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2014 Diamond Recipients
Here is are a few things you need to know about the 2014 Diamond Recipients:
Inspired yet? Click here for ticket information!
This is the category where we honour the EVERY person. They aren’t a public personality or a household name but they have effected change by rising up and taking a stand to make things better in their home, school system or community. They don’t back down from opposition, isn’t satisfied with the status quo, and don’t just talk about change, they makes it happen. They may think that no one has noticed everything they do but they have touched the lives everyone they have met.
- Amanda has been on her own since she was 16 and is the mother of 8 children and although she dropped out of school she went back to receive her diploma and is now pursuing her education to become a doctor
of family medicine
- She has overcome the trauma of sexual abuse and has left an abusive relationship
- She created the Simon family perseverance $1000 cash award for an individual who has overcome all barriers and completed school
“I am not a wealthy person, but I believe in uplifting spirits and giving recognition to individuals who work hard and overcome difficult life challenges.”
- She is a self-employed Realtor with two young sons and cares for her husband who has been diagnosed with a brain tumour
- Actively involved at her children’s school, volunteering in the community, and running her business
- In between all of this, she manages to make time for her friends and family, and coach her son’s soccer team
“Somehow through the strength of God, family and peoples prayers I realized I didn’t have time for depression and I had to just get shit done.”
- Started a business during her maternity leave however she became a single mother shortly after the birth of her second child
- Juggles entrepreneurship with philanthropic efforts in her community including contributions of time and/or money to various organizations including Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, Hope Mission and WIN House
- Won the 2012 Alberta Business Awards of Distinction Youth Entrepreneur Award and in 2011 the Home Based Business Award for the City of St. Albert.
“I am truly grateful that I have been able to be a stay at home mom to my kids while I work from home, provide for my family and give back to my community.”
- He inspires his family with his positive outlook and ability to stay focused on the mantra that everything will work out
- Immigrated from Guyana, South America, with hardly any money and only one person he knew in Canada
- Built a comfortable life for himself and his family despite his meager start
“With hard work and determination my wife and I have persevered and accomplished many wonderful things in our lives.”
- Has been deeply involved in volunteer work at many Edmonton organizations including the Neighbour Centre, YOUCAN Youth Services and the U of A Hospital, Carrot Community Arts Coffeehouse, CEYC, YRAP, the Fringe, and the Street Performers festival
- Brought a John Humphrey Centre program (Global Citizenship Hub) to her high school *note* Tempo is only 18 years old
- Her immense leadership capabilities and networking skills make her an unforgettable and beautiful human
“I am adjusting to university and am unfortunately not currently as involved in the Edmonton community as I would like to be!”
- Started the first Night Market in Edmonton
- An entrepreneur by night and business Analyst by day with the Provincial government, she is a passionate do-gooder, community builder and Rotarian. She donates her free to to benefit others by being part of many local and international projects like: YESS, Christmas Bureau, the Zebra Centre, Bissell Centre and Hope Mission
- Never used the excuse of not having experience or skill to prevent me from trying something I wanted to do.
“I had two choices to look at this as an opportunity to follow my dreams or to settle into feeling sorry for myself; I decided to pull up my ‘big girl panties’ and put one foot in front of the other.”
This is the category where we put the spotlight on the woman (or man) who has motivated and ignited a spark within others through her words, actions and by sharing her story. They have an authoritative voice which is heard and listened to by everyone. They lead by example, giving back to the community through teaching, volunteering, and/or mentoring. They lead change by inspiring others.
- As a direct result of her daughter’s attempted abduction by a three-time convicted pedophile, Carrie fought to bring Amber Alert, the Alberta and Federal Sex Offender Registry, Lisa’s Law, and the Police ICE Unit into Western Canada. She also spearheaded the Child Internet Protection Act into Canada.
- She did all of this work because she believed in it. She never received compensation of any sort and consequently ended up losing her home and her marriage.
- In total, she has amended 13 laws in Canada and says she is not done
In Grade 8, she was put in the remedial class, and eventually failed Grade 12. She was told she was lazy and wouldn’t amount to anything by some of her teachers and the Vice Principal.
