Catching up with Sam Riches

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Do you ever wonder what happened to someone you used to run into all the time but has moved on?  I mean the teenager who drove the Zamboni, who helped at Sparks, who worked at the Pharmacy, or who you saw in the former Bulk Food store buying gummi worms for lunch.  Many young people leave our community after high school for exciting adventures about which we rarely learn.  Some of them go far away, and others just go far in a new field or hobby-turned-passion and find their dream far from home.  This column will re-introduce you to some of the youth who were nurtured among us and have taken that experience to make their mark somewhere else.  Think of it as a Facebook substitute for those of us not connected to “friends” through technology.  We welcome suggestions for willing candidates for this column and hope you enjoy seeing how some of our talented, adventurous and creative former residents have applied themselves in their new communities.  While we miss you, we also applaud you!
    Sam Riches grew up on Bank Street North in Millbrook and attended Millbrook South Cavan School, graduating from Crestwood in 2006.  Basketball was Sam’s sport – he was often seen playing pick up at North or South Cavan schools or at the hoop in Cedar Valley Park.  Being cut from the Crestwood basketball team in high school did not dampen his love for the sport; he loved to play or watch the Raptors when no one else was very interested. 
    Sam completed a Communications degree at Laurier and then started to explore.   His first stop was Iceland, where he spent the summer months building and maintaining hiking paths in national parks across the country.  That was the summer when Iceland’s volcano Eyjafjallajokull erupted, shutting down airspace across Europe.  Sam was witness to that event as he camped across the country while working on the trails.  He describes falling asleep in the vicinity of the volcano, feeling the earth shaking beneath him due to tremors and small earthquakes after the main eruption had subsided. 
    That fall, Sam returned to Halifax where he completed a Masters degree in journalism.  For the practical component of the program requirements,  Sam took his love of basketball and through persistence and determination,,  landed an internship at Slam Magazine in Manhattan.  Slam is the basketball magazine he had read throughout high school, and Sam found himself working beside some of the writers he had admired as a child.  While working there might have been a dream, living in Manhattan with no income was less so, and for that month Sam shared a one bedroom apartment a few blocks from Times Square with eight other people.  Quite a change from camping in Iceland!
    With that experience under his belt, Sam returned to Toronto where he worked as the Communications Director for Canada Basketball, representing the national and Olympic teams.  Then came the offer from Whitehorse – he moved there to be the Sports Editor for the Whitehorse Star, the only daily newspaper in the Yukon, publishing for over 100 years.  For a year he covered regional and territorial sports including the Arctic Winter Games, the Yukon Quest sled dog race and the Women’s World Fast Pitch Championship.  Still a free spirit, Sam left the paper to travel and freelance in the U.S., but in February returned to Whitehorse to cover the Quest race. 
    To hear him talk about the north, it seems Sam will not be returning to city life any time soon.  He describes the scenery with enthusiasm, and says that the challenge of the winter darkness is offset by the beauty of the summer sun.  There is a real sense of community in Whitehorse which is also something Sam appreciates.  Now all Whitehorse has to do is start a national basketball franchise and Sam will never leave!
    Read about the Yukon Quest in the article Sam has written for us and see for yourself how Sam has settled in to a new life in the north.

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