2006 Flare Volunteer Award Recipients

We are pleased to announce the 2006 recipients. Flare Magazine has made a commitment to acknowledge, celebrate and publicize the importance of volunteerism in Canada. As one of the most acclaimed magazines in the country speaking to women, we feel it is our responsibility and privilege to highlight outstanding female volunteers from coast to coast.

2006 Flare Volunteer Awards

We are pleased to announce the 2006 recipients.

Flare Magazine has made a commitment to acknowledge, celebrate and publicize the importance of volunteerism in Canada. As one of the most acclaimed magazines in the country speaking to women, we feel it is our responsibility and privilege to highlight outstanding female volunteers from coast to coast.

FLARE Volunteer Award
Joanne Klauke-LaBelle of Sarnia, ON
Cheryl Perera of Richmond Hill, ON
Jessica Roelink of Toronto, ON
Helen Sweet of Toronto, ON

FLARE Volunteer Award for Community & Leadership
Sheryl Ewing of Calgary, AB

FLARE Volunteer Award for Lifetime Achievement
Joyce Churchill of Portugal Cove, NL

The six recipients participated in a professional photo-shoot on May 9, 2006 and were celebrated at an Awards Gala on May 10th at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto.

Keynote Address & Presenter was The Honourable James K. Bartleman, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario; and Special Guest Speaker & Presenter was Justin P.J. Trudeau, Education, Environment & Youth Advocate.


Joanne Klauke-LaBelle

“Joanne is an individual who has given her all to the promotion of self-worth and self-esteem in youth of all ages, expanding their horizons and letting them glimpse their own innermost potential” —Nominator Paul K. Kearney

There are few women whose energy, drive, and passion can match that of Joanne Klauke-LaBelle. Founder of Harmony, a youth center that teaches adolescences self-esteem and confidence thorough the vehicle of the arts, Joanne instills hope day after day into the lives of Sarnia’s youth.

In 1996, living in the south end of Sarnia, a struggling area for both youth and adults, Joanne started to become increasingly aware of her surroundings. Through her volunteer work at a local school, she began noticing the strain of adolescence on numerous kids and believed that the power of music could lessen their angst. And so, she began teaching a few children private music lessons at no charge. One day while in the midst of a piano lesson a young family friend came to talk. He was in personal turmoil and needed her advice. Joanne asked him to come back when the session was done. But he never did. Later that day he took his own life. Devastated, Joanne vowed to do more.

Believing in the healing influence of music, Joanne set out to make a difference. Starting out with 10 youth in her snug living room, Joanne founded Harmony. Determined to make Harmony accessible to all youth, Joanne incorporated four crucial elements into the program; no financial fees, no waiting lists, no prerequisites, and holding all kids accountable to the community for the programs that they received. Word spread and Harmony flourished. Desperate to satisfy the need for additional musical instruments due to a flurry of enrollment, Joanne dug into most of her savings and purchased guitars, saxes, and other musical equipment so that other children could be included.

Harmony continued to grow in the years that followed until in 2003, 150 students were enrolled. Realizing the demand, Joanne moved Harmony into a rental space a few blocks from her home. With the new centre, Harmony evolved and began to offer an array of classes such as vocal, guitar, orchestral, musical theater, art and dance. The centre, opened 7 days a week, is available to youth as a drop in centre. Kids can socialize in a safe and supervised environment and use the space, which is equipped with computers, for schoolwork.

Through Harmony, Joanne has over the years helped countless children; instilling in every child self-esteem, a sense of worth and the idea of dreaming big. It’s simply her relentless support that gives Harmony’s children hope. Although far from being materialistically rich, Joanne knows that money could simply not buy the richness in self she gets by giving back to her community and living so powerfully by example.