“I recently have come out of the “Spiritual Closet”, and have spoken of my Near Death Experience after an abortion at age 24… Where I went up to the White Void, and came back with the understanding that I was here to do something – to make a difference.”
- She has organized two Slut Walks in Edmonton because she is tired of seeing women shamed for rape
- Danielle is active in working with the aboriginal community, assisting in rallies for the murdered and missing indigenous women of Canada
- Throughout all the struggles she has had in her life (poverty, sexual violence, and mental illness) she has turned to writing to find a way to heal and now teaches an evening class at Grant MacEwan
Danielle was raped in college. Like so many women she thought what had happened to her was her fault. It’s partly because of this that she uses her voice to stop blaming the victim.
“My whole life I’ve watched women around me struggle with abusive relationships, poverty and sexual violence. It was just a way of life for many of the women around me. It’s just accepted. As long as I’ve been alive, I’ve seen the suffering and the strength of the women around me.”
- She was stabbed by an obsessive, abusive “friend” who threatened to cut her into pieces before leaving her to die. Harriet’s work as an international model led to major media headlines and ultimately impacted her post-secondary studies and modelling career
- She is mother of three, wife, a City of Edmonton United Way Campaign Chair, a designated CMA, a game changer in my home, and founder of Empowered Youth. Her “I Believe in Me Because …” workshops and presentations empower youth to overcome whatever life puts in their way and achieve!
- She volunteers as a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters, Santa Anonymous, Alberta Easter Seals, Lurana Women shelter, and the United Way.
Every 56 days whenever she can, she donates blood to the Canadian Blood Services because she lost a lot of blood and needed a transfusion after the stabbing. It saved her life and donating blood is her way of saying thank you to somebody who saved her life.
“My message to the young people is “dream big and dream hard. It’s free and no one can steal or take it away from you.”
- Marisa uses social media to showcase her curvy fabulousness and empower other women to define their own sense of beauty and self-worth regardless of what the rest of the world may say
- She has volunteered with the eating disorder education organization to help spread awareness of what self hate can lead to.
- She no longer tries to fit in to societal fashion norms and has empowered herself to be comfortable with who she is
“I am uniquely myself, and thats what I hope other girls and women see when they look at the pictures.”
- A freak accident during a motocross race left her with a T6 complete spinal cord injury when she was only 16 just before completing Grade 10. She was an athlete who was determined to stay involved in the sports she loved despite her injury. She assisted Team Canada for the International Six Days of Endurocross (ISDE) race on social media/PR and was also asked to help assist two ambassadors of the Western Canadian Women’s motocross series with anything they needed. In her spare time she threw together a website for the series.
- She now coaches Jr. High Volleyball and has recently gotten her license back
- Thanks to the Canadian Paraplegic Association, Sierra has continued her athletic pursuits with cross country skiing, down hill skiing, hand cycling, and kayaking
Public speaking has become a passion for Sierra and is something she cherishes as much as she did when she could run
“Yeah, my life might be slightly different than everyone else’s but everyone has their struggles. Besides, being able to play the cripple card is always a bonus and life is more exciting sitting down anyways. I was never one to live a boring life.”
- Her heart was called to rescue dogs because she was tired of seeing photos of dogs dying so she started Heart Prints Dog Rescue Society
- Judy believes in sharing local dogs for adoption first then those rescued from California.
- She also runs a recycling program at the school where she works as an Educational Assistant
Judy’s program has saved 113 lives and another 30 lives for five other rescues in Alberta
“We never had much money so I picked pop bottles as a child. I still believe in reduce, reuse, and recycle.”
This is the category where we honour the graceful and goodness of someone who offers guidance and shares their experiences to enrich the lives of others. They coach others through volunteer work and/or in the workforce. They provide guidance, advice, wisdom and comfort, and is viewed as a mentor, counsellor or teacher. Their light shines bright and they are a beacon of hope illuminating a path of kindness, faith and positivity for those in need.
