Q+A with Wayne McKay

Wayne working with youth at a youth cycling conference in Halifax.

Wayne McKay is another one of those people that I became friends with online, and I haven’t yet had the chance to meet him in “real life.” But I know that when I do, we’ll have lots to chat about. Wayne is a super inspiring guy who lives actively and “walks the talk”, and he’s overcome lots of obstacles in his life. Now he’s got a beautiful young family and a job he loves – here at home.

(More Q+As can be found here.)

1. What’s your age?

I am 37.

2. CB born and raised? Or transplant? (Plus whatever biographical details you feel like giving)

I was born and raised in Glace Bay in a single-father family. We lived in poverty and were exposed to abuse. I barely graduated high school – only made it through because drama and music kept me going.

I ended up going to CBU after taking a few years off. I never had a plan. I stumbled from one opportunity to the next. I spent numerous years away – living in St. John’s, Victoria, Toronto and Kitchener.

Throughout this time, I ended up working as a teacher, earned three degrees. I moved back to CB about 7 or 8 years ago and settled into Sydney. I had taken a job teaching in Membertou and wanted to be close to my work. I loved working in Membertou but after a number of years, I needed a change in my work. I’ve never been one to settle on one thing.

3. “What are you up to these days?” I.e. what do you do for a living, what are you working on, are you a student, in the workforce, etc?

I presently work with the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness as the Physical Activity Coordinator for the Cape Breton Region.

My work takes me to all parts of the island. I work with all 5 municipalities, 5 Mi’kmaq communities, school boards, community groups, youth, seniors, etc. The focus of my work is getting more people active to increase health benefits and decrease risks. I am a preventative health care worker. I am also involved in the arts. I have been involved in the Cape Breton Stage Company, Lumiere Festival and Second Wind Community Band. I also volunteer my time running a drama and art group for youth in Glace Bay and on the board of the Adult Learning Association of Cape Breton County.

4. Top three favourite local foods? (Could be a vegetable, a menu item at a local restaurant, however you choose to interpret it!)

I love eating at the new restaurants in Sydney – Zana’s Diner and Flavor are my favourites. I love local berries!

5. What is a typical “day in the life” for you?

The beauty of my job is that I am always doing something different each day. However, the typical day starts at 7:30 with a shower and small but healthy breakfast. I then walk or cycle to work. It’s about 3 kms away so it wakes me up and gives me a good blast of fresh air to start the day.

Then I work till noon – email, phone calls, thinking up ideas to improve the area as far as physical activity goes, meetings, sometimes writing. I don’t ever sit in my chair for long. Moving around keeps the creaative juices flowing.

At lunch, I eat a healthy snack. I’ve started running or walking or roller blading for 30 minutes at lunch and it makes the afternoon so much better. I no longer fight to keep my eyes open. After work is family time. I play with my girls, go for walks to the library or playground, go for hikes. On Wednesday, I go to Glace Bay for drama/art. On Thursday, I go to Second Wind where I play trombone. I’m a night owl so am usually up long after the girls have gone to bed.

Wayne and his daughter with his grandfather.

6. What do you love most about exercise? What do you get out of it?

I think I answered this one already. Exercise for me has to be outside, has to be taking me somewhere. I bike, run, swim, walk, snowshoe, play outdoors. I crave fresh air. It is spirit! I am most at peace in the outdoors, especially by the ocean. I spend almost all of my summer on beaches. My exercise is my fresh air, mental health, physical health, family time. It is everything!

Glace Bay beach – photo by Wayne McKay.

7. Do you think you’ll stay in CB down the road, or have you thought about moving?

I’m here to stay. I regularly think about moving up North because I am obsessed with the colder climes. However, I will likely travel up there but stay down here. I am the type of person who always travels North. I don’t cope with heat well but I love solitude and barren coastal landscapes. Iceland was the most amazing place I’ve ever been. Still, my soul is here. It’s home. There was a time when I swore I would never come back. But I’ve made my peace with everything here and I love this place – the ocean, the four distinct seasons, the great storms, the people, the wildlife. It’s a part of me and I’m a part of it.

8. What falls under the umbrella of your job description – what are all the different things you do at work?

That’s a big question. I am involved with so much and most of it is behind the scenes. I work with the municipalities – mostly supporting their physical activity strategies and the CBRM Active Transportation Plan. I work on outdoor leadership development. I work on youth initiatives. I organize regional and provincial conferences around physical activity.

I recently brought together representatives from all Mi’kmaq communities in NS to discuss and move forward Physical activity initiatives in their communities. I do social media – facebook and twitter. I write for the Cape Breton Post and What’s Goin On. I go on the Partyline on CBC Radio. As I said, every day is different. That’s part of what I love about this job. And it is my passion. Physical activity and arts saved my life and it’s my mission to reach as many people as possible with these healthy activities that can make our lives so much better.

9. What are your favourite things to do, when you go out with friends or for entertainment?

I love to be out in the natural world. Nothing better than a hike or walk on the beach with family and friends. I love live music, especially local music. I love creating with friends!

10. What excites you about where you live?

There’s a lot that excites me about where I live. Lately, it’s been seeing the creativity of our youth. Some of our youth grow up in the worst economic and social conditions in the country. Yet they all have this amazing creative voice that they are itching to get out. Facilitating that process and seeing the voice come out and take shape and power is the most beautiful and exciting thing. I always have hope for the future when I experience this. Of course, seeing this in my own children is the best thing in the universe!

Wayne and his daughter on a hike.

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