Fashion

2009 Flare Volunteer Awards Recipients


 


Melanie Burton


 
Melanie Burton


Debbie Gallant


 
Debbie Gallant


Alanna Fitzgerald-Husek


 
Alanna Fitzgerald-Husek

Melanie Burton Debbie Gallant Alanna Fitzgerald-Husek

Joelle Fawcett-Arsenault


 
Joelle Fawcett-Arsenault


Lia Grimanis


 
Lia Grimanis


Diane McQuaig


 
Diane McQuaig


Marilyn Finkelstein


 
Marilyn Finkelstein

Joelle Fawcett-Arsenault Lia Grimanis Diane McQuaig Marilyn Finkelstein

 



Melanie Burton


 
Melanie Burton

Melanie Burton
Belleville, ON

Since the age of three, Melanie Burton has found joy in sharing with others. Every year she would participate in the Samaritan’s Purse project; sending packed shoeboxes of items such as toys and school supplies to children in need. Melanie went on to introduce the project to her church and high school, encouraging the packing of 1,500 boxes to date. At the age of 17, Melanie has achieved much in her community. The Links to Learning Resource Centre was established by her mother for families raising children with disabilities. Melanie’s enthusiasm for volunteering at the organization convinced the board of directors to create a course for Melanie, and other young people after her, called the Junior Executive in Training course. Completion of this course allowed Melanie to take a seat on the board. As a board member, Melanie created a program to give children access to specialized reading materials called Reading Rocks! Children are encouraged to take out, read and return materials to reach a goal of 100 books. Now in its fifth year, the program has a teen subgroup called “Page Turners” and will develop a “Parents Who Read Help Their Children Succeed” subgroup. With 29,964 books read to date, the program has improved the reading skills and confidence of as many as 60 children per year. Melanie runs the program as its coordinator and personally encourages children by tracking their progress around a reading track she painted and inviting them to an annual Reading Rocks! Awards Celebration. Through her Raise Your Age for Literacy campaign, Melanie canvasses for donations to biannually raise $100 for each year of her current age: a present total of $6,500 raised. Melanie’s volunteer efforts extend to her school and church communities. She has organized bake sales and other fundraising initiatives to purchase new instruments at school and she has developed a Friday night Games Night at church to provide families with a fun and supportive place to interact. Her work has garnered her awards including the Ontario Junior Citizens Award in 2003 and the Belleville Citizen of the Year Award in 2006. FLARE is proud to recognize the outstanding volunteer work of this remarkable young woman by honouring her with the first-ever Teenflare Volunteer Award.

 



Debbie Gallant


 
Debbie Gallant

Debbie Gallant
Nanaimo, BC

When Debbie Gallant’s son Kevan was one year old, he began having seizures. When it became clear that his special needs could not be accommodated by the school system, Debbie investigated what other options were available. Realizing that the resources they required did not exist, Debbie, her husband and four other families decided to create an alternative: the Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization (NUKO). As the driving force behind NUKO, Debbie led many initiatives. She gained society status and Registered Charitable Status for the organization to facilitate fundraising. Her fundraising efforts allowed NUKO to offer a Summer Camp program and she sought and obtained a Variety Children’s Charity Sunshine Coach 15 passenger van for a therapeutic Community Recreation Program. Through a distance education service provider and the school district, Debbie arranged for the children in the NUKO program to receive an individual education plan. In order to identify deficiencies of programs and services within the Nanaimo region, Debbie created a proposal which funded the Nanaimo Unique Kids Survey Project. The survey findings revealed the need for more services in the community, which led to the formation of the NUKO Mentoring Project. Funded by Service Canada, this program provides support for families of children with neuro-developmental disabilities. Through her leadership, Debbie has given an invaluable gift to her community. Initially a program for five children, NUKO has expanded to two Learning Centres with a total of 16 children. The organization is also collaborating with a team of parents from Victoria to set up the first of what promises to be a series of satellite programs in BC. Debbie is a mother of two, works full-time, and has many commitments regarding her son. Despite her personal struggle, Debbie manages to donate countless hours to volunteerism and is an inspiration to the community. As her nominator Carol Ramey states, “She is a continuous ray of hope who persuades others to look at challenges as opportunities, and to take difficult situations and transform them into positive possibilities for others.”

 



