2015 Finalists & Recipients

Celebration of People proudly presents the 2015 Finalists & Recipients

Congratulations to all winners!


Travis Iverson

Travis Iverson is the Ottawa-based entrepreneur behind Iver Fashion, a fashionable, contemporary clothing line for men that is also fully adapted to meet the needs of men with mobility impairments. Travis started designing clothing out of need after he incurred a spinal cord injury in 2003 and was unable to find comfortable stylish clothing. His fashionable designs feature material that is comfortable, absorbent and breathable. Care is also taken to design and produce clothing that is easy to put on independently and reduce pressure sores caused by hard seams and wrinkles.

Ottawa Rowing Club


Prior to the installation of the fully accessible ramps and docks the Ottawa Rowing Club’s docks were not accessible to wheelchair users – a barrier to many para-rowers. With the help of an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant in 2012 the Ottawa Rowing Club now has unrestricted water and rowing shell access for para-athletes. The accessible ramps and docks are installed each spring, and removed every fall, by a team of volunteers. This accessible system allows rowers and para-rowers of all abilities and ages to fully participate in the sport and as a result the Ottawa Rowing Club has a thriving para-rowing program.

The Miracle League of Ottawa


In the summer of 2012, the Champions for Ottawa Baseball and the Rotary Club of Orleans were approached by the Desrochers family from Orleans to help support a dream – a Miracle Field in Ottawa so their son, Bryce, and other children with special needs could enjoy the game of baseball in a safe environment. In fall 2013, the Miracle League of Ottawa (an incorporated nonprofit supported by a number of organisations in Orleans, under the leadership of Rev. Len Goddard and David Gourlay) launched a fundraising project to build Ottawa’s first fully-functional miracle league field, clubhouse, washrooms and change rooms. Numerous public and private partners worked together and on August 15, 2015 the Miracle Field of Ottawa was officially unveiled. The project has created a custom-designed, barrier-free and safe baseball facility can be enjoyed by more than 4,400 children and young adults in the Ottawa area. Plans are underway to construct a fully accessible playground in spring 2016.



For 35 years, Reach Canada has been removing barriers, including financial hurdles, to obtaining access to justice for all people with disabilities who require legal assistance in a variety of areas. Reach Canada provides lawyer referral services, on-going educational programs relating to disabilities and human rights and quarterly information newsletters. In addition Reach Canada encourages and provides resources to both the public and private sectors and the Ottawa community at large to promote positive changes for people with disabilities.

Autism on the Hill (QuickStart - Early Intervention for Autism)

The Autism on the Hill rally is a catalyst in creating greater awareness about autism in our community and nationally. The event started in 2013 and is held every April around World Autism Awareness Day. It brings together people with autism, parents, individuals, autism agencies, politicians of all parties, government ministers and senators. Participants at the Autism on the Hill rally show support and, through presentations and media interviews, help create more understanding about people with autism. The rally is followed by statements in the Senate and the House.



Elspeth Ross is an advocate for individuals affected by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) and their families. She is the founder and facilitator of the FASD Group of Ottawa. This unique group provides support, resources and information about this preventable invisible disorder. Since 2005, Elspeth has provided current awareness messages to people internationally, now through the FASD-Canadian-news listserve. She is a frequent participant in workshops and conferences and a witness at parliamentary committees advocating on behalf of those affected by FASD. In addition, Elspeth, on behalf of the FASD population, has made every effort to talk with different organizations about inclusion and accessing the same supports and services as other individuals with developmental disabilities.

Maura Athayde


Maura Athayde is a true community advocate who fights for inclusion, accessibility and equal rights for everyone. There are numerous examples of Maura’s efforts as an advocate in her community whether helping someone navigate services, write letters, apply for funding or supporting individuals one-on-one with daily living tasks. Maura also served on the Centretown Citizens Ottawa Corporation Housing Development Committee to develop a site that incorporated wheelchair accessible apartments.