- Danielle mentors and guides her own children as well as kids Grade 5-12 through her workshops that empower girls to be themselves, mind wellness, fitness and nutrition
- She has always worked with students who had disabilities and who had to struggle to prove their talents and strengths. She felt her job was to advocate for her students, and obtain the tools and support they needed to show the world their greatness
- She is a role model for many adults and teens, and her honest, authentic, nurturing spirit has endeared her to clients and friends alike
Danielle volunteers her time with the Women’s Rotary Club, is a keynote speaker for many events
“My belief has always been that each of us have the power within us to make the changes we want; we are all capable humans. Sometimes we just need someone to shine a light to help show us the way.”
- Jill, along with her family, created and launched Lives in Transition, a program focused on empowering women with the tools to live free of domestic violence after losing her sister to a heinous act of domestic violence.
- She created Nancy’s Butterfly Fund through the Edmonton Community Foundation as a fund that will be managed by Nancy’s daughters and cousins. It specifically supports local charities that support women who have been affected by domestic violence
- She has chaired and fundraised for the Win FORE WIN charity tournament, continually raising the caliber of the event and increasing funds to be utilized for the women and children seeking safety at WIN House
The Lives in Transition program is a six-month holistic program that moves women towards self sufficiency. They accept 15 to 20 women every six weeks and aim to address any barriers to employment and future success before helping them achieve their goals at the end of their time in the program
“I realized I hadn’t done all that I could to help her or support my sister while she was alive. That realization drove me to come up with a way to support other women who are experiencing domestic violence.”
- Kelsie works with a of group of dancers and emerging choreographers through CRIPSiE, a collective of artists who experience disability and their artistic and political allies.
- She has researched, and co-applied for numerous grant applications and searched for education and performance opportunities for each CRIPSiE member.
- Using her dad’s car, she has offered rides to several dancers for rehearsals and performance opportunities.
Kelsie will not take part in any activity that precipitates incorrect social assumptions or devalues.
“CRIPSiE acknowledges artists experiencing disability as artists, and to that end I run professional development classes that address elements of the choreographic process and professionalization.”
- Marni is a regular guest lecture at Edmonton’s universities on the transgender journey, bereavement, and the principles of family centred care in the delivery of health care
- She provides peer support to families of critically ill babies and LGBT youth, volunteers with many organizations which support the youth of our community and is on a committee with the Child and Youth Advocate for the Province of Alberta to create a sexual health strategy for our most vulnerable youth
- Marni as recently completed her gender transition professionally and socially. She has been very transparent throughout her journey in the hopes of fostering acceptance through education and respectful dialogue. She is committed to creating a community where diversity is not only accepted, but celebrated.
In 2006, Marni’s wife prematurely gave birth to twin boys, Andrew and Alex, who weighed well under 2lbs each. After four months of endless procedures and surgeries, Andrew passed away in his mom’s arms at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, the only home he ever knew. Alex came home soon after and is a thriving seven year old who has left all of this medical concerns behind him.
“I have learned the value of being true to one’s self. To live each day fully and without regrets. To truly appreciate each special moment. To love yourself completely so that you are able to love the other special people in your life unconditionally.”
- Megan may have grown up poor and had to make her own way in life without much guidance but she hasn’t let that stop her from living the life of her dreams. She has built two hair replacement and hair extension salons in Edmonton and Calgary, and a hair replacement academy, as well as established an educational partnership with Eveline Charles Academy
- At 12, she suffered from Trichotillomania, an obsessive hair pulling disorder. This led to being obscenely bullied at school especially after she ended up with a 7″x7″ bald spot on the top of her head, being dubbed “Mullet” as a cruel nickname. She dropped out of high school and sunk into depression, eventually ending up in a Calgary Youth Detention Centre after “assaulting a boy who had continually harassed her.”
- Megan helps women who suffer from all shapes of hair trauma; from Alopecia, to Trichotillomania (hair pulling), to hair loss from Chemotherapy, female pattern balding, Polysictic Disease, hypo/hyperthyroidism, and much more.
She has defeated her disorder and is now focusing her free time on developing Canada’s first fully accredited hair extension/hair replacement academy
“I am so grateful that the women who use our services and our education can benefit from my hard work.”
