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Daren White stands next to the snow sculpture he has created in front of his Winston Avenue home in Amherst. Each year, the cancer crusader and Amherst school teacher makes a snow creation as part of his Great Canadian Snowman Competition, organized in support of the Canadian Cancer Society’s Relay for Life in Amherst. Submitted
Daren White works on his snow sculpture in front of his Winston Avenue home in Amherst. The longtime educator aims to put smiles on a lot of faces with his winter creations. Submitted
Two bears, a squirrel and eagle begin to take shape in front of Daren White’s home in Amherst. From start to finish, it took him about six hours to create his masterpiece of snow. Submitted
Amherst teacher’s snow creation to promote snowman competition for cancer fundraiser
AMHERST, N.S. – Daren White loves playing in the great outdoors.
The longtime phys ed teacher at Spring Street Academy in Amherst and well known cancer crusader spent a recent snow day outside like many of his students, and what he created is turning heads among neighbours and motorists on Winston Avenue.
White began work on a Wednesday night on what he hoped might be a Stanley Cup made out of snow, but after about six hours of work, a keen eye and a little paint resulted in a winter scene complete with two bears, an eagle and even a little squirrel.
“Anything to get me outside,” White said. “I guess it’s a bit of creative expression. I can’t go out and paint murals in winter but I can do this and if it puts smiles on a lot of people’s faces then it’s all worth it.”
Since its completion, dozens of people have stopped by to take photos, have their photos taken with the sculpture or to talk about it.
Comments continued to gather on White’s Facebook page. Words like “amazing”, “wowzers”, “so cool” and “beautiful” were most common.
A two-time cancer survivor, White has been recognized by the Canadian Cancer Society and the Amherst Rotary Club for his fundraising activities through BK Believers, an Amherst Relay for Life team in memory of his close friend and principal Barry Kelly, who died of cancer several years ago.
During the last five years, along with many other fundraisers for his relay team, White has organized the Great Canadian Snowman Challenge that entices people to build a snowman, take a photo and submit it to him, along with $10. He creates a gallery of photos and asks people visiting his Facebook page to cast their ballots with the winner receiving $100 and the remaining money going to the relay team.
While he has had as many as 50 participants, recently it has dropped to just over a dozen.
White was eager to spark some interest in the friendly competition.
“My first plan was to build a Stanley Cup with a puck beside it with the Toronto Maple Leafs logo on it. I know that would have sparked some conversation,” said White, an avid fan of the blue and white. “Once I started at it I began to run out of packy snow, so then I thought I would put a bird on it and as I was trying to balance it out I came up with the bears and the Cup became the trunk of the tree.
“One of the nice things about snow is that when you make a mistake you can start over again. You really can’t do that with wood. When those guys make a mistake, they’re done. I don’t know how they do it. If I knock something off I can put it back on.”
Being an avid outdoorsman and hunter, as well as a phys ed teacher, White knows a lot about anatomy and muscle tone. It allows him to make his creations so lifelike whether on snow, paper, or via a painted mural on a wall or window.
Last year, he painted a wolf in the snow that also drew a lot of attention while several years ago he made a snowman Sidney Crosby, only to have its head fall off because of changing temperatures.
This year, he said, he received inspiration from Amherst area carver Rob Milner, whose wildlife carvings are located throughout the community and Cumberland County.
Building the snowman is not as easy as it seems, he said.
“The snow has to be perfect with enough moisture content in it to make a snowball. It can’t be too powdery or too hard, or frozen,” White said. “We haven’t had nearly enough packy snow.”
This year, he added, has not been kind to snowman aficionados with very little snow earlier in the winter and frigid temperatures of late.
“This year, I think there have only been about three days you could make a snowman.”
White is unsure how long his snow creation will last, but he is doing everything he can to protect it. He has been using a feather duster to keep the snow off the finished product and he has gently sprayed a mist of water over it so the droplets will freeze and give a layer of protection.
White has painted several of the downtown murals and each fall he hand paints the advertisements on the ice at the Amherst Stadium and Richard Calder Arena in Springhill. This past fall, he also painted the ice at the Oxford Arena, putting a giant blueberry bushel at centre ice.
His talents are often on display at Spring Street Academy, where he has shared his love of art, and being active, with his students.
It almost wasn’t meant to be. White fought, and beat, cancer 28 years ago, in 1992, and then had to fight for his life a second time in 2012 when the same cancer returned, resulting in the removal of a tumour on a nerve on the right side of his face where his parotid gland used to be.
“We have to keep fighting because we’ve lost too many great people to this disease,” White said. “I’m one of the lucky ones. I’ve fought it twice and won, but many haven’t. That’s why I keep fighting.”
Over more than 15 years, he has raised more than $90,000 for cancer research.