YWCA of Muskoka gala celebrates distinct women
WOMEN OF DISTINCTION:.
YWCA of Muskoka’s 2012 Women of Distinction award recipients include, from left, D’Arcy Kirkwood, Martina Schroer, Jasmine Arney, Laurie Lamont, Jo Walton, Jennifer Schnier and Fran Gower.
November 7, 2012
HUNTSVILLE – There were no empty seats at the YWCA of Muskoka’s 11th annual Women of Distinction gala evening held in Huntsville.
About 230 people from across the region gathered in a beautiful ballroom for the evening dinner and awards ceremony held at Grandview’s Mark O’Meara Clubhouse on Thursday, Nov. 1. The event is one of the organization’s most important fundraisers and gives the community an opportunity to celebrate inspiring and sometimes under-recognized women who make a positive change in their communities.
“It is truly an honour to be here with you celebrating the nominees tonight,” said YWCA board president A.J. Specht. “Your commitment to your families, communities and the people you serve is inspirational.”
Twenty-five women were nominated in seven award categories this year and as YWCA executive director Beth Ward read a brief description of each nominee it was clear each brought something unique to the community by way of volunteerism, activism or inspiration. A committee of YWCA staff and board members was tasked with choosing which nominees would receive awards. The women who won seemed overwhelmed and honoured.
D’Arcy Kirkwood, who received the Young Woman of Distinction Award, graciously accepted the first award of the night. The St. Dominic Catholic Secondary School student’s long list of school-based accomplishments includes volunteering as a peer support worker for students with special needs, an event co-ordinator for anti-bullying assemblies and the manager of the school volunteer team, among many others. Along with being a hockey player and karate student, Kirkwood is also a lifeguard, a fully trained volunteer with the Muskoka Parry Sound Sexual Assault Services, a skate patrol, a basic canoe instructor, certified in first aid and CPR, among others. When she graduates she will pursue a career as an autism therapist. The 16-year-old will also head to Kenya for a 17-day adventure with Free the Children to build a rural school.
Marina Schroer received the Arts, Culture and Creativity Award. Schroer’s focus for decades has been about building self-esteem in youth through the arts. She has volunteered with the Concert Association of Huntsville, the Huntsville Train Station Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Muskoka, the Muskoka Festival, the Huntsville Arts Council, Muskoka Seniors, Women’s Sexual Assault Helpline Muskoka, Muskoka Parry Sound Community Mental Health Services, and Through Children’s Eyes Creative Drama Studio, among other activities. And she is in the process of establishing a violin student bursary in her musician brother’s name.
Jasmine Arney received the Health, Sport and Wellness Award. Arney embraces a holistic and multi-disciplinary approach to health and wellness that encourages others to seek the best in themselves. She practices and facilitates yoga, zumba and Thai massage, while conducting work in post-traumatic stress disorders. She motivates people to health and offers a variety of classes in Bala, Port Carling and Glen Orchard with the goal of one day having a permanent space dedicated to health and wellness.
Laurie Lamont received the Community Development and Social Activism Award. Lamont has worked with the Muskoka Parry Sound Sexual Assault Services for 21 years. She works to improve the quality of life for all women and youth she works with, while continually promoting women’s rights, peace and justice. She has helped with Power of Being a Girl and International Women’s Day events, and implemented conferences such as Enhancing Muskoka’s Response to Domestic Violence and Eliminate Violence Against Women and Children, among other accomplishments.
Jo Walton received the Mentorship Award. Walton has mentored families for more than 20 years through her work with Muskoka Family Focus. She has witnessed social problems that span generations, but aims to guide young families through parenthood and provide the necessary education and support to build healthy futures. She has also worked as a mentor with the Muskoka Fathering Coalition and the Muskoka Breastfeeding Coalition.
Jennifer Schnier received the Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship Award. Schnier advocated and implemented new approaches to marketing through social media and technology as the economic development officer of the Township of Georgian Bay. And she focused on more inclusiveness within community strategic planning. She has also been involved in several community development projects and her roles have included being a member of the Ontario Trillium Foundation grant review team and chair of Muskoka Community Network.
Fran Gower received the Lifetime Achievement Award. The 81-year-old Oxtongue Lake resident has been part of the community’s chamber of commerce and president of the ratepayers’ association. She has a passion for stewardship of her community and has written a book called Facts and Fables of Oxtongue Lake. While Gower and her husband had moved to the area in the 1950s and bought a gas station-convenience store, she also worked as a registered nurse with the Muskoka Parry Sound Health Unit in the 1960s, inoculating children, working with new mothers and visiting people in their homes, among other accomplishments.
Women of Distinction award nominees included Brenda Cunningham-Moran, Brenda Wainman Goulet, Cathy Oliffe-Webster, Marguerite Urban, Chris Gefucia, Katy McGregor, Kelly McBride, Nancy Cox-Godfrey, Shelley Raymond, Brenda Cunningham-Moran, Heather Berg, Laurie Campbell, Holly Goldthorp, Marnee Reid, Tara Kinden, Wendy Dingman, Karen Bullock, Kim Jackson, and Glad Bryce.
The keynote speaker for the evening was Senator Nancy Ruth, who gave a passionate and powerful speech about the need to recognize women in history, and the role of women in instigating change.
“As Canadians, we take great pride in the openness of our society and in fundamental freedoms enshrined in our Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Ruth. “These must be lived rights and freedoms, not formal ones on a monument or in a document. Lived rights, accessible and animated in our day-to-day lives. That’s what I want for women and all historically and systemically disadvantaged groups.”
Ruth said citizens had to mobilize for equality and change. Without action from citizens, politicians have no need to instigate change, she said.
“We need to embrace change for the disadvantaged and disempowered,” she said. “And the YWCA through its long history, and the wonderful women nominees and others here tonight, in real time can show us what we need to do as citizens and what the institutions of our country need to do. All we have to do is stop, look, listen and then act in the best interest of all.”
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