Please find below a copy of the Mayor’s 2019 Honour List. This year marks the 37th Honour List. (No list was presented in 1988.)
The Mayor’s Honour List was established by the late Mayor Marceil Saddy in 1981 to honour citizens and groups in the community or surrounding area who have been instrumental in improving the quality of life or making a significant contribution to the City of Sarnia and Lambton County. Helen Keller said it best–“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”
The list, as always, is a highly personal list, based on my own observations throughout the year in the community, nominations from citizens and media stories.
The list is a tribute to the unsung people and groups in the community who make a difference in trying to create a good and just community and society. It is living proof that individual citizens and groups can make a difference. Individuals or groups nominated are not notified of their selection to the Mayor’s Honour List until the announcement is made through the media so I request that you not contact those on the list until the embargo is lifted.
A reception will be held in early 2020 to formally recognize the recipients.
Here are 2019’s Honourees:
CLARA AND FRED BERG
Every week for over 25 years Clara and Fred have volunteered at Sarnia’s Mission Thrift Store doing everything from interacting with the customers, mopping floors, and sorting through bags of donations, just to name a few. The Bergs were two of the founding planners and workers when the store, the first of its kind in Ontario, opened in 1994. They continue to support the store through their volunteering and enjoy being with the other staff who they describe as a big “second family.” Although in their 90’s they have no plans to stop volunteering. “We volunteer because it makes our lives so much richer”, said Clara.
BRIGHT’S GROVE MUSIC FEST – TREVOR GORSKI, CHRIS JEFFREY, MARCUS POSTIL, JAMES SNIDER
This past July the Bright’s Grove Music Fest celebrated its third anniversary. It began as a way for young kids to hear the music of the participating bands because where they were playing was in age restricted venues. The gazebo in Kenwick Park became the venue. Other bands heard about the planned “festival” and the event grew. One hundred per cent of proceeds go to the chosen charity. Four hundred dollars and $3,600 was raised the first two years for the Canadian Mental Health Association. This year, with more than 2,000 people attending the eight-band, 10 hour festival, over $7,200 was raised for St. Joseph’s Hospice.
Marie is being recognized for her long time involvement with The Sunshine Foundation of Canada Sarnia-Lambton Chapter. As one of the original members of the Sarnia Chapter 27 years ago, she has served as President of the local chapter on three occasions and was a member of the Board of Directors for Sunshine National, travelling across Canada promoting new chapters. For the past ten years she has volunteered at the St. Joseph’s Hospice and for three years was a Big Sister and for five years as a CGIT (Canadian Girls in Training) Leader. In addition Marie has been involved with the school reading programme and has been an active volunteer with kids’ baseball leagues. She also helps organize a pilots’ reunion in London where she learned to fly.
Laurie, a member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 62, is very supportive of the Sarnia veterans. Through her dedication and hard work the Legion has been able to provide continual financial assistance to events, programmes and charitable groups. Laurie brought the Candle Light Remembrance Service to Sarnia, organizing and chairing this event for the past nine years. The very successful Veterans Banner Programme where banners are displayed from the lampposts in downtown Sarnia leading up to Remembrance Day was initiated by Laurie. She is one of the leaders who brought the “Catch the Ace” programme to the Sarnia Legion. The success of this programme has allowed the Legion to put tens of thousands of dollars back into the community. As an example the Legion will be able to make a donation to the Pathway Pool Restoration Fund in 2020. Laurie has served as Legion Branch President for four of the last seven terms.
Justine, an exercise physiologist, works with people living with Parkinson’s disease trying to make their life “manageable and functional” through Rock Steady Boxing. This type of non-contact, boxing-inspired fitness has participants wearing boxing gloves but hit punching bags or block gloves worn by trainers. The exercises enable persons suffering from Parkinson’s to improve their level of fitness, balance, co-ordination and strength. In 2018 Justine attended the Rock Steady Boxing headquarters in the U.S. to train to teach this type of boxing. In addition to her helping citizens with their boxing Justine also participated at the 2019 Parkinson’s Walk in Sarnia. She has been described as a “great motivator of people with this terrible disease.”
Mr. Dawson, a Sarnia resident, was inducted into the Wrestling Canada Hall of Fame in 2019 as a builder of the sport. John is a long-serving administrator and official in wrestling serving on the Board of Directors from 2008 to 2018 as well as serving on the Governance, Hosting and Discipline Committee to name a few. He was president of the Canadian Association of Wrestling Officials from 2004 to 2008 and a member of the Executive until 2017. He officiated at three Pan American Games and three Commonwealth Games from 1970 to 2006. During the Induction Ceremony held in December it was noted “John has been a great on mat official (provincially, nationally and internationally), mentor, leader, clinician, parliamentarian, director, role model, committee member and a founding member of the Canadian Association of Wrestling Officials.” “John led by example and had a calming effect on coaches, athletes and officials alike.”