- It’s the little things that make Toks stand out. She uses every means at her disposal to see to the comfort and elevation of other people
- She asks for the names of the strangers she strikes up conversations with in order to connect on a deeper level and to make them feel like she’s really listening because she cares
- She frequently indulges in random acts of kindness even if it’s only lending an ear to someone who needs to talk or offering advice to someone looking for guidance.
“I hope to never change so that I can continue to enrich the lives of everyone I meet.”
This is the heart of our awards. The RESILIENT category is where we stand up and cheer for the person who is STILL STANDING! Not only have they overcome huge obstacles in their life but they are sharing their experiences with others and helping someone who has gone through a similar situation. Life hasn’t always been easy for them; there have been times when they thought they wouldn’t make it but they found a way! They didn’t let adversity win; they kicked it right in the ass and took back their life! Their story inspires others and gives them hope that they can make it through anything.
- Alison shared her personal journey with disability. Her memoir, Searching for Normal, was published in November of 2013. It details her early life dealing with the rare disease, dermatomyositis, and her struggle to create an identity for herself that challenges society’s understanding of ‘normal’. The book received an Honorable Mention in Fireside Publications/Kadin Books’ Novel Writing Contest. A musical version of the memoir, scripted and co-directed by Alison, debuted at the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival in August 2013.
- She has also been a performing member of both iDANCE Edmonton and CRIPSiE (Collaborative Radically Integrated Performers Society in Edmonton) since 2010
- Her human rights work in advocating for the rights of persons experiencing disabilities has garnered her numerous honours, including a nomination for the 2011 John Humphrey Centre for Peace and Human Rights Award. In 2013 Alison was awarded the Glenrose Foundation Courage Award (Adult).
One of the endeavours she is most proud of is her creation of Camp Mission Access. An integrated children’s summer camp, centered around a secret agent theme, it is designed to include children from all walks of life.
- For years, Amy continued to be a victim of domestic violence, leaving and returning when apologies were offered. It took one counsellor to explain the Cycles of Abuse before she understood that nothing would change until she realized she needed to remove herself and her daughter from the situation. So she did.
- It has been five years of struggling for Amy as a single parent working in retail to support herself and her daughter but she has worked hard to receive her Accounting diploma and professional designation as a Payroll Compliance Practitioner
- After landing her dream job, she became so severely ill that she had to be hospitalized. She has not been able to work since and her mother has relocated to help her care for her daughter
Amy volunteers her time with the Warrior Princess Project and was the keynote presentation at the University Of Calgary for the annual RESOLVE Conference in front of the minister of health, various professors and government officials.
“This is not a story about me. This is a story about who i’ve become, who ive helped and continue to empower others become. I want to inspire others to believe in themselves and motivate them to clothe themselves in strength, resilience and have the audacity to overcome overwhelming obstacles because I know it is possible to accomplish.”
- At 21, during her final exams at University, she was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. This disease particularly devastating for Brittnee because she was extremely active; she has been dancing since she was
3 years old and spent a good portion of her time at the gym.
- Her life changed dramatically as the autoimmune disease took over. She needed her mom’s help to dress her and to help brush my hair. She couldn’t lift herself on and off the toilet and usually needed assistance. Showering became so difficult she gave up on it, instead would have to be lifted in and out of her grandparent’s bathtub by her mom. The pain eventually got so worse that she needed her parents to cover her at night in bed because the sheets were too heavy.
- She struggled through and was able to finish her undergraduate degree in Psychology at the U of A
She now attends barre classes five times a week. She can now do push ups, planks and mountain climbers, which she could only dream of doing years ago. She also bikes throughout the river valley with her boyfriend
“I know that my time on earth is meant to be spent uplifting other people and helping individuals and families win in every area of their life. Success is very holistic in my opinion and I know what it takes to get back up when life knocks you down.”
- At the age of 3, Jasmine was confined to a wheelchair after a horrific head on crash that left her mother with a brain injury.