Written by: Martina Stritesky


Cheryl Perera

“Cheryl combines her visionary leadership, heroism and creativity, with her uncanny ability to translate her passion into concrete action–to make superlative contributions to communities. She is a testament to the potential of youth to be agents of positive social change.” —Nominator Trixie Perera

Cheryl Perera is an accomplished children’s rights activist, a crusader and outstanding leader in both her own community and around the world. She is the Founder & President of One Child, a registered non-profit organization that is the only youth-driven organization of its kind—dedicated to the elimination of the commercial sexual exploitation of children abroad.

Cheryl’s leadership and bravery have had her involved within the community since the age of nine, when she started volunteering with the Reading Buddy program, and became active with the Outreach Club and Circle of Friends Club at Christ the King Elementary School working with mentally disabled students and teaching conflict resolution. At the age of 16, after having read about the exploitation of children for a school project; she joined Free The Children Int. (FTC)—the largest youth empowerment organization in the world. Within a short span Cheryl became Co-Director of the GTA chapter and Co-Founder of Mary Ward C.S.S. Chapter of FTC. Her travels for volunteer missions have taken her to impoverished communities within Nicaragua and Ecuador where she witnessed first hand the effects of poverty, inequality and exploitation.

At 17, Cheryl undertook a self-designed research and volunteer project of 3.5 months in Sri Lanka. Conducting interviews with child labourers, ex-soldiers and prostitutes (among others) she created a powerful documentary. This resulted in her partnership with the Chairman of the National Child Protection Authority in Sri Lanka, where she took part in an undercover ‘sting’ operation acting as a decoy (a 15 year old child prostitute). Her act of bravery resulted in the apprehension and arrest of a 40 year old pedophile. Cheryl’s dedication attracted the attention of The President and government officials in Sri Lanka where she was offered a one-year position at the Presidential Secretariat as the President’s nominee on child protection.

As President of One Child she has lobbied Air Canada to join the network of airlines to combat child sex tourism worldwide by showing an in-flight video produced by her One Child Network. The video concentrates on the criminal consequences of engaging in the sexual exploitation of children and is screened on international flights, viewed by approximately 400,000 passengers per month. Her powerful achievements have positively affected children all over the world.

Written by: Hazel Picco


Jessica Roelink

“Jessica is an exceptional volunteer because she views helping people as a privilege. She is a great role model because her devotion is a shining example that anyone and everyone can make the time to volunteer.” —Nominator Gina Faturos

When Jessica Roelink started volunteering at a local clothing bank in 1988, she noticed that many of the suits, dresses and formal wear were not being picked up by the bank’s clients. Jessica knew that for the business attire not to go to waste she would have to find the right clientele. And so the notion of finding people who were looking for work and in need of appropriate clothing for their interviews was established, and Dress Your Best was born.

In 2000, Jessica founded the Dress Your Best program—its main focus is to provide a one-on-one service that gives clients support, instills confidence and offers the tools to help people get back on their feet. To date, Dress Your Best has outfitted over 3,100 men and women, providing each client with at least five outfits for a week’s worth of clothing. Not only does Dress Your Best provide one-on-one training with an image consultant, clients can also benefit with a resume critique and mock interview sessions that are also provided by the organization.

Aside from running the boutique itself, Jessica also facilitates client appointment days, provides training, supports her volunteer stylists and handles countless bags of clothing donations that come through her door. Knowing that there is power in numbers, Jessica has created a strong network of 53 dedicated volunteers to help in the boutique and has also secured a partnership with The Association of Image Consultants International in order to raise the bar on the level of volunteer stylists working with Dress Your Best’s clients.

In 2005, Jessica volunteered 1134 volunteer hours in addition to working evenings in the restaurant industry to pay for her living expenses. With this arrangement she can dedicate her days to the boutique working on new program development, dealing with the day-to-day administrative duties and running the boutique itself. Since Jessica’s mandate for the boutique is to operate in free space, so that all raised funds go to the program itself, she has managed to find new donated operating space repeatedly throughout the years. Asked why volunteering is so important to her, Jessica describes simply that being a Canadian is a blessing and that she is proud to contribute to a system that offers aid to stay healthy and safe with access to endless opportunities.