FRIENDS OF SARNIA HOCKEY
This volunteer group has been looking after the 50/50 draws at Sarnia Sting games for over 20 years. Since its inception they have donated over $1 million to various youth hockey organizations including SMAA, Lambton AAA, Sarnia Lady Sting, Sarnia Sledge, Mooretown, Petrolia and Lambton Shores. It is because of the Friends of Sarnia Hockey’s dedication these groups in large part have been able to continue on successfully.
In 2019 Amber received the City of Sarnia Emerging Leader in Accessibility and Inclusion Award. In 2018 The YMCA’s 20th Annual Celebration of Youth Awards recognized Amber with the K. Eileen Wilson Award for her tireless advocacy for youth with special needs. Amber implemented her own life skills programme for students with special needs. She did this while volunteering with organizations such as Community Living, Pathways and the Special Olympics.
Mr. Hnatyshyn, a journalist with “Sarnia This Week”, has been described as someone who gives a “voice to the community”. He knows just how to blend humour, irony, sarcasm and wit into the most intricate web of words for everyone to enjoy. His wide knowledge of topics are “outside of the box”. Carl has perfected the art of truly listening and portraying everything that was intended for the outcome.
As past Chairman of the Board, Mr. Houston was instrumental in the success of the Lambton Seniors Association. His knowledge, determination, expertise, and dedication was the stronghold behind the Seniors Association which served 2,200 seniors and carried out 10,000 jobs per year. He worked tirelessly on capital projects such as the Family Rapids Health Team and North Lambton Health Unit spending hours of time preparing applications for funding. He didn’t work alone but as a retired CN Engineer he was the perfect leader for driving and steering the team. The community will always remember his service to our most valuable and sometimes vulnerable seniors.
In 2017 Tana became the co-ordinator of Special Olympics Sarnia—a 100% volunteer-based non-profit organizations for individuals with intellectual disabilities in the Sarnia Lambton area. From its beginnings as a swimming team with 20 athletes and three volunteers, Tana’s work expanded the sports to now include basketball, powerlifting, floor hockey, bowling, track & field, snow shoeing, bocce and fitness classes. There are now over 125 athletes and 80 volunteers. With undying love and support Tana gives endless hours organizing so the athletes succeed. Because Tana stepped up when she noticed a lack of activities for people with special needs this has led to many being able to increase their social skills and become more active. Tana has proudly announced that four athletes will be representing Sarnia in the Provincial Special Olympics in powerlifting, swimming and bowling in May 2020.
Mr. Milos is the founder of the Lambton College’s Enactus Team. He has led the team to 18 Central Canadian Championships, 13 National Championships and one World Championship over the past seven years. He has dedicated his life to working with the College’s students, helping them to become national and global leaders. Through his leadership the team has lifted hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty in Zambia. In early December he left for his 30th trip to Africa. This year Mr. Milos turned his focus to working with 15 First Nations across Canada including our three local First Nations, building capacity in entrepreneurship, financial literacy, economic development, education and solar energy. He has also led the development of a new project with the St. Clair Catholic District School Board that was launched in five school where students build social justice or entrepreneurship projects. Jon works year round in his efforts to show young people how they can make a difference in helping others and to make the world a better place.
Trevor is not only a dedicated firefighter for the City but he is very active in events that benefit and promote the community.
He is the proud owner of the Sarnia Fire Department famous dogs—Lucky and Clover. These dogs have received national attention through social media and help pass the message of fire safety all the while promoting the City of Sarnia and its Fire Service. The dogs are under Trevor’s personal care and on his own time he takes them to public events and into school classrooms. Trevor purchased the Sarnia Fire Department’s first aerial ladder truck, saving it from going to the scrapyard. He takes the vehicle to car shows throughout Southern Ontario and into Michigan proudly displaying the City of Sarnia crest painted on the truck. He does this on his own time and at his own expense. He is a great promoter of the City and is always ready to volunteer his services.
Kelly, a student at Guelph University, is being recognized for her leadership, dedication and compassion on the issue of climate change. Representing youth she spoke of her anxiety and fears for the future during a presentation at a Sarnia Council meeting this past year. During her summer break from university she came home to work and form Sarnia Sustainability Ambassadors. In this role she held weekly meetings with speakers on topics of interest for the environment. These meetings were open to all concerned citizens, not just youth. Her involvement continued even after she returned to university. A citizen noted “Kelly showed courage in facing her fears and channelled her energy into taking positive action that is making a difference.”
