July 11, 2018

Outdoor guide's kindness and spirit of adventure keep people coming back for more

Angela Harder wins U Make a Difference award for many acts of kindness, on and off the job
Angela Harder has won a University of Calgary U Make a Difference award in the Positive Work Environment and Community category.

Angela Harder has won a U Make a Difference award in Positive Work Environment and Community.

Steven Wapple, Faculty of Kinesiology

Paddling in crystal-clear lakes, hiking on miles-long sand dunes, and watching the sun go down in stunning remote locations only accessible by floatplane are memorable parts of the job for Angela Harder, program co-ordinator, guide and instructor for the paddling and cross-country ski programs with the Faculty of Kinesiology’s Outdoor Centre. But it’s the community of people who keep coming back every year to take part in the programs that she enjoys the most.

“Sometimes I can’t believe I get paid to do this job,” says Harder. “I get to create and experience outdoor adventures in some of the most beautiful places in Canada and make friends at the same time.”

Harder has taken people on everything from local day trips to two-week paddling trips in places like Wind River, Yukon, and Kettle Falls, 440 kilometres north of Saskatoon, Sask. No matter where they go or what skill level of the participants, Harder tries to make each trip special.

“We often get people returning year after year, so I like to create new adventures for them so each trip is memorable, especially for the extended canoe trips,” says Harder. “It’s a challenge but it’s also exciting to find and experience new places.”

On a recent two-week paddling trip in the Yukon, Harder created a sauna by the river by setting up a tarp and placing heated rocks inside so paddlers could have a steam when they returned to camp at the end of the day, something the paddlers enjoyed immensely.

It’s this special care and attention for others that motivated her team members to nominate her for a U Make a Difference award at UCalgary, which she won in the Positive Work Environment and Community category.

Harder was nominated for her many acts of kindness, from helping a client change a flat tire, to helping a co-worker chop 40 watermelons for an event. Even on her days off, she can be found doing river cleanups, or out hunting for new spots to take people paddling and cross-country skiing.

“Angela works hard to create a healthy and supportive environment for everyone around her, and she is so passionate about her work that it’s contagious,” says Steven Wapple, program co-ordinator at the UCalgary Outdoor Centre. “Clients and staff are always happy to get outside and be active with her — they would follow her on any adventure because they have so much confidence in her as a leader.”

Harder says she was deeply grateful to be nominated. “It’s a pleasure to work with my team to build this community of people who are enriched by doing these activities. I see how peoples’ lives have changed by being more active, by making new friends, by taking part in adventures. To get an award for doing this? What an honour.”

What is the next adventure for Harder ?

“Oh, it’s not for work, I’ve organized a paddling trip in the Kootenays for former employees and their families so we can all stay in touch." A perfect example of why Harder won this award.