Written by: Martina Stritesky


Helen Sweet

“If there were 36 hours in a day, you can bet Helen would still dedicate all that time to running The Brides’ Project.”—Nominator Maria Cheung

Helen Sweet is a volunteer with an innovative entrepreneurial spirit and a philanthropist who is dedicated and tireless in her efforts to support children with cancer. While doing so she touches on a milestone in many women’s lives—their wedding. Losing a best friend to cancer at a young age, Helen’s memories of this painful loss stayed with her until she found a unique and innovative way to support young cancer patients. In June of 2004, one day after her own honeymoon ended—she founded and opened The Brides Project, a store where brides help brides by donating their gently used gowns, veils, shoes and various wedding accessories that can be re-used.

Her customers tend to be socially conscious brides, second-time brides, and those on a low budget; though almost 75% of the clients use this store so that they to may support children with cancer. Many brides even donate the items back after their ceremony. She has also convinced various bridal salons to donate their discontinued or sample gowns. Proceeds from The Brides Project go to helping children with cancer.

In 2005 Helen volunteered approximately 40 hours a week (evenings & weekends), every week to The Brides Project and runs the store out of her home, filling almost every room with all things Bridal. Doing all of this while having a full time day job as a Management Consultant; and recently when her employment was eliminated—she made a decision to dedicate herself solely to her volunteer endeavors. Crediting the success of her program to the truly wonderful women who donate and spread the word on her project, she believes that their idealism and desire to give back to the community through one of the most important events in their lives—a wedding, bodes very well for the continued prosperity of The Brides Project.

Growing up as a Minister’s daughter, being involved in the community has always been a priority in Helen’s life: she has served as a Board Member with the Volunteer Centre of Toronto, been involved with AIDS Walk, Walk For Children’s Dreams, Ride For Heart and was VP of Student Services in her Graduate School. During the last year and a half, The Brides Project has been able to donate approximately $20,000 to children’s charities, and to ensure its strength Helen has at times, used her own funds to house and support the ongoing efforts. Never one to sit idle, she now dreams of expanding her project to communities across Canada, where she can continue to honour a young friend, assist brides in need, and support young children with cancer.

Written by: Hazel Picco


Sheryl Ewing

Award for Community and Leadership

“The Canadian Nurses Foundation nominated Sheryl Ewing for the Flare Volunteer Awards because she exemplifies the modern nurse leader’s commitment to improved community well-being.” —Nominator Mel Phelan

When Sheryl Ewing’s two year old son was diagnosed with cancer, she was able to witness firsthand the many gaps in services available for families of children with cancer. The main concern being the loneliness involved for both parent and child. Sheryl was advised by her doctor not to let her son Jamie attend regular preschool or play with any kids that were not perfectly healthy due to his lowered immune system from chemotherapy and radiation. Simple illnesses such as chicken pox and some other communicable diseases could be fatal to him, and something even as minor as a fever, cold or flu would require hospital admission for intravenous medications.

Jamie’s active life suddenly changed from attending playgroups, church, swimming lessons and other normal daily activities to going to the hospital and then returning home to recover. Life became isolated. While spending hours in the oncology waiting rooms, Sheryl noticed that the other parents of children with cancer and the children themselves were feeling the same isolation. She was concerned that if her son and the other children survived their cancer, they would have trouble reintegrating with other children after years of not having learned the necessary social skills for children their own age. And so, in 1986 Sheryl Ewing, a registered nurse, founded Jamie’s Preschool Society named after her son.

Consulting with oncology and infectious disease physicians at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary, Sheryl returned to her church and requested permission to set up a safe and healthy preschool for children with cancer in a room that was not being used. The church agreed to donate the space. Then using her own funds, Sheryl hired a teacher and soon five small children were attending Jamie’s Preschool Society.