Gayle is the person responsible for bringing the “Circles Programme” to Canada—a programme to help alleviate poverty—which has now expanded to 10 Canadian communities. Circles began in the United States in 2009 and helps people get themselves out of poverty with the support of middle-class mentors. Gayle believes the programme was so successful in Sarnia Lambton in getting people off social assistance because of all the caring people in the community. The programme is continuing to grow but will now do so without Gayle at the lead following her retirement in 2019 after a 36 year career in social services and as a crisis counsellor for the Women’s Interval Home. Gayle has been described as a “true one-of-a-kind individual whose heart is for supporting people to a better life.”
Sarnia’s own Matt Murray has continued his success as a playwright in Canadian theatre. This past Christmas season he was the playwright of the Wizard of Oz at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto. In 2017 he was the writer on a production of A Christmas Card. While growing up in Sarnia he performed in community theatre before beginning his studies at Sheridan College. He has appeared in the cast of Mamma Mia, Hairspray and other musicals as well as television and film. The first play he wrote was Remember Maggie written with his mother, Carol Murray. It was selected in 2011 as the Best of the Toronto Fringe Festival Production. He has gone on to write other plays and his latest involvement is a musical he wrote with Johnny Reid which will be part of a workshop production at Sheridan College in February.
SEAWAY KIWANIS CLUB OF SARNIA LAMBTON
The year 2019 marked the beginning of the Seaway Kiwanis Club of Sarnia-Lambton’s 60th year as a chartered club. Many of the Club’s members are leaders in the business community, professionals, and retirees. It is the members’ goals to assist the lives of others throughout this community while offering fellowship, networking and meeting lifelong friends. The Seaway Kiwanis Children’s Animal Farm; the BMX Track; Easter on the Farm and Christmas on the Farm; Seaway Kiwanis Pavilion—all located in Canatara Park–are initiatives of the Seaway Kiwanis Club. In addition the Seaway Kiwanis Club Scholarship Programme is available to local high school students who demonstrate Kiwanis values in their daily lives. The Club has made donations to numerous organizations such as Bluewater Health, St. Joseph’s Hospice, Lambton Literacy Programme, Huron House Boys Home, Lambton County Circles Family Programme, The Inn of the Good Shepherd, Sarnia Girls’ Soccer Club and Harmony Children’s Programme, to name just a few. The list is endless. The Seaway Kiwanis Club of Sarnia-Lambton is being recognized for their dedication and compassion in wanting to make their community a better place for its residents, particularly the children.
Sarnia-born, Corunna-raised Rob Thomson was inducted into Canada’s Baseball Hall of Fame in St. Mary’s this past summer. He played for the Stratford Hillers in the Intercounty Baseball League in the early 1980s. In 1984 he played on the Canadian Olympic team in Los Angeles, later being drafted by the Detroit Tigers. He began his coaching career with the Tigers in 1988 and for the next 30 years became one of the most respected coaches in baseball. The year 1990 marked the start of his tenure with the Yankees, serving in many roles, but when he became a bench coach during a three game stint in New York, he was the first Canadian since 1934 to manage in the major leagues. Rob won five World Series rings while with New York. Rob is now a bench coach with the Philadelphia Phillies.
For over 30 years Rosemary worked with the volunteers as part of the Volunteer Programme for COGECO (now YourTV). These volunteers were mostly teenagers working on high school credits, university co-ops, or simply having the desire to learn more about the community while improving their skills, confidence and discovering something very special that they could own, be proud of, and speak about to their parents, friends and fellow students. What they learned –cameramen, programmes, screen graphics – has travelled on with them on their life journey. And this has all been due to the excellent tutelage and patience of a lady who will never be forgotten by these students and what she instilled in them at such a critical time of their lives.
GARY AND TAMMY VANDENHEUVEL
Gary and Tammy undertook the task of turning a former daycare centre into a transitional, supportive housing space for 16 to 24 year olds. The $1.8 million renovation project, known as Ohana Landing, is a seven-unit facility providing short-term space of up to four years for young people looking for stability, getting their lives together with the hopes of moving on to something more independent and permanent. Funding was received through Provincial grants, community fundraising and personal investment by the Vandenheuvels. Tammy notes the project “has always been that it is to be a hand up, not a handout.” Tammy hopes after seeing Ohana open it will inspire other communities to create similar housing.