May 13, 2011

Hamilton YWCA 2011 Women of Distinction Awards

Women of Distinction Front Row: left to right , Anna Sponer, Kayla Peters, Medora Uppal, Lorraine Chapman, Dr. Cheryl Ann Levitt, Lisa Hepfner.
Back Row: left to right, Casey Johnson, Leah Schwenger, Diane Chiarelli, Lynn Aquin, Barb LaFleshe, Linda Plourde, Cathy Reid, Jessie Hope

Close to 500 people gathered at the Hamilton Convention Centre to celebrate the achievements of this year’s YWCA Women of Distinction.
The crowd toasted past and present recipients for their outstanding contributions to the arts, business, politics, volunteerism, and health and wellness in Hamilton.

Honorary chair and three-time Olympic ice hockey gold medallist Becky Kellar called the achievements of this year’s winners “awe-inspiring.”
“It is such an honour to be here tonight and celebrate the successes of all these great women,” she said.


Arts, Entertainment and Creative Energy: Anna Sponer ~ is one of Canada's most respected artists. She has donated a tremendous amount of original artwork to non-profit organizations to allow them to achieve their fundraising goals. She is the Founder/Member of the Artist Art World, and international "Artist" Art Gallery. Anna is a committed advocate to the arts donating her time and energy to teaching elementary students the joy of art. A passionate champion of story telling through imagery, many of Anna's art pieces feature social issures, encouraging the viewer to engage in deep thought. Art is her life and passion.

Business, Industry and Entrepreneurship: Casey Johnson is CEO and owner of the Dundas-based firm, StoneCastle Communications. She is a corporate communications specialist, strategic writer and public speaker who works to promote international investment in Hamilton. She is a Business Ambassador for the City of Hamilton and sits on AIESEC McMaster's Board of Advisors.

Circle of Friends: In their work with We Raise Our Children’s Kids, or We ROCK, founder Diane Chiarelli, and co-founder Barbara LaFleshe offer support and social opportunities to grandparents raising their grandchildren. It is an inclusive, supportive, self help group of grandparents bringing support to grandchildren. It supplies information on community activities, social opportunities, emotional and court custody support. Cathy Reid and Jesse Hope are both members and volunteers in the Funtasia and the Outreach programs.
We Rock is involved ~ a member of Hamilton Community Foundation / Hamilton Roundtable on Poverty. Members are encouraged to be involved in the community and promote wellness in mind, body and spirit through inclusion. Their motto is "We are strong together"

Community Development and Social Activism: Medora Uppal is the director of Good Shepherd Women’s Services. She sits on several local committees that provide outreach programs for victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse, mental health issues, addictions, homelessness and poverty. With tireless dedication, Medora is an agent of social change whose passion has had a profound impact on the lives of many individuals in the Hamilton community.

Health and Wellness: As a rural family physician, academic and teacher, Dr. Cheryl Levitt has worked tirelessly to promote gender equity and women’s health in family medicine. She has advocated for full empowerment of women family physicians, through institutional transformation as a means to improve the health of women, and through quality and health-improvement strategies for the general population.

Lifetime Achievement: For nearly 40 years, Lorraine Chapman has helped women overcome substance use issues and helped those living with serious mental illnesses in her role as a social worker. Both as a professional and a volunteer, Lorraine has had a significant and lasting impact on the lives of countless individuals and on the systems that form the basis for a social safety net in this community.

Politics and Public Affairs: Lisa Hepfner is a CHCH reporter and advocate for the wellness and enrichment of girls and women. Since joining the station in 2001, she has become an integral and value member of the team. Liza advocates for, supports and promotes the wellness and enrichment of all girls and women.

Mentoring and Education: As principal of Dr. J. Edgar Davey public school, Leah Schwenger has implemented community partnerships and innovative programs that help provide a safe and positive learning environment for the school’s diverse, inner-city student population. Her generosity, mentoring, leadership, integrity and compassion make a daily difference and inspire women, families and students as they strive to achieve their individual goals.

Volunteerism: Diane Chiarelli has devoted more than 30 years to volunteering as a community advocate, public speaker, writer, trainer, community program developer and seniors’ and children’s rights activist. Her volunteer work has impacted many local and provincial programs. She advocates for greater inclusion of women and young girls in all areas of our community. Her professionalism, positive attitude and outstanding commitment have improved the lives of those who work and live in our comunity. An extraordinary woman, Diane stands out as a true inspiration to all of us.

Young Woman of Distinction: Susan Tian is a student at Sir John A. Macdonald Secondary who is active in athletics, student government, peer mentoring and the graduation committee. She was also elected to the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board as a student trustee.
Susan won the Max Rotman Humanitarian Award last year for her volunteer contributions to the community. This dynamic, mature, innovative, caring and intelligent young woman has been, and will continue to be a vital part of the community and the country.

Part Article/Photo ~ The Hamilton Spectator May 4, 2011 _Women of Distinction take centre stage