Alexandra Marta is an up and coming athlete and honour roll student striving to earn a place on the national para-alpine ski team. The youth generously shares her knowledge and time with others by volunteering countless hours, on both snow and water, to SkiAbility Ottawa and the Canadian Association for Disabled Skiing alpine ski program. There is a fine line between helping a person participate and helping a person participate independently. Alexandra is fiercely independent—never limiting what volunteer roles she can be scheduled for. As a result, she alters people’s perceptions of the capabilities of people with disabilities, bettering everyone’s experience. She was selected as one of ten developing athletes featured in a Canadian Paralympic Committee commercial that was aired during the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Briton Amos was shot in an attempted carjacking in California while traveling in 1991. After a successful legal battle versus his insurance company for his rightful compensation at the Supreme Court of Canada, which set a precedent for third party liability, Briton enrolled at Ottawa University where he completed studies at the Faculty of Social Sciences with Honors with Specialization in International Development and Globalization. In 2007 Briton founded Humanitarian Mobility International (HMI), a registered charity based in Ottawa whose mandate is to provide medical mobility equipment to those who need it the most, regardless of political, religious or cultural affiliation, wherever they may be globally. HMI collects new and used mobility equipment and distributes the equipment overseas, targeting countries that have been affected by conflict or by natural disaster. Briton states that, “it (life) is a short ride and there is no time to waste,” so he works tirelessly to make the world a better place. Recipient
When Cameron Weber started working at Starbucks he was extremely worried that his disability would affect him on the job and he didn’t want anyone to know that he had a job coach. Within six months of starting as a Café Specialist, Cameron was receiving notes of appreciation from customers and colleagues. His manager then enrolled him in the Coffee Master program, which only a few people at each location have the opportunity to do, and includes delivering seminars to customers about coffee. Cameron was promoted to Barista and has won several awards in company competitions for the most sales and customer service. Cameron is also a member of the Board of Directors at Y’s Owl Maclure. Cameron’s self-esteem and confidence has grown and he now explains to co-workers and others that he has Asperger’s, but only of they ask. Recipient
Accomplished artist Caroline Joanisse has displayed her paintings at more than 50 shows during the past 10 years. Inspired by the Canadian Group of Seven, and specifically renowned artist Tom Thompson. Caroline’s work in a continuation in the tradition of Canadian landscape paintings. She is inspired by nature, life and landscape. “The way I see the world around me is very visually with colours, shapes and textures,” says Caroline. “I like being heard as an equal member of society despite my own situation.” Recipient
Crime Prevention Ottawa (crimepreventionottawa.ca) and Connecting on Disability and Abuse (CODA) have demonstrated a commitment to advancing rights and access to services and supports for people with disabilities. Unique within Canada, CODA’s goal is to develop community capacity to address violence and abuse through prevention and education. Additionally, CODA aims to break the silence around abuse of people with disabilities by developing effective partnerships with various community organizations and networks. Specifically, CODA delivers workshops and speaker series, and publishes papers for a range of educational institutions, levels of government, local organizations and other service providers. More recently, CODA has done research and taken action to address the issue of home takeovers as well as service accessibility.
Daniel Boyer has dedicated more than 20 years to helping out his community and making it better. As a Knights of Columbus member, he is always ready to help his brother knights. Daniel also volunteers at the Notre-Dame Cathedral and the St-Louis Marie de Montfort parish. He’s the co-chair of Connecting on Disability and Abuse (CODA) Coalition started by Crime Prevention of Ottawa and the City of Ottawa. Additionally, Daniel is actively involved with Citizen Advocacy of Ottawa, currently as the chair of the Consumer Advisory Committee and a member of the Board of Directors. For 3 of the past 4 years, Daniel was impressively the top fundraiser for Citizen Advocacy during Ottawa Race Weekend.
