10th Annual Women’s Conference
From left, speakers Vanessa Rogers, and Melanie Hayden-Sparks at the 10th Annual Women’s Conference
in Vermilion on May 3. Photos Angela Mouly
The Vermilion & District Chamber of Commerce hosted their 10th Annual Women’s Conference in collaboration with Lakeland College at the Vermilion Regional Centre on May 3. The Conference and Tradeshow celebrated women’s strengths and featured keynote speaker Melanie Hayden-Sparks, as well as speakers Vanessa Rogers and Lindsay Toth. Approximately 150 women attended the conference, and approximately 20 vendors marketed their wares. “We would like to thank the area employers for sending their women, and for supporting women in our community. The vendors were a great group of women with mostly home-based businesses who each worked hard while here for the conference and donated 50/50 prizes with proceeds going to support the Vermilion and District Housing Foundation’s Capital Campaign. We would also like to thank our sponsors for their support in helping us to empower women,” said Chamber Office Manager, Shannon Leonard. Born and raised in Calgary, Melanie Hayden-Sparks began by noting that her son, Kent Hummelle, works at Lakeland College in Vermilion. An accomplished businesswoman, Hayden-Sparks had championed and revamped business models for Mary Kay Cosmetics (where she was the youngest director in the company’s history), Watkins Canada which lead her to be invited to work in the United States, PartyLite Canada, as well as several international oil and gas companies. Her success in business was a direct result of her attitude, seeking mentorship, and planning. “As long as you can learn, you can still be and do and have anything you want,” said Hayden-Sparks. After being diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, Hayden-Sparks realized that she needed to plan for her life the same way she had in business. She encouraged participants to live each day as if it was their last. “The most important person on the planet is you. The biggest gift you can give your child is to be happy and healthy; nothing moves their soul more,” said Hayden-Sparks. She encouraged people to plan structure in to their lives and outline their values, boundaries, and accountability. She closed by challenging the audience to just do one thing better each day. Figure Fitness Champion, Vanessa Rogers, opened her speech describing her journey of overcoming a traumatic car accident at age 16 that left her as a quadriplegic. Rogers attended elementary school in Vermilion and noted having been inspired by her mother. Rogers underwent multiple surgeries for her crushed vertebrae, was in traction and had to be fed, dressed, diapered and have people scratch her nose for her. After being told she would never walk again, and after intensive physical therapy, Rogers miraculously began to walk. After years of figure fitness training she competed in the 2016 at the Lou Ferrigno Legacy Show, winning gold out of all the able bodied competitors. Though she still is awaiting hip surgery and unsure if she will ever be able to compete again, Rogers shared what she had learned from her experiences. “I learned that I may have to work harder and longer but could accomplish something significant,” said Rogers who continues to live and drive in a non-modified home and vehicle. She encouraged the audience by saying, “Everyone has challenges. I made small choices each day to get to my goals. It’s not go big or go home; it takes time, but take those baby steps. Not just in fitness, but in all aspects of your life – become unstoppable.” Following lunch, Lindsay Toth, owner of Hi Five Fitness in Cold Lake, described ways for women to incorporate fitness into their workday without it being a chore. She had the audience up participating in exercises and people were encouraged by her contagious energy. Overall, women were uplifted by the powerful speakers and enjoyed the day spent visiting and shopping with one another. “The Women’s Conference was a great place to go share ideas or friendships, and make new friends while learning empowering techniques to use in everyday life,” said guest Darla Yonkman.
From left, organizers Paige Jaremco, Theresa Berg, and Shannon Leonard at the 10th Annual Women’s Conference.