National Volunteer Awards 2021 - Easter Seals Canada

NATIONAL VOLUNTEER AWARDS 2021

The annual Easter Seals National Volunteer Awards – announced during National Volunteer Week each year – honours and celebrates the contributions of Canadians from coast to coast who have demonstrated outstanding commitment to Easter Seals’ mission and vision through their volunteerism, time, passion and dedication to Easter Seals.

Easter Seals congratulates the winners of the National Volunteer Awards (2021), and thanks each individual volunteer for their contributions to Easter Seals and in helping make Canada a more inclusive society for people of all abilities.

Easter Seals also thanks all of our other volunteers for their dedication, commitment, time and contributions to Easter Seals and their support in advancing Easter Seals mission and vision to enhance the quality of life, well-being and independence of Canadians who are living with disabilities/with diverse abilities.

“Volunteers are a critical part of Easter Seals. Their passion and contributions, in various capacities, to the mission and success of the organization helps ensure that we are able to provide programs and services that make a positive, transformative impact in the lives of many individuals and families across Canada who are living with disabilities… especially during the COVID19 pandemic. We are incredibly grateful and thankful to our many volunteers across the country for their incredible generosity and contributions to Easter Seals, and their their unwavering dedication to helping make Canada a truly accessible and inclusive society for all.”

Dave Starrett, President & CEO of Easter Seals Canada

2021 National Volunteer Award Recipients

Closeup headshot of a bespectacled older gentlemean, wearing a dark suit and tie
Bob Ayotte

(British Columbia)

Paul Hamm

(Manitoba)

Chris Rose

(Newfoundland & Labrador)

Closeup headshot of a smiling woman, with long sandy blonde hair, wearing a dark top
Gina McFetridge

(Nova Scotia)

Closeup headshot of a bespectacled man, smiling, wearing an open collared white shirt, and dark blue jacket
Stuart Harrison

(Ontario)

Closeup headshot of a woman with short brown hair, smiling, wearing hoop earrings, a bright blue blazer and white shirt
Edna Reid

(Prince Edward Island)

Ian Provost

(Quebec)

Closeup headshot of a bespectacled older man, with white hair, smiling, and wearing a brown sweater and blue tie
Bruno Konecsni

(Saskatchewan)

Citations for Award Recipients

Read the citation for each of the award winners by clicking on the links below.

2021 Easter Seals National Volunteer Award Recipient

(British Columbia): Bob Ayotte

We are delighted to present a 2021 National Volunteer Award to Bob Ayotte.

As both a volunteer of Easter Seals BC & Yukon (the Society) and as a Lions Club member, Bob Ayotte is one of the most dedicated individuals when it comes to his passion for supporting his community. A true believer of Easter Seals’ cause and goals to improve the lives of persons with disabilities, it is our privilege and good fortune to work with him.

Bob first became aware of the Easter Seal program growing up in Coquitlam, BC, in the 1950’s and 60’s. He became re-acquainted with Easter Seals when he joined the Kelowna Okanagan Mission Lions Club in 1995 and became involved almost immediately with Camp Winfield and the BC Lions Society for Children with Disabilities.

Bob’s dedication started with his love for the children who come from all over the southern interior of British Columbia to attend Camp Winfield every year. One can always see Bob attending Summer Camp Open Houses, and witness his leadership and care when interacting with the children and their families.

Bob has been a long-term volunteer and an active member of the Executive Committee for the Camp Winfield Improvement Committee. As the Improvement Fund Treasurer on the committee, he ensures all camp amenities, such as the water slide and giant team swing, continue to be upgraded and maintained safely. He is also hands-on at all the work parties, volunteering his own time and skills to keep the camp grounds and facilities maintained, clean and safe throughout the year, and ready for when it is time for summer camp to start.