“A diagnosis doesn’t stop you nor can define who you are. It is another reason to say ‘I will’”, says one of Dino Giannetti’s nominators. Since 2001 Dino has been an active participant with Easter Seals, Muscular Dystrophy and Terry Fox Foundation. Most impressive his ongoing work with the Ottawa Power Wheelchair Hockey League. As a hockey player himself, playing forward, goalie and defence, Dino knows first-hand the importance of the league. His tireless efforts as Fundraising Director have him fundraising all year round, including arranging a celebrity hockey game and an awards banquet and gala attended by more than 150 people. Dino graduated from Carleton University’s Sprott School of Business with honours in 2010, where he founded the Sprott Operations Management Students Association (SOMSA), to bridge the gap between students and industry professionals. Recipient
Donna Campbell has volunteered for more than 35 years. Donna has served actively with Causeway, both with the Work Centre and Foundation. She served as the Causeway Work Centre Board President and has served with the Causeway Foundation board for the past six years as secretary, president and now past-president. As a result of her strong support and advocacy for Causeway, as a volunteer and donor, she was awarded the 2013 Causeway Eleanor Meier Award. Donna’s volunteerism extends to weekly volunteering at The Ottawa Mission, a local homeless shelter, serving breakfast meals to clients of the program. In addition, Donna actively volunteers with the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists to actively promote services and maintain an archive of the work of occupational therapists in Canada with persons with disabilities.
Dovercourt has employed 13 individuals from the Ottawa Carleton Association for People with Developmental Disabilities during the past 20 years, including 5 current staff. Dovercourt staff recognize the unique traits of their colleagues with disabilities and help customers to be understanding and non-judgmental. Training needs and behaviours are also addressed in a realistic and respectful manner. Beyond day-to-day work requirements, everyone is included in all social functions. Recipient
Elaine York provides valued support to the Security and Professional Standards Directorate of the Canada Border Services Agency, including filing, shredding, mail courier between executive offices and any other tasks that require a helping hand. Elaine undertakes her work with a strong sense of duty, ensuring all is completed to the satisfaction of the requesting person. When Elaine is not helping others and accomplishing assigned tasks, she invests the in developing her skills (such as typing). “When I think of Elaine, I think: Respect cannot be bestowed, it must be earned and she has earned every bit of it,” wrote one of her nominators. “Respect commands respect.”
Erica Carson was an elected board member for Citizens with Disabilities Ontario for three years. As a board member, she played a central role in proposing, securing funding for, and organizing the 2011 Youth Activist Forum. Hailed as “the first event of its kind in Canada,” the forum brought 38 youth together for three days of workshops, artistic performances, keynote addresses and discussions of activism. The event was accessible and welcoming to youth regardless of disability, gender, race, sexual orientation or economic status, and ultimately 62.5% of the participants identified as people with disabilities. After the event, one participant wrote, “I was full of shame and denial, and hid myself for fear of being judged but something kind of clicked and changed.” This year, Erica started her Masters of Social Work degree at Carleton University. She will continue to work in the disability community in the future.
Friends in Sportfishing (friendsinfishing.net) is an entirely volunteer-run charitable organization providing, at no cost, recreational boating and sportfishing for children and people with special needs. Guests come from families, seniors’ centres, special education groups, hospitals and daycares. The organization has hosted more than 20,000 people in communities across eastern Ontario. Friends in Sportfishing outings are a favourite for patients of the Ottawa Hospital Rehabilitation Centre, enjoying the outdoors while putting into action many of the skills they are learning during rehabilitation. Friends in Sportfishing remains active year-round in program development, community relations, promotion, publicity, volunteer training and public education.
Iram Hashmi is a vital member of the Ottawa Chapter of the Canadian Association of Muslims with Disabilities (camd.ca). Among her many contributions, Iram helps families to navigate special needs supports in the Ottawa area and raises awareness about accessibility issues within local mosques, such as the availability of religious materials in accessible formats. Iram has volunteered more than 350 hours with the Saturday respite program for young children with autism at the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre. She works to remove the cultural stigmas surrounding disabilities by advocating for the rights of individuals with disabilities and promoting inclusion and accessibility.