Steve Gerecke


If there was a sixth sense in photography, Steve Gerecke would be completely tuned to it. Whether dangling up high from the top of a crane capturing the world below to crawling over/under wires and chords to get that raw and perfect shot of a musician at just the right moment…His chair does not inhibit him from creating visual masterpieces. It inspires him to get to the places that people would least expect. Although Steve has chosen photography as his form of expression at the moment, he has an extensive background in many forms of medium from freehand illustration, air brushing, engraving, wall/street murals to digital art and photo manipulation.




Propeller Dance creates new innovative performance works with people of all abilities, with a diversity of minds and bodies. Propeller Dance does not limit its company members to one kind of disability, but rather brings dancers together regardless of disability type or level. The company reaches out into the Ottawa arts community and beyond through professional performances and development opportunities, recreational classes for youth and adult dancers with and without disabilities and outreach to schools and other organizations.



Rev. Gail Christy is a well-known figure in Ottawa and beyond. She is someone who has lived fully, sharing her abilities for the benefit of others while adapting to new challenges along the way.

Throughout her life Gail has advocated for accessibility, particularly in public buildings including restaurants and churches. She is forthright in speaking with people or writing letters, challenging them to rethink their expectations. Gail is frequently consulted for advice on making changes to buildings to be more accessible and for her knowledge of current legislation.

Gail is a published author who writes about the challenges of living an active life with a disability. Although she originally trained as a speech pathologist she found her vocation in life as a Minister in the United Church and a Chaplain at both Elizabeth Bruyere and St. Vincent’s Hospital. She is also an active community volunteer for many organizations such as Bereaved Families of Ottawa and the Heron Emergency Food Centre.

Mary Sweeney


Mary Sweeney devotes her time and energy in service to people who are blind or partially sighted. After receiving assistance and rehabilitation from CNIB for her own vision loss, she was inspired to help others. Mary is the leader of a support group that each month reaches out to approximately 150 people who because of vision loss experience feelings of isolation. She is a volunteer braille instructor conducting classes in-person. When she realised that some people were unable to attend the in-person classes because of their disabilities Mary introduced and continues to run braille instruction classes over the phone. As an ambassador for CNIB, she spreads the word about CNIB’s mandate through presentations to many diverse groups from students to members of parliament. Mary also volunteers on her condo board and as a palliative care friendly visitor.

Steven Dionne


Steven Dionne is an amazing example of perseverance, resilience and dedication. A diving accident in 2010 left Steven a quadriplegic with little chance of ever walking again. Steven defied those odds and after intensive rehabilitation is walking, working full-time and travelling around the world. Just two months after his accident Steven founded the Steven Dionne Foundation to help support and promote spinal cord injury awareness and raise funds to help others regain their independence, self-reliance and return to full community participation. The Foundation, working in partnership with Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, helps individuals purchase equipment to make their lives easier.



Dorn Roche is an active community leader impacting both the organizations he supports and the community. As a professional accountant he has used his professional training to assist the Holy Cross Parish Knights of Columbus, National Capital Able Sail Association, Capital Wheelchair Curling Club and National Capital Sports Council for the Disabled. He also actively participates and encourages others to take part in the sports of sailing and curling. Dorn is also involved with Reach Canada, Citizen Advocacy Ottawa, Catholic Christian Outreach and Spinal Cord Injury Ontario.

Transition Support Centre for Students with ASD (Algonquin College)

Algonquin College

The Transition Support Centre at Algonquin College offers autism spectrum disorder (ASD) support that is unique in Ottawa. The Centre offers outreach and assistance to students on the spectrum, and the people who support them, who are planning to attend post-secondary school. Summer transition activities are open to all students with an ASD diagnosis who are planning to further their studies at Algonquin College. As part of these services, students can easily access academic accommodations and guidance regarding social interactions, as well as receive direct instruction in self-advocacy skills required to interact with others in the college setting. Support, training and guidance is also offered to college staff to help their students with ASD reach their goals.

