Quiet hero

Searcher has 20 years of find­ing peo­ple

Cape Breton Post - - COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS - Wayne McKay Wayne McKay lives in Syd­ney and is a vol­un­teer with Cape Bre­ton Search and Rescue. He also works as the Cape Bre­ton re­gion’s phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity con­sul­tant for the Nova Sco­tia De­part­ment of Com­mu­ni­ties, Cul­ture and Her­itage.

When many peo­ple think of he­roes, a cer­tain im­age comes to mind.

Per­haps it is a caped comic book cru­sader. Maybe it is the fire­fighter rush­ing into a burn­ing build­ing or the sol­dier car­ry­ing his fallen com­rade on his back.

These are all he­roes in­deed. But there are un­con­ven­tional he­roes – the ones that no one re­ally knows about. These are the quiet he­roes amongst us who do in­cred­i­ble things for other peo­ple.

We have one of these he­roes at Cape Bre­ton Search and Rescue. His name is Dougie Hooper and he is a stal­wart of the team. At every search, train­ing event and meet­ing, Dougie is the first per­son you see when you ar­rive. He is al­ways there – self­lessly giv­ing ev­ery­thing he has to serve oth­ers.

I dropped by to visit Dougie and find out what mo­ti­vates him to give so much to search and rescue and to our com­mu­nity. I sat at the ta­ble with Dougie and his wife Theresa, the pres­i­dent of Cape Bre­ton Search and Rescue. Dougie in­vited me over to show me a scrap­book that he has been keep­ing of every news item and story re­lated to search and rescue since he joined the or­ga­ni­za­tion 20 years ago. In this way, Dougie is an un­of­fi­cial his­to­rian of the group as well.

Two decades ago, Dougie joined search and rescue when his brother brought him into the or­ga­ni­za­tion. He had no out­door skills. He didn’t even have a driv­ers’ li­cense. He still doesn’t drive. But he be­came an ex­pert at all the skills needed to sur­vive in the woods. He learned map and com­pass, GPS, ra­dio and other skills and now one of his great­est joys is teach­ing oth­ers. He and Theresa teach Ad­ven­ture Smart to kids.

Ad­ven­ture Smart high­lights the four rules nec­es­sary to sur­vive when lost in the woods: tell adults where you are go­ing, hug a tree, stay warm and dry and help searchers find you. Dougie also teaches adults – newer mem­bers like me – the skills nec­es­sary to be a searcher.

In 20 years, he has found a way to be at al­most every sin­gle search. He is a vol­un­teer who gives ev­ery­thing to the or­ga­ni­za­tion. For his day job, Dougie gets up at 5 a.m. to de­liver the Cape Bre­ton Post in Syd­ney Mines. He of­ten jokes with other mem­bers when they com­plain about walk­ing in the woods on a search. If he can search af­ter walk­ing his pa­per route, they surely have noth­ing to com­plain about. In fact, Dougie likes noth­ing more than be­ing out in the field.

In ad­di­tion to find­ing lost peo­ple, Dougie has a rep­u­ta­tion for find­ing swamps. There is a joke among the search and rescue team that if you follow Dougie you will end up get­ting wet. He also told me about once fall­ing into the snow up to his neck on a search in New Water­ford. In spite of these mis­ad­ven­tures, Dougie tells me that it is most re­ward­ing when you find some­one. He does it, he says, “to help the com­mu­nity. I do it cause I want to. Be­cause you’re bring­ing loved ones home.” Af­ter 20 years and well over 100 searches, Dougie has brought a lot of loved ones home. He is the quiet hero of Cape Bre­ton Search and Rescue.


Dougie Hooper holds up his search and rescue scrap­book that high­lights his 20 years in the or­ga­ni­za­tion.

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