bike and cycle Victoria Park 18 times. That would be about 36 km, so I’m good!”
Woodside is, by nature, a planner. It’s a personality trait that has led her to an exciting career as an events specialist, working on various high-profile projects and events that have taken her across the country and back on a wild adventure. She is a self-proclaimed “relay buff” who has coordinated such events as the Atlantic Canada leg of the Olympic Torch Relay for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, and the 2012 Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada Stanley Cup Relay, which saw the Stanley Cup travel Island wide throughout the four-day event held in February. Her roles vary from project to project, and she does a lot (and I mean, a lot) of work in a short period of time, but if anyone can make it look like a cakewalk, it’s her.
You’ve probably heard of this thing called the “it factor;” that certain indefinable something that sets a person apart from the crowd? Well, whatever “it” is, she’s got it in spades. She’s the kind of girl who, when she walks into a room, exudes a kind of infectious positivity and confidence that makes you want to get to know her if you don’t already. If it sounds like I’m gushing, it’s because I am – this girl is the total package.
It’s hard to believe now but in 2008, a then 22-year-old Woodside wasn’t sure what she wanted to do with her life.
“It starts with wanting to make a change for the better,” she says. “I find that always initiates some sort of positivity, even if it’s coming from a negative situation. I found myself at a point where I felt I was in a bit of a rut and I needed to make a change. While doing some searching for different career opportunities, I was fortunate enough to apply enough to apply for a job with the Olympic Games in Vancouver, British Columbia. It was a position that was split on both coasts so I was able to work out of my home in Atlantic Canada, working for the Olympic Torch Relay, planning that route, getting to travel, literally everywhere.”
And she’s not kidding about the travel. She adds with a laugh, “If you would ever like to know where a Tim Hortons is in the middle of Quebec or in Manitoba, you let me know and I’ll give you exact specific directions to getting there!”
Planning for the 106-day relay started two years prior to the actual start of Olympic Torch Relay on October 30, 2009 and entailed planning the route the Olympic Flame would take on what streets through various communities throughout Atlantic Canada. “My role was interesting,” says Woodside. “I was involved in the specific operations, like, minute to minute. I worked in a role called Celebration Advance. There were 189 Celebration Communities across the country, which essentially meant that they were getting a miniature opening ceremonies, so we had roughly two per every day of the Olympic Torch Relay. For example, on PEI, Charlottetown and Summerside each had a celebration.” She adds with a laugh: “We had to be fair – that’s a very important political footnote!”
As the Olympic Flame would reach a Celebration Community, Woodside’s job was to run ahead and clear a path for the torchbearer through a corridor to the stage where the flame would be used to light an awaiting cauldron. With each city she’s traveled to and with each torchbearer’s success story, Woodside is visibly moved by her experiences. Some memories make her tear up; others make her (and myself) laugh out loud, including the time she acted as a bodyguard for former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “I’m 5’6” and 130 pounds and I was The Terminator’s bodyguard,” she laughs, but she’s not kidding. You can see her getting up close and personal with the Governator along with his police escorts in amateur videos posted on YouTube. “He’s very tanned,” she reveals. Good to know.
On the day singer Michael Buble was supposed to run his leg of the Torch Relay, one day prior to the start of the Olympic Games, Woodside recalls how sick the Canadian crooner actually was. “The poor guy has the flu, he’s sick, and he’s sweating,” she says. “People were going crazy. Our staff tried to hold hands around him like a force field but I’ll just tell you, I hadn’t been pumping enough iron because people were breaking in. He stopped halfway down our walk and breaks into Oh Canada. The whole crowd went silent and started to sing along with him. It was just one of the best moments. A video wound up on Perez Hilton’s blog – even Perez thought it was cool! I could see myself in the front running ahead of him,” she says. “That was me! I was there!”
Out for a ride in Victoria Park, practicing for race day on a very awesome bike fron Sporting Intentions.
When the Olympics were underway, it was time for Woodside to rest. “I got home and I think I slept for three days straight,” she says, and for good reason. She had been on the road for five months, working twenty hours a day. When her contract was finished, she pursued her other passion – music – performing with The Feast Dinner Theatre in Summerside. “It was the greatest summer of my life because I went to work every day at four o’clock, played music every night, and just had a blast,” recalls the singer and talented piano player. “That’s what I did to have my downtime. Playing music is a bit of an outlet for that.”
Of course, that downtime didn’t last long. The organizers of the 2012 Scotiabank Hockey Day in Canada approached her with the task of coordinating a four-day relay that would bring the Stanley Cup to as many Islanders as possible, similar to what she had done with the Olympic Flame. “Any events person will tell you once you’ve done one to the best of your capabilities, you’re bitten for life and you want to keep doing them,” she says. “I’m a huge fan of hockey and I wanted to do another (relay) so I said, ‘absolutely, I’ll do it!’”
It was an absolute success. For the first time in the history of Hockey Day in Canada the Stanley Cup traveled to more than one place for more than a day. The turnout was fantastic and everything went according to schedule. “I felt we never actually turned anyone away from seeing the Stanley Cup,” she says. “It just worked out that the timing was down to the minute and on time.”
In keeping with the sports theme, Woodside is excited to be working with the Becel Heart and Stroke Foundation Ride for Heart PEI, a cycling event fundraiser that will see hundreds of Islanders taking part in 2.5, 30, or 70 km rides on June 3. “The Heart and Stroke Foundation is, no pun intended, something that’s near and dear to my heart,” admits the event’s Corporate Challenge and VIP (Very Important Philanthropists) recruiter. “My youngest brother, Zack, actually has severe heart problems. He was PEI’s Heart Month Ambassador in 2008, so Heart and Stroke is well versed with my family and our story. To be able to help out with this event and to do it as a job is just so rewarding.”
She’ll be riding for Zack, whom she lists on her donation page as “my hero.”
As busy and as hectic as life can get working project-to-project, Woodside takes it stride. Just like learning to ride a bike again in her adult years, it’s all about finding the right balance. “If you can have something be successful and you have to be just a little bit more responsible to make that happen, it’s totally worth it,” she says. “That’s when you can make those connections, make those contacts and showcase your talents. You take it one day at a time.”
Want to know more about the Becel Heart & Stroke Ride for Heart PEI and how you can participate? Visit www.rideforheartpei.ca or get in touch on Twitter @hsfpei.