Common Table – Epicentre Student Ministry


Jeremy Sauvé and Aspen’s Kerrie Kirkwood originally set out to find ways of fostering empathy in his youth group (Epicentre Student Ministry) to counteract the culture of teenage bullying. From this simple idea, Common Table a social skills learning opportunity for youth with autism was born. Common Table has creatively gone above and beyond what most youth groups do to welcome people who may be marginalized by their peers. All youth members are fully valued and included in an environment where it is safe to learn. Youth on the autism spectrum are able to get to know other young people from Epicentre in a safe setting, learn social skills and develop friendships. The Epicentre youth have grown in empathy and understanding of people who may experience life differently. Recently, Common Table was featured in a World Vision Canada book and is starting to inform, equip and educate churches across Canada on creative ways to welcome and value the gifts of young people with special needs.

Get Together with Technology Program - EDUCATION AWARD RECIPIENT


Get Together with Technology (GTT) is by and for people who are blind or have low vision. The program links them with technology by providing tools and knowledge that increases independence, breaks down barriers, decreases isolation and ameliorates the lives of those living with vision loss. GTT meets regularly to share information and discuss topics of interest such as the latest screen reading apps, how to access social media, how to use navigation apps and how to deal with problems associated with software upgrades and adaptive technology. GTT has also introduced teleconferences, a blog and social media to keep everyone informed regardless of their ability to travel to the monthly in-person meetings. Following on the success of the Ottawa group other GTT groups have started on the east and west coasts of Canada.



Tom Seamont works in facility management at Dovercourt Recreation Centre. He started as a supported worker from Ottawa Carleton Association for Persons with Developmental Disabilities (OCAPDD) more than 15 years ago. Tom tackles every task, no matter how small or large, without hesitation or complaint and methodically completes the job in a timely manner. Tom’s main priority for the last four years has been to look after the Ottawa Neighbourhood Services (ONS) donation drop-box area – one of the busiest and most productive in the city. His work to keep this area organized was recognized by the ONS drivers when he received a personal letter of commendation from ONS staff thanking him for all he does to make their pick-ups easy and efficient. He does this in addition to his other facility maintenance duties.

Jorge de Almeida


Jorge de Almeida has been a dedicated member of the ComputerWise team for more than ten years assisting with the creation of newsletters, business cards and other computer-based design work. Jorge is very concerned with the rights of the disabled, particularly as it relates to communication and has served on the Board of the Blissymbolics Communication Institute and is always willing to speak out about the importance of inclusive communities.

Veronica Anderson

DSC_0096For more than 25 years Veronica Anderson has worked in day-care for the City of Ottawa. She is a model employee who is very caring of the children and conscientious about her work. Veronica takes great pride in her job, rarely misses a day and is always willing to lend a hand. In addition she is an active volunteer with Citizen Advocacy Ottawa acting as Chair of the Consumers Advisory Committee and as a member of the Board of Directors.

Good Nature Groundskeeping - EMPLOYER AWARD RECIPIENT

DSC_0016Good Nature Groundskeeping (GNG) is a social enterprise with a mandate to provide employment for marginalized members of our community. GNG provides professional, full-service landscaping services with a roster of ten employees all of whom deal with some form of mental illness. GNG provides a stress-free, relaxed work environment with extreme flexibility to accommodate any special needs, as well as providing a number of other supports. In the community GNG helps to break the stigma of mental illness by proving that their employees are fully capable of not only holding jobs, but also providing the highest quality service and standard of work.

Home Depot - Gloucester


Home Depot believes in a strong set of values including respect for all people, giving back, doing the right thing and building strong relationships. The Gloucester location, under the leadership of Luke Tedford, goes out of its way to welcome and work with people with special needs, to promote accessibility and inclusion working in partnership with employment specialists from Y’s Owl Maclure Co-operative Centre. For example the training provided by their management and staff team for one of their current employees has been tailored to help him succeed and he has been encouraged to achieve more. The store’s executive recognized that employee’s success too when they presented him with the Executive Award for Excellence.

Andrew Todd


In 2013, Andrew Todd was training with an eye on competing as a rower at the 2016 Rio Olympics when he was involved in an accident that confined him to a wheelchair. Despite a number of setbacks on his road to recovery, Andrew has continued training with the para-rowing national team program. His training is paying off as Andrew finished with a bronze medal at the 2015 World Rowing Championships and he still has an unwavering ambition to compete in the 2016 Paralympics. Andrew volunteers as a coach in the para-rowing program, passing on his inspiring story and sharing his rowing knowledge with others.