A parent’s love knows no bounds. Since realizing that his son had a developmental disability, John Barker has been active in volunteering and advocating for the rights of individuals with a developmental disability and their families for well over 25 years. From Chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee of the old Ottawa Board of Education, to Chair of the board of directors of Service Coordination, then chair of United Families of Eastern Ontario (UFEO), and participant in the United Way Impact Council on Persons with Disabilities, John has been an advocate for the services and changes he feels are required in Ottawa and across Ontario. Presently as Acting Chair of UFEO and throughout the past 25 years, John has advocated to all levels of government on a wide range of issues, but particularly about the right of individuals with a developmental disability to fully participate in school, work and community life. Recipient
Becoming known as the “go-to” person cannot be assigned; it must be earned. Jeff McBride has developed a reputation for going the extra mile and being thorough—innovating to find new solutions when possible. During his nearly 25-year career, Jeff has attained increasingly senior positions, currently the Superintendent of Communications, Quality Assurance and Training with the Ottawa Paramedic Service. In addition to his career meeting the emergency needs of his fellow residents, Jeff is a peer support volunteer for Spinal Cord Injury Ontario. He generously gives his time to meet with individuals with newly acquired spinal cord injuries and their family members to help them adjust to the changes. Recipient
Karoline Seiler is a highly regarded direct support professional with Christian Horizons. Supporting clients living semi-independently, the mentorship and teaching she offers is done naturally and interactively—both to the individual and the community. Committed to cooperative living and community integration, Karoline encourages individuals to get out and meet their neighbours—to learn about the world we live in. Karoline also choses support methods that enhance character development and mental stability. Her word is her bond and the people she supports know they can trust her. “One wish is that we could clone this gal,” says the mother on an individual Karoline supports.
Luc Polnicky has been a valued volunteer with The In Community since 1993. His dedication to the agency is reflected in the number of volunteer roles he has taken on over the years, as a member of the Selection Committee, Housing Committee and Board of Directors—serving as the board president for the 2011-2012 term. His The In Community peers recognized Luc in 2009 when he was presented with the Volunteer of the Year Award. Additionally, Luc became a peer support volunteer with Spinal Cord Injury Ontario in 2008, providing one-on-one mentoring, attending information sessions and promoting the program at information fairs. To help newly injured Francophone quadraplegics and their families adapt and have hope for a full life, Luc wrote a biography in 2008 called Nager à Contre-Courrant.
Mélanie Héroux practices swimming two to three times a week and when her schedule permits, twice a day. During the recent invitational competition ‘Défi sportif’ in Montreal, she won two silver medals in her discipline. During the recent provincial special Olympics, Mélanie took home six medals including four gold in butterfly style, 100 metres backstroke, 50 metres breaststroke and medley, a silver and bronze in the 100 and 25 metres freestyle. She recently qualified to swim at the national special Olympics in Vancouver July 6 to 13, 2014. Recipient
Rogers TV believes in television programming that brings communities together. This belief is apparent in their commitment to creating and supporting volunteer opportunities for people with disabilities. The Rogers TV station is accessible and volunteers are encouraged to try different areas of production in the studio environment. Recipient
Russell Cecchini is one of the co-founders of ComputerWise (computer-wise.ca), a program established in 1985 to empower people with disabilities through the use of adaptive technology. As a dedicated professional, Russell continuously seeks ways to improve the Computer Wise program — through cutting- edge software suggestions or how jobs are completed. Russell is a true team player. Using a head pointer and a motorized wheelchair, Russell has successfully navigated the world for more than 60 years, teaching himself how to use new technologies so that he may inspire and encourage others in similar situations. As a former Paralympian, Russell is also passionate about sports and is currently an active member of the Ottawa Boccia team.