Bob’s leadership and care has carried over to his six years as a Board member, from 2014 through 2020, where he never hesitated to contribute and guide Easter Seals with his vast knowledge of our constitution and bylaws, playing a key role in matters related to the Society’s governance. Bob has also had the role of District Governor of the Lions Clubs International District 19D where he encouraged Lions Clubs in his District, and all other Districts, to assist with the funding of the Society, with the outcome that Lions District 19D was usually top donor to the Society. Bob also promoted a greater awareness and history of our Camp Programs and Easter Seals House to Lions Clubs.

Bob’s compassion for the children and families we serve has deep roots through his involvement as both a Lion and a camp volunteer. His leadership and personality encourage other Lions and volunteers to be involved, so much so, that there is now a huge team behind Bob that is dedicated to ensure that children with diverse abilities truly can call Camp Winfield “The Best Place On Earth.”

Bob is a real pleasure to work with and we know he is very deserving of the National Volunteer Award.

It is an honour to be considered for this award.

I first became aware of the Easter Seals program growing up in Coquitlam, BC, in the 50’s and 60’s. I then became re-acquainted with the program when I joined the Kelowna Okanagan Mission Lions Club in 1995 and became involved almost immediately with Camp Winfiled and the BC Lions Society for Children with Disabilities.

As I believe in the Society’s mission and the value it provides to the community, I’ve spent quite a bit of time at Camp Winfield supporting the Improvement Committee, either with the semi-annual work parties, or recently, in the last few years as the Improvement Fund Treasurer. During the past six years, I have also dedicated quite some time with being a Director on the Board of the Society, helping guide the society through transition times and engaging with the Community and funding partners, and most recently, establishing and growing the membership of the Society.

I hope my nomination will be an inspiration to Lions in British Columbia to go forth and do more for BC Lions Society for Children with Disabilities and Easter Seals.”Bob Ayotte

Help us celebrate Bob by sharing this incredible story!

2021 Easter Seals National Volunteer Award Recipient

(Manitoba): Paul Hamm

We are delighted to present a 2021 National Volunteer Award to Paul Hamm.

Paul Hamm volunteered as Easter Seals Manitoba/Manitoba Possible’s Youth Ambassador for 2020/21 which was a very important year for our organization as we turned 70 and launched a new name and rebrand.

As the Youth Ambassador, Paul was a spokesperson for our organization. He took part in public service announcements where he demonstrated what our new vision, an inclusive and accessible society, means.

Paul was also a host of an online campaign, Paint the Town Possible, where local organizations and businesses were recognized for their leadership in accessibility. Paint the Town Possible is an awareness campaign of how Manitoba can become more inclusive and accessible. Paul had an impact on this campaign which will benefit not just persons with disabilities but everyone as we know that removing barriers benefits everyone. He did an excellent job as an interviewer demonstrating his dynamic personality and passion for accessibility. I have no doubt he helped us reach a bigger audience via social media!

The biggest impact Paul has made is being a role model for other children and youth with disabilities in Manitoba and their families. He sets a great example of being active in the community and trying new things, advocating for equality and accessibility, and speaking up when getting the opportunity. It is no surprise that Paul’s friends have demonstrated an interest in being Youth Ambassadors and carrying on what he started.

Easter Seals Manitoba/Manitoba Possible looks forward to continuing our relationship with Paul as he gains new skills and experiences and looks to share those with us in our efforts in to eliminate barriers to full and equal participation.

Volunteering as ambassador has been an excellent experience. I like being a part of something that brings so many people together. I like showing people that even though someone like me may have a disability that we can still make a big positive difference in society.

Being a volunteer has given me many opportunities to meet new people and make a difference in my community. I have learned a lot as well. I have become more confident in my public speaking skills. I have had a chance to make commercials, attend major event, share my opinions and interview others who are making a difference in our world. I enjoyed entertaining people, making them laugh and educating people on the need for awareness so that everyone has a chance to feel valued and included.

I think my disability has given me more abilities because I see the world from a perspective that others might not get to see and I want to let everyone know that just because people are different it shouldn’t hold anyone back.Paul Hamm

Help us celebrate Paul by sharing this incredible story!