Jason Dunkerley is a visually impaired middle distance runner who has competed at four Paralympic Games, five IPC World Championships and three Parapan American Games earning medals at every event. In 2015, at the Parapan American Games in Toronto Jason, and his guide Joshua Karanja, won the gold medal in the 5000m and silver in the 1500m. They are expected to be contenders for medals at the upcoming Rio 2016 Paralympic Games. Jason s an ambassador for parasport both locally and nationally.

Assmaa Bailouni


In 2010, Assmaa Bailouni started volunteering with Special Olympics by accompanying her son to bowling. This small beginning led to her starting and running a weekly drop-in activity program for people with disabilities for Ihsan Community Services under its mandate to empower community members to become independent and self-sufficient. This social and activity program is unique as all the activities include Islamic and Arabic content and are sensitive to the culture and values of the Muslim community.


DSC_0102Janet Robinson is a true advocate for families of children with special needs. She saw the isolation many parents experienced and heard their frustrations about the lack of support and understanding of what it was really like to parent children with special needs and decided to create a network of parents helping parents and learning from each other. As a result Walking in My Shoes started in 2009 with Janet as the facilitator and today supports more than 70 families in Ottawa. Janet was also the initiator of Citizen Advocacy’s Children’s Sibling Group started in 2014 and she continues to be involved as a member of the advisory committee. Janet is also a volunteer board member of United Families of Eastern Ontario and a passionate advocate for families with special needs children at the local, provincial and national levels.

WAVE Ottawa


WAVE (Work and Volunteer Experience), founded in 2013, is a program for adults with autism that endeavours to find work and volunteer placements in the Ottawa area and to provide the skills and support those individuals need to be successful. WAVE also aims to raise awareness of the potential of adults with autism by showing local employers the value, skills and abilities of the people they support. There are 26 individuals who are volunteering within the community with the support of WAVE who are hoping to follow the previous seven apprentices who have fully graduated from the program into paid employment.

Ottawa Food Bank


The Ottawa Food Bank has a vibrant volunteer program that is representative of the Ottawa community at large, including youth and adults with physical and mental disabilities. To achieve this the Ottawa Food Bank works with a wide range of organizations to recruit, support and engage volunteers of varying abilities to be involved in helping fight hunger in the community. The Ottawa Food Bank’s commitment to inclusion is a model for other food banks and in 2013 they were asked to share their experiences by creating and presenting a workshop on “Engaging Volunteers of Varied Abilities” at the Ontario Association of Food Banks Conference.



CityFolk believes in inclusion and has taken a number of steps to ensure they provide a positive and flexible environment for people of all abilities. The steps they take to achieve this are built into all aspects of their event: a dedicated Accessibility Team (many of whom are themselves disabled); volunteers with disabilities are able to bring a support worker to their volunteer shift as well as to free shows; volunteer role descriptions include information about whether the position is wheelchair accessible; written resources are available in alternative formats when requested; the volunteer check-in team ensures volunteers with accessibility needs are provided equal opportunities for check-in, meals and additional information; accessible festival infrastructure and annual evaluation and feedback on the festival’s accessibility.

Danny Michaud


Danny Michaud does not allow limitations to determine his dreams and achievements. He works full-time in an integrated position in the community. This position has allowed him to become financially independent and gives him time to work on his goals.



Grade 9 student, Tysen Lefebvre, has spent the last two years volunteering his time to campaign for Make-a-Wish Eastern Ontario. He was born with Type 2 Pfeiffer’s Syndrome, a rare genetic disability and in 2012 was awarded his own wish. This was a life-changing experience for him and he has pledged to help 100 children get their own wishes in five years – Tysen’s Mission to a Million. In just two years he has raised more than $403,000 and in doing so has brought communities closer together as they have joined him in his pledge to give sick children a life-changing wish. Tysen has shown extreme commitment to his mission, sacrificing personal and family time to organize and speak at multiple events.