- She returned to Edmonton to live with her father, completing her high school education and has gone on to study in both Arts and Cultural Management and Travel at Grant MacEwan University.
- Jasmine has recently been accepted into the Classical Languages (Honours) Bachelor of Arts at the University of Alberta
“I try to help people if I can.”
- Mona is an inspiration to her daughters and colleagues because she refuses to let a discouraging health situation determine her future. Despite battling diabetes, a Thyroid disorder, adrenal fatigue and being told she is a “heart attack waiting to happen,” Mona has completed two triathlons this year and a half marathon because, why not?!
- She is also going back to school in an attempt to change her career path
- In between being a mom, grandmother, wife and all of her other activities, Mona teaches Karate in her community
Mona’s mom passed away in her 50s which inspired her to take control of her health and decide she would not follow suit.
“A year ago I couldn’t walk to the corner store without being exhausted. I was overwhelmed with this nomination, as well as thrilled to hear that I’ve inspired my daughter! Thank you!”
- Nakita is only 18 years old she is a fighter who almost died when she was only 2 years old from Giardia. She was flown to the Vancouver Children’s Hospital where she dropped to 16 lbs and nearly passed a couple of times. She survived but the long-lasting effects is one reason why she can’t gain weight. Some think it’s a blessing, she says, but it has it’s challenges. In the end, it’s helped her with all of her work in paediatric wards because she knows how the kids feel
- Her relationship with her father was strained due to a lengthy divorce process and after a tumultuous couple of years, at 15, he released her from his custody. A year later, on that same day, she was crowned Miss Teen Canada Int’l 2012 and embarked upon on a six week tour of Canada, attending the Juno Awards
- She recently won a Canada-wide Global Country Star Search and will be going to Nashville in March 2015 as a result
She recieved the Key to the City of Niagara Falls last year by Mayor Jim Diodati
Patricia Ann Howell
- At the age of 50, Patty has left behind a life fraught with sexual abuse, self-loathing, addiction, homelessness, and prostitution. On March 20, 2010 she was approached by two men in a vehicle to buy drugs. She refused and tried to walk away. They ran her over from behind breaking her hip , pelvis, and jaw. She used her elbows to drag her broken body to safety, looking over her shoulder only to see the driver glaring at her as he drove over her legs, crushing her right heel , fracturing the shelf bone under the left kneecap and fracturing her right fibula.
- She has since completed a 56-day treatment at Poundmaker’s Lodge and a 14-day follow-up. She is now a member of AA and is on a panel meeting once a month to teach the 12-steps of recovery in one day.
- Patty went back to school to complete her Grade 12 and has now completed her first year of the Social Work Diploma at Norquest College.
She has 10 Sponsees in various stages of recovery from alcoholism and addiction. She hopes to complete the Social Work degree and work with the marginalized to empower them to make changes in their lives. Her particular focus is in working with those impacted by and leaving the world of prostitution, addiction and chronic homelessness
“What keeps me focused is my deep desire to utilize my experience and my pain to connect with, relate to , and yes, inspire those who are suffering as I used to. My work is one thing but my deepest motivation is to live out my faith for the glory of my higher power and according to His purpose.”
These are the men and women who show compassion, influence others by being a strong role model in the community, and believe in equality for all regardless of age, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. They lead by setting an example, giving back, and making those around them feel great about themselves and others. Simply: the world is a better place because they are in it.
- Alva is a connector, someone who makes a difference in the community by getting involved and bringing together the right people with the right causes. She has served on the Chrysalis Charitable Foundation Board and has worked as a Fund Development Associate with the Edmonton Public Schools Foundation.
- She has collaborated with her colleagues at the Edmonton Public Schools to create school-based information sessions throughout the school year about the importance of full day kindergarten programs; and fundraising events such as Wrap and Roll (a wrapping service at Kingsway Mall in December), Ready
to Shine (a fashion show at Kingsway Mall that features high school students and their clothing creations), Ready to Frame (an art auction that profiles the artwork of students), and a large fund-raising breakfast held at a high school at the end of May for and more than 300 members of the community
- Alva has been instrumental in creating a network of more than 250 volunteers for the Edmonton Public School Foundation. These individuals are involved in setting up and participating in events; preparing invitations and thank yous, and communicating about and donating to full day kindergarten programs. All of these volunteers are aware of the importance of these programs for vulnerable children in Edmonton and have become their own champions for young children.
