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Eric JohnstonEric Johnston with his gold medal from the recent World Masters Games in Auckland. Photo Jaime Pitt-MacKayWhat was just supposed to be a trip away with a few old softballing buddies turned into a gold medal-winning trip for Ashburton local, Eric Johnston.

Johnston won gold for softball in the recreational grade at the World Masters Games in Auckland recently.

“I was picked up by a guy I used to play with in Christchurch who was coming out from America to play in an old team of his,” he said.

“We just threw a team together, we hadn’t played together for 20 years.”

Despite only putting the team together “for a bit of fun”, the side went through their nine games in recreational division undefeated.

“We played against teams like Team Canada and Western Australia, so it was good competition,” he said.

Now only playing softball in the local division, Johnston spent six years in America and Canada playing, before returning to New Zealand and winning Canterbury titles, and playing for Canterbury against Japan.

“I won a silver in motocross at the NZ Masters Games in Dunedin last year and in 2012, but this is the first time I have won something for softball, especially at a world event,” he said. “I’m semi-retired from it now, but I still enjoy going out in the local league on a Saturday and just hitting the ball.”

Johnston was one of many athletes, officials and supporters who travelled from Mid Canterbury to the games.

Some of the sports attended include: Archery, athletics, basketball, cycling, hockey, rowing, softball, swimming and triathlon.

By Jaime Pitt-MacKay © The Ashburton Guardian - 10 May 2017

olivia pike2Olivia Pike. Photo supplied.Mid Canterbury music lovers will be spoiled for choice this coming weekend as both the Ashburton Musical Club and Mid Canterbury Choir are staging concerts.

Accomplished vocalist Olivia Pike will star in the Ashburton Musical Club public concert Olivia Pike in Recital at the Sinclair Centre on Saturday at 7.30pm.

She will be joined by several invited guests including her younger brother Joshua Pike.

The concert will feature a variety of performances, both vocal and instrumental.

Having performed regularly for the club as a young singer and pianist while still at Ashburton College, Pike is looking forward to performing her first public concert for the club.

The University of Otago Bachelor of Music graduate is a choral accompanist for various Dunedin choirs, and has performed in several operas.

She is an accompanist for the Ashburton MSA Men’s Choir and credits many of her performance opportunities to her involvement with this choir, including singing with Simon O’Neill several times over the last few years.

On Sunday, Mid Canterbury Choir members are presenting for the first time The Heavens Declare, at St Stephen’s Anglican Church, 2pm.

Guest artists are soprano Olivia Stewart, a former choir member now studying music at Victoria University, as well as organist Martin Setchell and violinist Ruth Hall.

Setchell is also musical director for the concert.

Soloists include Stewart as well as contralto Ann Robinson, tenor David O’Beirne and bass Stephen Diedricks, while accompanists are Diedricks and Alison Holden.

The Heavens Declare is to feature classical music by Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn and Fauré, and includes The Coronation Mass featuring the four soloists along with the choir.

© The Ashburton Guardian - 8 May 2017

Ben Wakelin2Ben Wakelin. Photo suppliedBen Wakelin’s contribution to the community has helped paved the way for his future career.

The 18-year-old has been volunteering for Ashburton Scouts since he started high school and has also helped to run the lighting and sound side of things at many school and community events.

Now he is working towards a career in lighting after his interest in it developed through volunteering.

“I have found that I love spending time looking for solutions to making events work well when lighting issues arise, and this has led me to the decision to make this a career,” he said.

“Working towards the community service section of my Queen Scout Award got me motivated and my parents have always encouraged me to be giving of my time.

“I really enjoy setting lighting plans and running them and love to make events special for people.”

With scouts, Ben has helped with the redevelopment of the grounds around the scout park and was recently awarded the Totara Award from Rotary.

He’s on the Staveley Camp committee as well, helping prepare for a large upcoming Scouts and Venturers’ event.

He also spends time helping elderly people with jobs around the home.

“I really enjoy working with other people – both my peers and older people,” he said.

“I love the fact that people are surprised by how well I can do the job and how much difference I can make to their event.

“I have enjoyed seeing the scout park getting finished and trying to make it a great place for more scouts to enjoy – a chance to give back to scouts has been great.”

He said while volunteering makes you quite busy, he would definitely recommend it to other students because you’ll always be surprised what you can gain from it.

“I am hoping my interest and the knowledge I have gained will lead to a professional career in lighting, but at the same time I can imagine myself always volunteering in some form,” he said.

“It’s something that gives me enjoyment and scouts has been so amazing for me that I will always want to give back to them.”

© The Ashburton Guardian - 6 May 2017