Alanna Fitzgerald-Husek


 
Alanna Fitzgerald-Husek

Alanna Fitzgerald-Husek
Toronto, ON

With the support of friends and family, Alanna Fitzgerald-Husek’s desire to help others has allowed her to assist many in need around the world. Before beginning medical school in September 2008, Alanna devoted two years of nearly full-time hours to volunteer work. Alanna was one of a number of students to participate in a Student Partnership Programme between the Universities of Namibia and Toronto. While in Namibia, Alanna initiated, created and implemented a pilot project to promote a viable economic alternative for vulnerable young women engaged in sex work. With the support of a local NGO, this program provided over 20 sex workers with training in sewing and small business development. The American Embassy and a Namibian HIV/AIDS organization approved grants to purchase materials for the project. Alanna and the local NGO co-authored a proposal, which UNICEF approved and funded, to address issues surrounding sex work and sex trafficking in northern Namibia. Alanna continues to encourage fundraising through the trust fund she created for this initiative, “A Way Out”, which provides more sex workers with a way out of the dangers they face. While in Namibia, Alanna learned of the high incidence of drowning during the rainy season. In 2007, she established northern Namibia’s first swimming and lifesaving program. She taught the police lifesaving and rescue techniques, and the local youth swimming and instructional skills. This program has reduced the number of deaths by drowning, created employment opportunities for youth, and is now being sustained by trained volunteers. In 2008, Alanna’s swimming program received an award from the Government of Namibia. Alanna has taken part in additional international volunteering endeavours. She was the sole foreign volunteer on a government- sponsored adolescent girls’ health project in rural India and taught English while living in a rural community in Costa Rica. Through annual auctions and fundraising initiatives, Alanna has worked with her family, friends and schools for over a decade to raise funds to drill water wells in India. To date, over 25 wells have been funded, providing hundreds of people with clean water. Through her drive and dedication, Alanna has helped to set systems in place that not only improve quality of life, but will also continue to save lives.

 



Joelle Fawcett-Arsenault


 
Joelle Fawcett-Arsenault

Joelle Fawcett-Arsenault
Edmonton, AB

Growing up in a tiny community in rural Alberta, Joelle Fawcett-Arsenault wasn’t able to find the proper support she needed to recover from a life-threatening eating disorder as a teenager, making her healing long and difficult. So thirteen years ago, Joelle and a small group of volunteers founded a society dedicated to giving women and men suffering from an eating disorder the opportunity to recover through a new and safe support community. This group, called the Society for Assisted Cooperative Recovery from Eating Disorders (SACRED), was developed after other successful 12-step programs and provided Albertans who suffered from anorexia and bulimia other options besides undergoing hospital based psychiatric treatments. The services that SACRED offered were many; from intense recovery day programs to comprehensive health, meal support, drop-in and phone support services, as well as education presentations in schools and promoting public awareness. SACRED’s participants learn dignity, self-respect, trust and communication on a day-to-day basis. Through Joelle’s efforts, SACRED moved from its rural headquarters to a location in downtown Edmonton, providing more women and men with direct and easy access to the society’s programs. Joelle sourced an older Edmonton, AB downtown building, secured a lease and facilitated hundreds of hours of volunteer labour to renovate the space and create a warm and nurturing environment. Joelle also secured funding for the development of a website so that those seeking help could find important information about eating disorders and learn about the accessible treatments available. In addition to being a founding member of SACRED, Joelle has also volunteered for Canada World Youth, Ophelia’s Voice, Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation and the University of Alberta Department of Human Ecology, to name a few. Joelle has spent hundreds of hours listening, mentoring and supporting countless women and men suffering from these life threatening illnesses. Today she is healthy and, along with her husband, is happily raising their infant daughter, Sadie.

 



Lia Grimanis


 
Lia Grimanis

Lia Grimanis
Toronto, ON

For Lia Grimanis community impact isn’t a choice. Considering her experience in an abusive environment and later as a homeless teenager, Lia has always felt a sense of urgency in helping disadvantaged women and children. Her time in a shelter only compounded her feelings of hopelessness and she was made very aware that no role models were available to say, “I was homeless too and look where I am now.” She needed a success story and there were none to be found, so Lia decided then and there that she would become that woman. Two promises made to herself then, propel her life to this day: She would be successful and come back and share her story with women who needed hope, and she would dream as big as she could. Though many obstacles presented themselves, one in particular can be earmarked as a turning point. It was 2006 and an Out Of The Cold program in her neighbourhood planned on opening a one-night-a-week shelter for 12 homeless people country one initiative leadership inspiration innovation need lead impact during the winter months. It made news across Canada as residents started litigation to stop the shelter and keep “those people” away. Afraid of “importing the homeless”, they were relentless in their pursuit. Lia went to the meetings, afraid of revealing her past, but knowing that she had to counter the stereotype of the homeless. Not only did she speak up, she also persuaded many in the neighbourhood to think twice, asking them, “Look at my face and ask yourself, who are you turning away?” During her quest to fight back, Lia founded Up With Women. She researched and found 15 successful women who had been homeless and whose stories she hoped would inspire, educate, prompt funding and encourage others to speak out. In 2007 she also co-founded Social Venture Partners Toronto, an organization that combines the power of business with the passion of philanthropy. Previously, she has also volunteered with Future Possibilities, a children’s leadership organization; Juliette’s Place; YWCA Toronto; Canadian Women’s Foundation and Shelternet. More recently she has lent her skills as a motivational speaker to United Way Greater Toronto and Raising The Roof. We are all very lucky that Lia Grimanis dreams big as countless women have benefited from the inspiration of those dreams becoming a reality.

