Ever since she was young, LaMeia Reddick always knew she wanted to change the world.
Focused on leading by example and sharing her talents, her goal was spark positive change for herself and her peers in the community of North Preston, Nova Scotia.
A 20-minute drive north of Halifax, North Preston is Canada's largest and oldest Indigenous Black community and traces its roots back as far as the 18th
century, when Black Loyalists settled in the area during the American revolution. The area also served as a home for Black refugees from the War of 1812 and who came to the area from the southern United States to escape slavery.
For Reddick, North Preston is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, both in terms of its natural beauty and the people who make up this community.
“It's a very strong, tight-knit community,” she says. “Our descendants were put here to die, essentially. There were no resources and opportunities for our folks when they came. We have a rich history and deep ties to the land.”
Reddick also knows about the challenges her home community faces, including systemic racism, lack of investment in community infrastructure, education and economic opportunities, and violence.
That's why, in 2016, Reddick founded Blxck House, a youth drop-in centre designed to help strengthen the bonds of the community.
“The X is interchangeable for 'block' and 'black',” she explains. “I wanted to create a safe place for youth where they could be inspired and also bring positivity to the neighbourhood. In a lot of ways, it was the space I needed as a youth.”
From game and movie nights, dinners and social events to educational programming, Blxck House became increasingly established in the community. The youth of North Preston found a centre for themselves in Blxck House, and a mentor in Reddick.
From Land to Sea
It was 2019 when Reddick was invited to try surfing for the first time by her friend who worked with the Surf Association of Nova Scotia (SANS), which she recalls as a transformative experience. What she didn't realize was that she was about to further impact the lives of the youths in her community.
"I don't think I came back on land the same. I didn't realize how liberating it would feel to ride that first wave," said Reddick.
"The experience of being on the water and the vastness of the ocean pushed me out of my comfort zone – it really pushed me. And that's something I want to instill in my community – to keep trying, keep pushing."
Armed with that unique feeling of being one with the ocean, it wasn't long before Reddick was working with Amiro and SANS to help establish a surfing program to bring the youth of North Preston to the ocean.
In addition to increasing inclusion in the sport of surfing, Reddick's goal for the program was to challenge historical narratives.
"There has been a historical fear of water in the Black community and I really want to see children overcome that fear," said Reddick.
Dubbed the North Preston Surf Program, youth and their families were enthusiastic to get out on the water and the program's popularity soared. Over the last two summers, North Preston Surf has seen more than 200 youth try surfing for the first time.
But surfing is an expensive sport. At first, they rented equipment, but Reddick knew it wasn't sustainable. Then the broader Halifax community stepped in, offering a tremendous outpouring of support, including wetsuits.
With more inventory, Reddick turned her attention to securing surfboards, transportation for gear, and training and certifications for their own instructors. However, with excitement and momentum building around the program, it became hard to keep up with demand from those who wanted to participate.
Offering thanks for extraordinary efforts in challenging times
TD Operations Officer, Ulyana Sparks, had been one of Reddick's first financial advisors who, though she'd moved on in her job, kept up with the community.
In 2021, she nominated Reddick for the TD Thanks You campaign. #TDThanksYou is an annual North American program designed to demonstrate TD's commitment to helping enrich the lives of its customers and communities by recognizing each year a set number of customers who have contributed to helping make the lives of others better by personally thanking them in unique and exciting ways.
This year's campaign is showcasing and rewarding customers who are helping to spread positivity in challenging times, without expecting anything in return.
On July 23, 2021, Reddick sensed that something was afoot when she arrived at Martique Beach in East Petpeswick, she saw youth from the North Preston Surf Program holding over 50 new surfboards, a covered cargo trailer to help transport them, and a sign that said 'TD Thanks You, LaMeia'.
“I was one hundred percent surprised,” she recalls. “It was surreal to see the surfers and family members and folks on the beach. Seeing my mom and everyone's faces; I was just really proud and happy. Yeah, it was a really, really, really big day.”
As far as Reddick's concerned, this is just the beginning. She plans to secure a truck to help transport all of her new equipment so she can continue spreading positivity, growing the program and introducing more youth to the sport and the healing nature of the ocean.
“I want to help people do what makes them happy and find their joy. Putting your gifts and skills into the world is important because tomorrow is never promised."
Discover more #TDThanksYou stories
See how others are spreading positivity in their communities and how TD is surprising them with our thanks for their great work.