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Springing Forward, Even at 91!

Springing Forward, Even at 91!

My dad is a pretty conservative guy; business first, sports or philanthropy second, and perhaps family fourth. That's not a criticism, just more a reflection of his comfort levels. But as he entered his 70's, his health, and specifically his ability to grip, had become a challenge and started to really interfere with golf, his favourite pastime. Around that time, he was introduced to the mineral complex that would become known as SierraSil®! 

The SierraSil deposits, located on the eastern slopes of the Sierra Mountains roughly equal distance from Tahoe and Yosemite, had been discovered by an intrepid gold prospector. News of the discovery made its way to my dad, and he was familiar with a few retired NHL hockey players who claimed it helped them ease their joint pain. In what must have been an act of desperation (as my dad is not into health trends), he checked with the players he knew personally and tried the minerals. They quickly made a difference by allowing him to grip without pain. Soon after, he invested in what would become SierraSil Health. When nothing tangible was happening with the company, he engaged me as a consultant to investigate. 

Long story short, we both got involved, acquiring rights to the mineral deposits for a newly formed company, Sierra Mountain Minerals, now doing business as SierraSil Health. My dad's vision was to help people ease their pain and live life more freely. Having not been in the natural health industry before, we committed to a level of safety research and efficacy research that a former head of the Natural Products Association described as representing a Gold Standard for the industry. To do that, we were grateful for a number of friends investing and sharing the risk. Fortunately, SierraSil passed every test, even ones at the most rigorous protocols available! 

In honour of his upcoming 91st birthday, I thought I'd use this blog post to better introduce my dad. He's a well-known business leader who is highly regarded for his ethics, philanthropy, and has earned numerous accolades and awards, including an induction into the Business Laureates of BC and being honoured with the Order of Canada. In addition to his “day job” of leading one of the world's largest forestry firms that is known for setting new benchmarks for employee safety, environmental stewardship, and innovation, he was also very active in the community supporting education and health. He has been an adviser to faculties at UBC, SFU, was the Chancellor of UNBC and has been awarded Honourary Doctors of Law degrees from the University of BC and the University of Northern BC. 

His enthusiasm for business is matched only by his passion for sports. He was a multi-sport athlete, being competitive at tennis, skeet shooting, car racing, and golf, in addition to playing hockey at the collegiate level. He is a recipient of the BC Sports Hall of Fame’s WAC Bennett Award, has chaired the Canadian Open Golf Tournament and served on the Canadian Olympic Committee. He even took an ownership position with the Vancouver Canucks to spearhead the successful campaign to get them into the NHL before he and his friends sold the team. 

He was also the founder of the VGH/UBC Hospital Foundation, which has raised nearly a billion dollars to support the best available health care for people of BC. You can read about these accomplishments and many others online or on the links provided. 

None of the above paint the complete picture of who he is, so I'd like to further share a couple of brief stories.

My dad has always focused on the well-being of people. Even as the leader of a major forest products company, the first thing on his agenda was safety. I recall one evening when I was in high school when I asked him about the paperwork he was reviewing. He told me he was looking at safety data. He was glad that his sawmills had an injury rate of just 1/5 of the industry average, but he was concerned that the pulp crews had an injury rate of only 1/2 of the industry average. While he felt that the whole industry could do better, he expected Canfor mills to be places where the injury rate approached zero because every employee was important, not only to the business but to the people they shared their lives with.
My siblings wondered why my dad never moved my blind grandmother, who suffered from dementia, into a care home with lots of services, instead choosing to have her looked after in the home she lived in most of her adult life. He said it was because of a promise he made to his dad, one that he would always honour.
I’m grateful to Angela Chapman, President and CEO of the UBC/VGH Hospital Foundation and Dr. George Iwama, President of Quest University for sharing their reflections on my dad with me recently.
Ms. Angela Chapman wrote:
“I don’t think Peter is your typical founding chairman (of the VGH/UBC Hospital Foundation). For over 40 years, he’s continued to be engaged, advising, mentoring and supporting successive generations of board presidents, directors and chief executive officers to create the most remarkable impact on healthcare in BC. Peter’s passion for health, for the people and prosperity of this province, is something he imparted to me the first time we met almost eight years ago when I returned to my native Vancouver after decades away. His discipline and diligence as a volunteer director surpassed all others through four decades. Peter pours through pages and pages of information and always finds some insight or some question left unanswered, which he will be sure to raise at the meeting. Peter is also a gifted storyteller, and he has had a long and rich life to draw on for this! I have heard consistently from dozens of business, community and healthcare leaders how Peter always made himself available for a call or a meeting; always ready to advise, make a connection or take action. This has been my experience as well, and I count myself fortunate to know such an inspiring citizen of our province, his wonderful wife and partner, Sheila, their family who have followed their father’s example in business and community engagement.”

Dr. George Iwama wrote:
“I had the honour of meeting Peter and Sheila Bentley when I joined the University of Northern British Columbia as President and Vice-Chancellor. Peter Bentley was the Chancellor. It’s been my experience that sometimes the first impression of a person reflects their nature. Time would show that to be true for Peter. He seemed a very caring and kind person at that first meeting, with an unmistakable twinkle of determination and drive in his eye. Over the years at UNBC, I came to know more about Peter Bentley. Indeed, he is a kind and generous man. His accomplishments and accolades evidence his acumen and successes as a business leader. One couldn’t do better than having someone like Peter in your corner. He loved UNBC, and it showed. I know that he thought constantly about us, in detail and with plans. We would discuss those plans in the many meetings we had at the University, in his office or in his den at their home. We had a “Friends of UNBC”, which included leaders around Vancouver, hosted by Peter. He just couldn’t do enough for us. We felt it and appreciated it deeply. UNBC slowly rose in the University rankings and eventually achieved #1 in Maclean’s rankings among small universities. 

“I recall hearing the story of SierraSil from Peter one day while visiting him at their home. It was fascinating, but I was not surprised at how he leaned into this project. He believed in it and he was determined to see it through. There is no half-measure with Peter. I shared this story with one of my brothers, a doctor and past-head of palliative care (thus a pain expert) for a region in BC. He told me that he believed in it and was recommending it to his patients for a long time and that he used it himself. It was a pleasure to hear this. As I reflect on my career, meeting and spending time with Peter Bentley stands out as a bright experience. For that, I will always be thankful.”

My dad’s values are at the core of what we do at SierraSil. We strive to be caring and reliable. Positive and inclusive. It’s our goal to help a million people be healthier and more active naturally. To be transparent, we also want our employees and those shareholders who helped us form SierraSil to do well, too, but collectively our first priority is you, our customer. We want you to be healthy, active, and physically able to enjoy your relationships, nature, and favourite activities.