The creation of full day kindergarten programs for children who are vulnerable is the fundamental focus of Alva’s work and she is an exceptional advocate, champion and doer for this on a daily, weekly, monthly and yearly basis.
- Boyd has always been a role model whether it is to his 8 younger brothers, through mentoring at the Boys and Girls Club or to his high school classmates where he was voted President of the Student Body in 2008 during his Grade 12 year. He is also trained to facilitate and mediate by the organization of YOUCAN.
- In 2010, his 3-year-old brother was killed in a motor vehicle accident. Boyd was the driver. He fell into a deep depression and his goals and aspirations of becoming a future leader as Council Member and being accepted into Grant MacEwan University for Bachelor of Education, were shattered because he fell victim
- He struggled to pull himself out of the darkness and entered rehab in March 2014. He has since been accepted to the Marvel College Hairstyling Program as well as obtain his Business Diploma.
In 2014, he won the People’s Choice Award at the Mr. Gay Canada Edmonton pageant and was featured on the front page of the Edmonton Sun with Edmonton Oilers captain Andrew Ference
“I have learned so many lessons in life and I will forever honour my culture’s 7 sacred teaching- love, respect, humility, courage, truth, honesty, and wisdom. The balance of any human lies in the mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of life. This understanding has helped me to reach heights I never thought possible. Believing in myself was the first step in my FIERCE walk to greatness.”
- Joe has been fighting brain cancer for the past 33 months and despite his own struggles he has provided support to other people in their battles.
- He has served on the Spring Sprint committee for two years and is also a long time member of the Kinsmen club of Edmonton
- His positive attitude and expressions of daily gratitude inspire those around him. He is the proud father of two beautiful daughters and the loving husband to his wife of nine years. Corinna, Joe’s wife, calls him her hero for his determination to be here each and every day and overcome the odds of this malicious cancer.
Joe is defying the odds and is living far beyond the 12 months life expectancy with a type of brain tumour he has
“The phrase, ‘No, I’m done,’ is not in my vocabulary. I refuse to give up hope.”
- Kristie is the co-founder a OpHumanAngels and leads a monthly gathering of people who want to inspire others to love each other
- She is the mother of two beautiful boys and an activist who is always willing to put up a fight of knowledge in all areas including the environment, politics and human rights
- Her fundamental belief is that all people deserve to have their needs met
People around the world join together in a global day of solidarity and participate in OpHumanAngels on the first Saturday of every month.
“I am truly blessed and thankful for all I have been given and all I am able to offer others.”
Marija Pavkovic Tovissi
- In 2001, Marija founded MaKami College because she had a passion to make an immigrant friendly post secondary institution. In 2010 she opened a Calgary Campus for MaKami College and moved moved both herself and her charity, Queen Esther Education Foundation, head office to Calgary.
- Both her college and charity seek to improve the lives of those in our community through the transforming power of education
- She volunteers with organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, The Mustard Seed, Good Samaritan Society, Compassion Canada and personally sponsors Junior Achievement
At 34, she is also a mom of a beautiful 3 year old girl, a wife, daughter, sister and best friend
“Action creates success. No secret formula, just action one step after the other in a row until years later you have walked towards your goals.”
- Wendy has been the Executive Director for the Christmas Bureau for the past 18 years
- She most recently accepted the position of Chairperson of the Jerry Forbes Centre. The Jerry Forbes Centre for Community Spirit is working on a capital campaign to build a brand new home for both the Christmas Bureau & Santas Anonymous
- She always sees the good in people, believes that everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity and demonstrates these qualities time and time again.
Wendy was one of the original board members of Santas Anonymous and has remained on the board since 2006.
“Our sector needs mentors. I have been very lucky to have been a mentor and watch people grow and move to their next accomplishment.”