Leaders of all ages inspire community
Okotoks: Awards ceremony recognizes volunteerism, charity in residents
Wednesday, Apr 19, 2017 06:00 am
There was no shortage of inspiration as Okotokians were recognized for their commitment to volunteerism and leadership last week.
The annual Leadership Awards Presentation ceremony was held April 12 at D’Arcy Ranch Golf Club, where Dr. Morris Gibson Grade 4 student Ainsley Smith received the Leaders of Tomorrow elementary award, the junior high award was given to Rylan Slapman from St. John Paul II Collegiate, and Holy Trinity Academy student Andreas Dauter was named the high school Leader of Tomorrow. Tudor Manor volunteer Eileen Swan was recognized as the Heart of Okotoks, and Wood Automotive Group owner Gerry Wood received the Rotary Integrity Award.
Leaders of Tomorrow
“The Leaders of Tomorrow are awarded to outstanding youth volunteers,” said Rotarian John Lockhart. “A student that exhibits leadership, dedication and excellence in any field of volunteer work including school, community, athletics and fine art and inspires the spirit of volunteerism in others.”
Jodi O’Brien, teacher at Dr. Morris Gibson School, said Smith, her student nominee exhibited the characteristics expected of a Leader of Tomorrow. From helping out others in the classroom to showing strong work ethic with her schoolwork, she is an example of a budding young leader, said O’Brien.
“Ainsley Smith is a tenacious young lady who embodies leadership in many ways,” she said. “She’s an outstanding young person, she never needs to be asked to help and certainly doesn’t ask for any recognition for her tireless efforts.”
Smith has gone so far as to offer her mittens to another child on the playground, whose own gloves were soaked through, she said.
Smith received her award with modesty, and though she said it felt good to be recognized, she was a little shocked to hear she was getting an award.
“It was kind of surprising, because it’s just something I do in everyday life,” said Smith. “I just like helping people, and seeing them smile.”
Humility was a common theme among the award-winners. Junior high recipient Rylan Slapman, who was nominated by teacher and skipping coach Renee Adams, said he was grateful to be recognized for living his best life.
“I’m honoured to know people notice I’m a leader when I’m just doing ordinary things, which are things I’ve just learned as I’ve grown up my whole life,” said Slapman. “I’ve just always loved helping people and trying to make people happy and encourage others.”
For high school recipient Andreas Dauter, leading and volunteering are part of the legacy he intends to leave behind. Diagnosed with a fatal heart condition, Dauter said he’s determined to make something of all the time he has.
The honour roll student has volunteered for the Sheldon Kennedy Advocacy Centre, the Healthy Active School Symposium, and taken on a number of roles at HTA, including student body president. He is an advocate for student mental wellness and the effects of stress on students.
“I think no man can control when they die, but every man can control the legacy they leave,” said Dauter.
Heart of Okotoks
The Heart of Okotoks Award is given to a resident over the age of 18 who shows exceptional leadership through volunteerism. The award was presented to Eileen Swan, an Okotokian who has volunteered with Tudor Manor for the past four years.
Nominator Sherry Little said Swan is an invaluable part of the manor.
“She was one of the first volunteers and ever since has been a valuable addition to our team in creating a warm and caring environment for our residents to call home,” said Little.
Swan is affectionately known as “The Bingo Lady,” she said, but her devotion doesn’t end there. She helps out with special events like birthday parties and holidays, as well as accompanying seniors into the community for excursions, said Little.
“Residents see Eileen as their friend, who just happens to visit lots and make their days a little special,” she said. “Eileen is one of the most generous people we know, not only with her time, but most of all her heart.”
Swan said she enjoys every moment at Tudor Manor, and finds herself drawn to the people there. Volunteering fills her heart and her life, she said, but she never expected to be rewarded for her actions.
“I just feel totally humbled, and I feel very honoured,” said Swan. “I never thought in my life I would be thanked like this for something I like to do – and I do. I get so much out of it.”
Rotary Integrity Award
The Rotary Integrity Award is not an annual award, but one given out for a nominee’s community service, leadership and volunteerism.
“This award is given to a non-Rotarian, who in their every-day life demonstrates their ability to withstand the four-way test of truthfulness, fairness to all, goodwill and friendship, and beneficial to all,” said Rotarian Ted Shacklady.
Nominated by John Fraser, the recipient of the award in 2017 was Gerry Wood, who founded Wood Automotive group after growing up in Scotland and beginning his career at his father’s Ford dealership.
Wood has lived a charitable life, being involved in organizations such as the Calgary Stampede Hospitality Committee, the Canadian Down Syndrome Society, United Way, the Tom Baker Cancer Society, Big Brothers Big sisters, the Foothills Highland Games and Foothills Country Hospice. He’s also given countless monetary donations to charities over the years.
“Gerry recognizes a need within the community and willingly contributes to numerous organizations, provides leadership and is a willing volunteer,” said Shacklady. “[He’s] made many contributions to the Okotoks community in a quiet, unassuming way without fanfare and never expecting recognition.”
Wood said it was amazing to be honoured in front of his peers for doing good in the community.
“It was humbling and it was back to roots for me,” he said. “I grew up in a humble family and we were all taught how to work hard.”
Having lived in the Okotoks area for 30 years and being involved in the community through his business and his children’s schooling and sports teams, he said he feels lucky to have chosen to settle in the area back in 1969.
“Now it’s so important for us to give back in our way to the community that has given so much to us,” said Wood.”