Sheilaeagh MacDonald‘s career as an educator included 30 years teaching special education in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB), culminating as vice principal at the secondary level. In her leadership role, she brought best practices and new initiatives into the system, ensuring students’ rights were respected and they learned to advocate for themselves. Sheilaeagh also served as a vice principal representative on the Special Education Advisory Committee of the OCDSB. Both in her teaching career and in her retirement work as a board member with Y’s Owl Maclure, she is a great advocate for individuals. Sheilaeagh’s current focus includes helping individuals and their families with transition planning from the formal education system into independent life. Recipient
Seaward (‘Stu’) Higdon has been calling the Bingo at Saint-Vincent Hospital every Monday evening for more than 34 years. Stu also visits the residents, who he knows by name, and encourages them to participate in activities and social events, including pub nights. He brings laughter and smiles to all. Stu also gives his time to the Dystonia Support Group, organizing Walk and Wheel fundraisers on Parliament Hill, Christmas parties, monthly coffee gatherings, picnics and sessions with informative guest speakers. Additionally, Stu has volunteered for 24 years with the Ottawa Blind Bowling Club at the RA Centre as a driver, volunteer, coach, scorekeeper and a friend to all. These are just the tip of the iceberg, as Stu has also volunteered with UNICEF, the Carson Grove Community Association, Laurier Manor and Our Lady of Mount Carmel School. Recipient
Accessibility is achieved at the new Shoppers Drug Mart at 455 Bank Street through the store’s layout and thanks to the owner’s and staff’s welcoming mindset. Staff moving freestanding displays to make physical movement a priority for customers further enhances the store’s accessibility. Ben Gunter, owner and pharmacist, continually considers not just physical accessibility, but the customer service experience. As the nominator put it best, “when entering the premises one is greeted warmly with a smile and offered help in finding an item or service provided by the store… one’s dignity stays intact at all times…on my worst day, I feel worthy when I go there!”
Father and son team Ross and Chris Holden turned their personal love of waterskiing into SkiAbility Ottawa (skiabilityottawa.ca) so the activity can be enjoyed by all. Surrounded by a team of highly trained and safety-conscious volunteers, the Holdens work with each individual to determine how to have them participate to the best of his/her abilities – ensuring each person leaves their sessions feeling happy, confident and eager to return. As one nominator wrote, “It is difficult to say which is a greater sign of their incredible leadership: the fact that they had to recruit additional boats to accommodate the increase in participants, or come up with new roles and responsibilities to accommodate the increase in volunteers.” As one participant put it, “Water skiing was SUPER fun! … All these experiences made me feel like I can do stuff just like others! I did not know I could do those things!” Recipient
Jesse has made his bi-weekly two-pencil purchase at Staples in Bells Corners for many years. Phil D’Urzo, Staples Divisional Sales Manager, gladly takes the time to place this small order as part of the ongoing excellent service he gives to Jesse, for whom rituals are important. Staff call Jesse when his two pencils arrive and all staff provide exceptional service, including Frost, who, “speaks the lingo and has got the rituals in hand,” says Jesse’s mother. Through their professionalism and kindness towards Jesse, Phil, Frost and the rest of the Staples staff demonstrate a commitment to inclusion that goes beyond simply physical accessibility.
Starbucks has hired many individuals with disabilities over the years at various locations across Ottawa. They ensure the individuals are included as part of their team and encourage them to be the best employees they can be. When Cameron demonstrated great customer service and understanding of the coffee making process, Angie, his manager at the time, enrolled him in their Coffee Master program, which only a few at each store have the chance to do. Cameron earned his black apron and the Barista title. Cameron’s success continues under Allan, the new manager, and Cameron gives tastings and seminars, and excels at sales.
After a member of the Bell Street United Church (now Centretown United Church) broke his neck in a 1983 accident, the need for affordable medical equipment became apparent to Mary McDowell, Reverend Bob Percival and other members of the parish. Stride Assistance for the Disabled was founded in 1985 and is operated by a team of volunteers. Stride started as a grant assistance program, helping towards the cost of health care equipment. Stride Wheelchairs Plus Recycling Depot (stridewheelchairsplus.ca) then started, in 1993, accepting donated used medical equipment, including wheelchairs, scooters, walking aids, and home and bathroom safety equipment. After a rigorous refurbishment process, the equipment is sold at a fraction of its original retail value – just enough to cover Stride’s expenses. In nearly 20 years, the charity has granted $250,000 and $1M worth of equipment.