2021 Easter Seals National Volunteer Award Recipient

(Newfoundland & Labrador): Chris Rose

We are delighted to present a 2021 National Volunteer Award to Chris Rose.

Chris is a dedicated volunteer with over eighteen years of service to Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador. Staff would frequently reach out to Chris for support with a wide range of technology-based questions and we are grateful that he never fails to make himself available in a timely manner to offer his expertise.

2020 presented many challenges for Easter Seals Newfoundland & Labrador due to the COVID-19 pandemic and having to move quickly to shift the delivery of our programs and services online. Thankfully Chris was there for us, all while he himself was adapting to working from home and caring for his young son. He was always available for live chats, communication over email, text and phone with several Easter Seals staff and participants to help resolve technical problems. In addition, Chris supported participants in our Career Services program, ensuring that they had a reliable laptop in order to be able to take part in online skills training sessions. He also helped to reconfigure an older laptop that we were subsequently able to donate to a person with a disability who lives independently and was in direct need of one. When we safely reopened the building, Chris rewired our boardroom to ensure we had a stronger, more stable internet connection to deliver presentations on disability awareness. He has been instrumental to our success and has had a substantial impact on the lives of persons who live with disabilities in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Chris is also recognized as a leader in both the technology field and in the community. He volunteers his services with many other organizations in the community, in addition to Easter Seals. Despite his busy schedule, he always has a warm smile and pleasant attitude towards everyone. Chris is a role model for others and very deserving of this award. .

I volunteer for Easter Seals Newfoundland and Labrador because of the direct difference the organization makes in the lives of persons with disabilities. The work I provide helps ESNL staff to connect them with the participants of the different programs they offer.

Having sufficient and properly working tech has become especially apparent during the lockdown when the staff had to work from home and some programs moved online. I enjoy lending my expertise in this area, and further helping wherever I can and whenever I am needed.

I take pride in knowing the work I do is a smaller part of the larger effort to bring many important programs and services to the disability community of Newfoundland and Labrador, that they otherwise would not have access to. – Chris Rose

Help us celebrate Chris by sharing this incredible story!

2021 Easter Seals National Volunteer Award Recipient

(Nova Scotia): Gina McFetridge

We are delighted to present a 2021 National Volunteer Award to Gina McFetridge.

Gina is one the greatest champions for Easter Seals Nova Scotia.  She joined our board in 2015 and has served on many committees and is currently in her second year as Chair of our Board of Directors.  Gina not only attends all of our Easter Seals events but she also actively participates in them, whether it’s rapelling in our Drop Zone event, or entering a team in our Kartbahn race. Her skills in business, networking and strategy are so valuable to the senior management of Easter Seals Nova Scotia, and likewise, her stewardship within the community has been extraordinarily beneficial to us.

Gina’s warmth and understanding of the issues facing persons living with disabilities is front and centre when visiting the clients of Easter Seals NS, many of whom have come to know her warmly over the years.  Her steady leadership and unwavering support were fundamental to the success of the organization in its’ expansion over the past few years.

“I got involved with Easter Seals Nova Scotia for a few reasons. I was approached to join the board initially, I believe, because of the local connection to Camp Tidnish, which is located just outside of my home town of Amherst. When I came in for at tour of the facility to learn more about what Easter Seals NS did, there was no doubt that I wanted to join the board.

I strongly believe that all Nova Scotians should have the ability to work and take part in social activities such as team sport to the best of their abilities. I appreciate the skills, strength and dignity that Easter Seals provides Nova Scotians with disabilities, advocating for all Nova Scotians to reach their full potential and have a chance to contribute fully and enrich our society. I believe removing barriers makes our communities stronger and creates a better place for all of us to live.” – Gina McFetridge

Help us celebrate Gina by sharing this incredible story!

A composite image, featuring an image of a bespectacled man in a circular rondel, with pink background, and a brief description of the award winner

2021 Easter Seals National Volunteer Award Recipient

(Ontario): Stuart ‘Stu’ Harrison

We are delighted to present a 2021 National Volunteer Award to Stuart Harrison.