 



Diane McQuaig


 
Diane McQuaig

Diane McQuaig,
Award for Community and Leadership
Toronto, ON

For almost two decades, Diane McQuaig has selflessly volunteered her time helping to build a community of kindness. In 1991, Diane co-founded Camp Cucumber, a charity in Toronto offering single-mother families on social assistance a unique one-week camp experience away from the pressures of city life. The camp hosts 65 campers each summer and gives those who are struggling to get by – many living in shelters – the chance to experience the beauty of Ontario. Yearly, Camp Cucumber engages volunteer counselors and staff to offer an array of fun activities from fine arts and archery, to swimming, regattas and campfires. Mothers and children are given a safe haven escape to spend time together bonding in nature. This year marks the camp’s 19th anniversary and to date Camp Cucumber has impacted the lives of approximately 1200 happy campers. For the past 18 years, Diane has also organized a traditional Christmas dinner for 250 low-income guests in Toronto. Families unable to afford a Christmas meal are brought together in the holiday spirit. Volunteers cook turkeys in their homes, and the families dance the night away to DJ tunes. In 2000, Diane joined the board of Youth Employment Services (YES) and spearheaded an artwork fundraising event called YESinDEED, raising over $750,000 to help at-risk and disadvantaged youth find jobs or training, or return to school. Over 7,000 youth participate in YES programs each year, with an over 80% success rate. In 2006, Diane and her four daughters faced their own personal tragedy when cherished husband and father Don lost his battle with colon cancer. To prevent others from suffering this same tragedy, Diane founded The Don McQuaig Foundation in his memory, and over the past three years has raised over $215,000 in support of colon cancer awareness and screening. To date, the foundation has supported Sunnybrook Hospital in their efforts to purchase a state-of-the art screening machine, and contributed to Colon Cancer Canada’s national awareness campaign. A natural leader, a tireless volunteer and an inspirational mentor to all who meet her, Diane McQuaig has helped brighten the lives and touch the hearts of thousands in her community and beyond.

 



Marilyn Finkelstein


 
Marilyn Finkelstein

Marilyn Finkelstein,
Award for Lifetime Achievement
Toronto, ON

Marilyn Finkelstein’s commitment to volunteerism was realized over 35 years ago when her young son David was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, a common form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Her second son, Gary, was diagnosed 10 years later. After many trips to the doctor, and numerous hospital visits, no one – including the family doctor – could figure out what was wrong. A chance meeting with a dermatologist was the first mention of the word Crohn’s. Desperate for information, she found herself at the University of Toronto library, where there was one book with one paragraph on Crohn’s disease. That day in 1974, the direction and focus of Marilyn’s life changed forever as she sat down at a typewriter and wrote letters to approximately 100 parents, whose names she was given by Dr. Richard Hamilton of The Sick Children’s Hospital. These parents also had children who were diagnosed with IBD. This letter led to a meeting which subsequently formed the beginning of what is now known as the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of Canada (CCFC). Marilyn Finkelstein’s focus then, and today is on finding a cure, public access, awareness and education. The mission of the CCFC is to find a cure, committing itself first and foremost to raise increasing funds for medical research. From the onset Marilyn and her late husband Albert flew across Canada to attend speaking engagements to inform the public about the disease and the work of the foundation. Marilyn’s husband Albert wrote the foundation’s first constitution and became its first National President; stepping down in1979. They began fundraising in Toronto and their efforts quickly expanded as volunteer groups began to form in Ottawa, Hamilton, Winnipeg and Calgary. CCFC’s commitment to raising funds is evident in its 21 year partnership with M&M Meat Shops and the annual Charity BBQ Day, through which they have raised $16.5 million for IBD research. In June of each year, they hold the Heel ‘n’ Wheel-a-Thon, which has raised $14.8 million in just 12 years. Today the CCFC has 80 chapters from coast to coast, and is recognized as one of the world leaders in non-governmental, per capita funding for IBD research. Fundraising proceeds in 2006-2007 totalled over $11 million and to date, the CCFC has invested nearly $56 million in major medical research projects. In 2007 they committed $5.5 million to the GEM project, a landmark cross-national research project spanning six years that will look at the Genetic, Environmental and Microbial factors contributing to the onset of Crohn’s disease. Passionate about finding a cure, Marilyn has been described as energetic, hardworking, loyal and productive. Creating such a significant legacy as the CCFC took three decades of dedication and thousands of hours, but Marilyn’s support of her two young sons never faltered. Even though IBD often affects a child’s self-concept, body image and lifestyle, in addition to causing significant physical pain, she never allowed them to use the disease as an excuse and instilled in them her motto to never give up. Today, her son David is Chief of Surgery at a major Toronto hospital and Gary is a successful lawyer. There is no known cure for IBD and Canada is believed to have one of the highest incidence rates in the world; over 201,000 Canadian men and women suffer from the disease. Without Marilyn’s initiative thousands of Canadians would not see much hope or have an outlet to talk about the disease, which is not an easy topic of discussion. The burden of IBD on patients, their families and the Canadian health care system is profound, but thanks to the strength, innovation, leadership and extraordinary inspiration of one mother, one volunteer, many patients the world over and in Canada will continue to benefit from the significant legacy of Marilyn Finkelstein.

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