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Santa's letter collector named Burk's Falls champion

 Baptiste said getting the call from the municipal office announcing he was the November Local Champion was totally unexpected
20220107 Ryan Baptiste, shown with his daughter, Lila,
Ryan Baptiste, shown with his daughter, Lila, was named the Burk's Falls Local Champion for November.

A 33-year-old Burk's Falls man is the latest Local Champion.

 Ryan Baptiste was named the community's November champion.

 Burk's Falls has been running the Local Champion program since March as a way to recognize the effort some people devote to helping others regardless of the area.

 Although Baptiste isn't sure specifically what area he was nominated for, or who nominated him, many of his volunteer hours are sports-related, coaching young people.

 Baptiste also collects letters for Santa.

 Baptiste has been married for nearly 10 years and has an eight-year-old daughter and five-year-old son.

 He said once his kids were old enough to take part in various things, he started to volunteer his time in an effort to be part of their activities.

 He says growing up he didn't have much, or a real relationship with his parents.

 However, that's not the case with his children.

 He says it's great being part of his children's lives. Volunteering just adds to that experience.

 Volunteering also means he gets to meet his children's friends and he enjoys all their smiles.

 Baptiste volunteers in a large number of activities but prefers soccer and baseball.

 “Those two events bring the biggest smile to my face,” Baptiste said.

 “It's fun to see (kids) interact outside of school and watching them grasp the rules of the game. It's a rewarding experience.”

 Baptiste says the kids can be competitive.

 But he adds it's also very heartwarming when they care for one of their peers if a player is injured or upset.

 Baptiste said getting the call from the municipal office announcing he was the November Local Champion was totally unexpected.

 Although he was aware of the program, Baptiste said he doesn't volunteer his time to be recognized.

 “I volunteer because I enjoy it,” he said.“I find it rewarding.”

 With all the volunteering he does, Baptiste says his family forgoes some time with him so he can remain involved in his various volunteer initiatives.

 Baptiste is a certified addictions counsellor.

 He is also a part-time bus driver and works full-time for a company contracted to provide government services.

 When council approved the Local Champion program earlier this year, it was to run until the end of 2021.

 Baptiste says there's value in the program and it's a step in the right direction when recognizing people whose volunteerism helps the programs they are involved with continue to run.

 He hopes council renews the program for 2022 and has a suggestion that may increase the number of people who are recognized for the work they do.

 “Recognizing one person a month hardly puts a dent in the number of volunteers that provide their time and services,” he said.

 “It would be cool to see more group-related recognition.”

 Meanwhile, it appears volunteerism will continue in the Baptiste family.

 Baptiste said his young daughter is getting an idea of what volunteerism is because she's helped her dad run some of the events he's involved with.

 December was the last month the Local Champion program was scheduled to run unless council extends it.

 Each month's Local Champion received a gift basket filled with various items from local businesses valued at $100.

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.