Stuart Harrison, or Stu as he is more popularly known, is a familiar face in the community, a respected name, and a kind man. He is the centre stage host of the Peterborough Telethon, is adored by the crew on set, and donors who make the phones ring every year to call in with their donation. We would often hear in the studio, shout-outs from his fans, “Please tell Stu that Mabel says hello!” and the like.

Stu is also very much loved and adored by the Easter Seals Kids. Their faces just light up with huge smiles when they see that Stu is there! The kids and families also enjoy catching up with Stu, as he has been supporting the Easter Seals Telethon for over 40 years, and has watched many of the kids grow into amazing young adults. You can clearly see the connections and relationships that have been forged over the years, and the mutual admiration on set each year.

A man holding a microphone next to a young child. Both are smiling and looking away from the camera.

Because of his personable and kind ways, Stu is well respected by all the members of our committee. Stu never fails to offers his wisdom, experience and good humour. He challenges us to do better, to raise the bar, to be different, to pause… to be smart.

A humble man, Stu is genuinely unaware of just how much he is valued by the people around him, and it’s one of the things that makes him so invaluable. The dictionary defines the word ‘invaluable’ as meaning “valuable beyond estimation.” The word describes something so precious that one cannot assign a price to it. Truly, that would be an apt description of Stu Harrison.  He is invaluable, yes, he is the CEO of the Peterborough Chamber of Commerce, but to us at the Peterborough Telethon committee, he is our secret weapon.

“My involvement with Easter Seals began in 1978. I was working at CHEX Radio, and the radio announcers participated in the annual Easter Seals Telethon, mostly reading pledges. I’ve remained involved with the Telethon, eventually joining the Hosting Team, and have considered it an annual honour for 43 years.

While I really enjoy the committee work leading up to the annual Telethon, the most important element for me is a sincere commitment to telling the story properly. I learned early on that it takes a lot for a young child and their family to put themselves forward as “Ambassadors”. Public appearances, telethons, making speeches, all involve the reality that you are asking for help, and that’s not easy. I see my role as getting to know the families, and telling their story in a way that they are comfortable with. The icing on the cake is watching the kids grow up and find their way in life, which is really all we ever promise. I believe that the Peterborough Telethon “Team”, in all of its iterations over the years, and all of the people who have been involved, share these sentiments with me, and this award honours all of them. It’s about the kids, it’s about the stories.” – Stu Harrison

Help us celebrate Stu by sharing this incredible story!

2021 Easter Seals National Volunteer Award Recipient

(Prince Edward Island): Edna Reid

We are delighted to present a 2021 National Volunteer Award to Edna Reid.

Edna is invaluable to Easter Seals’ cause and mission in Prince Edward Island, and almost single-handedly carried the Easter Seals campaign in the province for the last three years. She has worked tirelessly to raise the profile of Easter Seals in PEI, and in so doing was largely responsible for successive 6-figure fundraising campaigns to support the needs of people and families in the province who are living with disabilities. All the more remarkable, she accomplished this feat as a volunteer without the benefit of any paid staff. We cannot conceive of a person in PEI who is more worthy or deserving of this nomination than Edna.

“Easter Seals PEI has for 65 years supported many organizations whose mission is to enhance the lives of people with disabilities. I was a Board member for 20 years, chair of the board for 8 years and chaired fundraising for 20 years for Camp Gencheff. I saw first-hand what the work of Easter Seals meant to Camp Gencheff and to the thousands of campers who come through the doors over the years.

There were many years that the funds raised by Easter Seals meant that our summer camps would be the highlight of the summer for many campers. I have been a Rotarian for over 20 years and through our work we have ensured Easter Seals PEI continues to be a major fundraising campaign that assists the many Islanders living with disabilities.” – Edna Reid

Help us celebrate Edna by sharing this incredible story!

