HMCS Calgary supporter receives Caring Canadian Award

Talk to any member of HMCS Calgary’s crew and they know the name Paris Sahlen.

He’s the ship’s biggest fan.

The Calgary native has been involved with the ship since its commissioning in 1995.

“Some people collect stamps or coins,” says Sahlen. “I do this for a hobby. I find it very rewarding and it is a big honour to do anything I can for the ship and its namesake city.”

This year he received the Governor General’s Caring Canadian award for years of selfless work contributing to the ship and the morale of the crew.

“We have many amazing friends in our namesake city, but none better than Paris,” says Calgary’s Commanding Officer, Cdr Paul Francoeur. “His tireless efforts in support of our annual ‘Cowboy Up’ have helped Calgary raise over $50,000 for the Foothills Hospital Burn Unit.

“Every ship deserves a Paris Sahlen. I wish the stores system stocked them and I could order a couple more. You won’t meet a sailor who has served in Calgary that doesn’t know Paris and hold him in the highest regard.” 

The union of ship and supporter began in 1995. Sahlen, a former weapons technician in HMC ships Margaree and Antigonish, took part in Calgary’s commissioning.

“There were over 10,000 people there and it was the biggest commissioning of any ship in the Canadian Navy,” recalls Sahlen. “The Calgary Stampede, the police band and the people of Calgary all took part in it. It was a grand event.”

Ever since, he has had a hand in making things happen and gaining support for the ship and crew from local businesses.

“Paris is what I would call the ship’s City of Calgary Liaison,” says CPO1 (Ret’d) Darren Macdonald, who nominated the senior for the Caring Canadian award. “He is one of the many Canadians who give of their personal time to simply enhance the lives of others, with no thought of personal gain or accolades.”

Sahlen received the Caring Canadian Award on Sept. 11 from Alberta’s Lieutenant Governor, Col (Ret’d) Donald Ethell.

This award was created in 1995 to recognize the unsung heroes who volunteer their time to help others, and to build a smarter and more caring nation. The award also highlights the example set by these volunteers, whose compassion and engagement are so much a part of Canadian character.

“Each year at the Calgary Stampede Paris takes two weeks off to look after the crew and make sure their Stampede goes smoothly,” says CPO1 (Ret’d) Macdonald. “He stores all of the items for the Stampede in a storage locker and each year he loads up tables, chairs, display booths, merchandise, etcetera, and hauls it down to the Stampede grounds. I know of no other ship in the navy that enjoys the kind of support from their namesake city, and I dare say this is primarily because of Paris Sahlen.”

Every year the crew visits local veterans and has a barbecue at the Glenmore reservoir. “This event is a highlight for the veterans as they get to see first-hand the kind of sailors that have come after them. Paris organizes the entire event,” says CPO1 (Ret’d) Macdonald. “He also forged a relationship between Wolseley Plumbing and Calgary, so much so that Wolseley invites two members of the crew to their annual golf tournament as their guests and I believe they pay for their flights.”

“Many people in Calgary don’t know we have a ship. I have noticed that people in the navy, from Ordinary Seaman to Commanding Officer, take great pride in what they do and I am all about spreading the word to the people of Calgary that we need to support this ship,” says Sahlen.  

Sahlen also served on the executive of the Naval Museum of Alberta, which has developed into the largest naval museum in Canada and provides extensive educational programs for youth and adults. 

The list of good deeds seems endless, and the consensus is “Thanks Paris” from all the crew, past and present, of HMCS Calgary.

Shelley Lipke, Staff Writer

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