Through Sheryl’s hard work and dedication the school soon received charitable status and became licensed. Registration grew, the Alberta Children’s Hospital began referring young patients to the preschool and at any given time there were approximately twelve children with cancer registered. Sheryl began actively raising funds through local organizations to keep the school growing. Children in Jamie’s Preschool Society were able to re-emerge into an active life with other kids with cancer and parents were able to get support from each other. Programs such as attending a gymnastics school when no other children were around, going to the latest movies at movie theatres when they closed to the public and even going fishing in the Kananaskis were instilled and the preschool and children thrived.

As Founder, President, and Director of the preschool, some of Sheryl’s main responsibilities are registering all preschoolers, hiring and managing staff, fund-raising, and attending meetings. In 2005 Sheryl successfully obtained the Wild Rose Foundation grant for Jamie’s Preschool Society, a grant that is bestowed by the government of Alberta for organizations that meet strict criteria and are considered to be life-enhancing to the community.

Despite her busy volunteering schedule, Sheryl is currently pursuing a doctorate in Nursing and works as a nurse coordinator. Now in its 20th year, Jamie’s Preschool Society is the only preschool of its kind in Canada. With Sheryl at the helm of the school, she has vowed she will keep the school running as long as it is needed by children with cancer and their loved ones.

Written by: Martina Stritesky


Joyce Churchill

Award for Lifetime Achievement

“Joyce Churchill has had a lifetime of achievement in an amazing variety of roles—volunteer, mother, nurse, politician, cancer survivor, and business woman and through it all remains a warm, unassuming, and committed human being determined to make a difference in her family, her community, her province, and her country.” —Jeanette Andrews

In the 1950’s as a young teenager, Joyce Churchill started on a path of volunteerism that she did not realize then—would later be instrumental in the direction her life would take as a young mother. Collecting $18 in 5, 10 and 25 cent offerings, Joyce’s first impact was on the Polio epidemic of the time. The small town of Portugal Cove also benefited from her teenage dedication to teaching Sunday School and taking part in the choir of her local church.

Her early desire to help those in need lead her to a career as a Registered Nurse and reinforced her strength, ability and desire to have an impact in her community. These qualities came to the forefront 29 years ago when her only son Stephen was born with Autism. Finding a dead end at every turn while looking for programs or support to help Stephen reach his potential, this complete lack of assistance lead Joyce (for over two decades), to make a difference for autistic children and adults in the province of Newfoundland & Labrador (NL). In 1982 she joined a parent support group lead by Barbara Hopkins and together they developed the first ever Autism Society of Newfoundland & Labrador (ASNL) in 1984.

Joyce was diligent in her quest to let the public know that Autism is not a mental disorder or form of mental retardation, but rather is a neurological disorder. She was tireless in her homework and found that there are a number of highly effective treatments and intervention methods. She wanted her community and province at large to know that many persons with Autism can learn to communicate effectively, share in family life and gain meaningful employment. Through ASNL Joyce undertook seven years of focused lobbying, planning and fundraising with the public, private and service sectors. She worked to secure partnerships and lobbied service clubs and private business for charitable support. Her successful lobbying techniques with the NL government resulted in funding for the Applied Behaviour Analysis program, $40,000 to fund a provincial ASNL office and $20,000 for ASNL to conduct an assessment of needs for adults with ASD.

In 1996 Joyce retired from her award winning career as a Nurse and in 1997 was elected President of ASNL. Under Joyce’s leadership ASNL pursued every possible source of funding and to date have surpassed the capital campaign goal of $1.5 million and have raised a total of $1.9 million for the construction of the first ever Shamrock Farm Centre for Autism located at Pippy Park in St. John’s. Her contributions to ASNL have been enormous, but surprisingly she has also volunteered with the Avalon Consolidated School Board, Association of Registered Nurses of NL, Parent Teachers Association, Girl Guides, Junior Auxiliary and served as the Mayor of Portugal Cove for 4 years (1985-89).

Though she remains a wife, mother of three, and has waged her own personal battle with Breast Cancer, Joyce has not stopped dreaming—“we need a Centre for Excellence in Research, Education and Programming for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Canada. Some day we will find a cure.”

Written by: Hazel Picco