It’s one of the oldest active non-profit organizations in the Nicola Valley, and it’s still going strong.
Merritt’s Rocky Mountain Rangers Cadet Corps 950 is celebrating its 92nd anniversary tomorrow.
Over its most recent three or so decades, Captain Angele Grenier has seen the cadet corps through some changes.
Grenier first got involved as a volunteer with the cadet corps in the 1980s when her daughters were cadets.
“At that time, the females couldn’t go out on a field exercise if there was no female,” she said. “To make a long story short, they asked me, and I was always involved with my kids so we went. They said, ‘Why don’t you join as an officer and get paid a couple days a month?’ and that’s how I got roped in.”
She signed up with no military experience and got all the training she needed. Over the years, Grenier volunteered in just about every position she could with the corps, she said. Grenier has seen the program’s enrolment fluctuate, but said it’s steady around the 20-member mark.
Grenier’s daughters have long since finished the program, and some of her grandchildren are cadets now, too — and Grenier is more involved than ever.
Even though she’s paid for two and a half days a month as the regiment’s commanding officer, Grenier still finds herself volunteering for many other days a week. Last month, she worked about eight days between the regular Tuesday night parades, marksman activities, band practice and Remembrance Day events.
Grenier said the cadets program takes a lot of dedication and is challenging and exciting, which is what she thinks draws people to it in the first place. The program also gives its cadets and volunteers opportunities they might not otherwise have, such as opportunities to travel abroad.
“A young cadet can come in at the age of 12, but by 15 or 16 years old, when they do basic training, they can qualify for expeditions. Our expeditions could be going to Hawaii for volcano-climbing or going to Kenya,” she said. “I had a friend of mine, an officer, go to Norway for two years as a chaperone. These are things you can do as an adult.
“In my wildest dream, I never thought I was going to do these activities, go places, travel,” she said.
Grenier’s husband, Norbert, also volunteers for the cadet corps as a supply technician.
He said it’s a nice thing for him and his wife to do together.
“We said we’d do it while the kids were in cadets and then they quit and we stayed,” he laughed.
Norbert helps keep track of all the equipment — from uniforms to skis to camping supplies.
And it’s not only the Grenier family that has made cadets a tradition.
“I see a lot of kids whose parents were cadets in the cadet corps,” Grenier said. “It’s quite something.”
Fellow supply technician Bryan Cressock said seeing how much the cadets enjoy the program makes all the hours he puts in behind the scenes worth it.
“In the short time that I’ve been at it, we’ve seen a lot of young women and men come through the doors and go off to bigger and better things,” Cressock said. “That’s the whole thing. It’s for the kids, to see the smiles out there.
“When you walk through these doors, it doesn’t matter who you are, we’re all one big happy family,” Cressock said.
He’s been volunteering with the cadets for about six years after meeting the Greniers through their son.
“I’m over at their house having coffee, and Angele kind of slips the paperwork across the table to enlist, and the rest is history,” Cressock said with a laugh.
In the cadet hall office, volunteer Vera French helps Captain Grenier with administration and all the paperwork associated with the federally-run non-profit group.
French started volunteering this year after both her daughters enrolled in the program.
“I thought I’d step up because it is a good program, and my daughters love it so I’d hate to see it go,” she said.
While it was originally geared toward military training, the cadets program has since changed its focus to leadership, citizenship and physical fitness. Grenier said one of her goals with the current crop of cadets is to get the group out into the community more.
“That’s what citizenship is all about,” she said.
The cadets can also try out sports and other activities such as biathlon, sailing and canoeing. Grenier said all it takes is a qualified volunteer to instruct and chaperone the course.
The cadet program is open to Canadians aged 12 to 18. There is no enrolment fee, but fundraising by the parents’ group is what makes it all possible, Grenier said.
“[You make] memories that you’ll never forget of people and how they touch your life,” she said. “You can make a difference to these young people’s lives.”