It was a night filled with laughter, some tears and most of all appreciation. It was the 14 annual Women of Distinction Awards Gala.
Put on by the YWCA of Muskoka at Grandview’s Mark O’Meara Clubhouse, 16 women from throughout Muskoka were nominated for awards recognizing their excellence, achievements and contributions. The 16 women were nominated across six categories: Mentorship, Health, Sports and Wellness, Arts, Culture and Creativity, Community Development and Social Activism, Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the Lifetime Achievement award.
Hundreds of people flooded into the clubhouse for the celebration which featured a silent auction, dinner and an address from keynote speaker and Woman of Distinction herself, Brenda Andress. Andress is the Commissioner of the Canadian Women’s National Hockey League (CWHL) and has been instrumental in helping to develop the first professional women’s hockey league that provides pathways for careers in professional hockey for women.
Andress, who was introduced by her daughter and received a Women of Distinction award from the Toronto YWCA last year, spoke passionately and humorously about the importance of recognizing self-worth and learning to love yourself as a woman and as a person.
The first award of the night was for the category of Arts, Culture and Creativity and went to nominee Amy Bridle for her work as an educator, actor and producer with HUB Productions as well as her work as artistic director of the Rene Caisse Memorial Theatre in Bracebridge.
The second award of the night, for Young Women in Business, went to Jenny Spring for her work in creating her own business, The Spring Farmer, and her time teaching a three week gardening course geared towards Inuit residents at Beaver Creek Institution.
The Mentorship award went to Sheryl Manolakos for her focus on inclusion, improving the lives of women, children and families as well as her work with the YWCA, the Trillium Lakelands District School Board and developing the Muskoka Family Focus and Children’s Place.
Laura Heming took home the award for Health, Sports Nutrition and Wellness for her 20 years working as a counselor, teacher, facilitator and teacher at her health centre, The Freedom Place.
Katy McGregor received the Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship award for her dedication and work developing her business to become a leader in her industry and her mentorship work at Muskoka Futures and her involvement with groups like the Women’s Own Resource Center, Rotary and Builder Associations.
Winner of the Community Development and Social Activism award was Lynn de Caro, a long time volunteer with Hunters Bay Radio and a educator at Nipissing University’s Muskoka Campus. De Caro was honoured for her work with the Muskoka Parry Sound Sexual Assault Services (where she sits as a board member), Nipissing University’s social justice club and her work to support youth activism within the community.
The final award of the night, the Lifetime Achievement award, went to Audrey Forth for her lifelong work as a volunteer that included 55 years with Girl Guides of Canada, 11 years with the Special Olympics, nine years at the Bracebridge Sportsplex, six years at the Muskoka Falls Public School and five years at the Rene Caisse Memorial Theatre.
Photos from last nights gala event are available below along with a full list of nominees.
Sheryl Manolakos – Winner
Business Innovation & Entrepreneurship
Katy McGregor – Winner
Young Women in Business
Jenny Spring – Winner
Arts, Culture and Creativity
Amy Bridle – Winner
Community Development & Social Activism
Lynn de Caro – Winner
Health, Sports & Wellness
Laura Heming – Winner
Audrey Forth – Winner.