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Kevin Wood: Hanging up the hospitality hat

After 17 years with the Best Western, Kevin Wood is retiring. Having been officially diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis) back in 2003, he recently began to notice that the disease was progressing quite dramatically. “Then a light bulb came on; I knew that I didn’t want to work until I couldn’t,” he smiled.

As a little boy, Kevin developed a passion for cooking. Initially, he dreamed of becoming an astronaut but by the ripe old age of five, the focus changed from outer space to the kitchen. As he reached his teens, he became seriously interested in cooking. After graduation, he attended Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, where he completed a three-year cooking program and received certification as a Chef du Cuisine. “Cooking takes a good measure of creativity and I consider myself a fairly creative person,” he said. Kevin, being the self-determined perfectionist that he is, quickly mastered the art. Then, seeing the need to challenge himself, he developed an interest in ice carving. While employed at the Fantasyland Hotel in Edmonton, he worked on carving a life-sized, horse drawn carriage. “I did this along with three of my colleagues. This had never been previously attempted at the hotel and it took us three weeks to carve it,” he explained.

Kevin went on to work at the hotel for seven years; overseeing a staff of 80 while operating five kitchens. “During peak times of the year, we’d prepare 10,000 meals per day.” In the time that he worked for them, Kevin was elevated to food and beverage manager and soon after, became the hotel’s assistant manager.

There’s no denying that Kevin is an enthusiastic and ambitious individual so when the Best Western Rainbow Country Inn offered him the position of manager in May of 1997, he accepted. The Edmonton native and his family relocated to Chilliwack and Kevin has never regretted that move. “I have always enjoyed my work and the people that I work with,” he said.

Kevin likes to get things done and has always had a very strong work ethic. “I believe that it’s important to give back to the community and I have always been involved in community work. No matter how busy I may have been, the thought was always on how I was going to get things done. People can do an amazing amount of stuff if they really want to,” he smiled.

Then 11 years ago, in the midst of being so incredibly busy, he noticed that something was not right. Shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with MS. Multiple sclerosis is an autoimmune condition in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system. As a result, it affects the transmission of electrical signals to the nerve cells. The disease can cause patients to experience fatigue, numbness, loss of vision, loss of balance, painful muscle spasms and even paralysis. “Before I was diagnosed, I noticed that there were certain things that were happening to my body but I didn’t particularly pay much attention to them and brushed them off as something else,” he admitted. Then eventually, it came to the point that he could no longer ignore the symptoms. “I have always pushed myself so when I was told that I had this life altering disease, it was shocking at first.” However, Kevin has never allowed the disease to define who he is or what he does. “It hasn’t slowed me down. I simply avoid doing those physical things that may limit me. I must admit that MS has refocused me as a person and I’ve come to terms with the fact that I will always do what I can with what I have. You cannot feel sorry for yourself. You need to deal with it and you must adapt,” he said.  Kevin also pushed himself to learn more about his illness. “Once I informed myself, I came to the decision that if I had to have it, I was OK with it,” he said practically.

Kevin will miss his work but as an active volunteer, he knows that he’ll keep busy. He appreciates the Best Western staff that he’s had the pleasure of working with over the years and the hotel’s owners who have always been very supportive of him.  “I do enjoy travelling and will continue to do it as much as I can.  I’m also very involved with Rotary, particularly as a District Trainer. I may even do some special projects for the Best Western. Then, who knows? Time is what I’ve got,” he concluded with a smile.

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