2021 Easter Seals National Volunteer Award Recipient

(Quebec): Ian Provost

We are delighted to present a 2021 National Volunteer Award to Ian Provost.

As a father of four, Mr. Ian Provost is very sensitive to causes related to children. He has been involved with Easter Seals Québec/Papillon Foundation for several years. He was the official presenter and a member of the organizing committee of the Drop Zone in Montreal, organized by Easter Seals in partnership with the Papillon Foundation. To set an example, Mr. Provost had the courage to rappel down 22 floors on several occasions for the benefit of disabled children. Giving back to society is a priority to him.

2020 was a difficult year for all non-profit organizations that unfortunately could not hold their various fundraising activities due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. To remedy this situation, Ian and his associates organized a newly revitalized event, the VP Challenge. Thanks to this virtual and innovative fundraising activity, Mr. Provost and his team donated close to $50,000 to the Papillon Foundation, the amount raised during the first two editions of the VP Challenge combined.

During the lockdown, children with disabilities suffered the devastating effects of isolation. Deprived of therapies and stimulation, many lost some of the skills they worked so hard to develop and/or were unable to progress at the same pace. The isolation in which they found themselves aggravated the difficulties they were already facing. The funds raised by Mr. Provost and his team through the VP Challenge enabled Papillon Foundation to finance occupational therapy and stimulation sessions for several of those children who were in great need.

It is with great pride and gratitude that the Papillon Foundation nominate Mr. Ian Provost as its Volunteer of the Year for 2020. His commitment and his willingness to reach out to people with disabilities have made a major difference during this difficult year.

“I have been involved with the Papillon Foundation for several years because I have met extraordinary and passionate people within the Foundation who are devoted to the cause of disabled children.

For my part, I am blessed by life to have 4 healthy children. And since not everyone is so lucky, my team and I try to do things that can make a difference for children with disabilities and their families. Whether it’s through fundraising or participating in the great Camp Papillon chore, I believe that every little thing that can improve the quality of life of these children is important.” – Ian Provost

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2021 Easter Seals National Volunteer Award Recipient

(Saskatchewan): Bruno Konecsni

We are delighted to present a 2021 National Volunteer Award to Bruno Konecsni.

Bruno Konecsni joined the Board of Easter Seals Saskatchewan-SaskAbilities 17 years ago.  For almost two decades, Bruno has been a strong supporter of the work we do.  He has taken on many roles, including serving as President. Bruno truly embodies the values of our organization demonstrating respect, honesty and compassion in all his dealings with staff members and clients. His significant contributions to enriching the lives of children and adults with disabilities include a strong voice for good governance and accountability, a focus on teamwork, and supporting clients to achieve their goals.

Even before Bruno joined the Board of Easter Seals Saskatchewan-SaskAbilities, he was a long-time supporter of Easter Seals programs via his connections the Draggins Rod & Custom Car Club.  Through their annual car show, the Draggins Rod & Custom Car Club promotes and supports Camp Easter Seal. As a member of the Club, Bruno assisted in raising over $2,000,000 in funding for Camp Easter Seal. He has worked tirelessly over the years to plan and promote the annual show.  Donations from the Club have been used to build modern accessible cabins, support and maintain an accessible swimming pool, and build other recreation and storage facilities.

Board and staff members at Easter Seals Saskatchewan-SaskAbilities are proud to support Bruno’s nomination for the Easter Seals National Volunteer Award. Bruno has earned the respect of all of us and we often look to him for advice and a listening ear. His calm demeanor is reassuring in challenging times – many times we say “let’s ask Bruno”.

Thank you, Bruno for all you do to support children and adults experiencing disability. We are grateful for your contributions to Camp Easter Seal and SaskAbilities.

My awareness of Camp Easter Seal and SaskAbilities began as a member of the Draggins Rod and Custom Car Club. Every Easter weekend, the Club produces a car show with the proceeds going to Camp Easter Seal. As my involvement in this fundraising activity grew, so did my knowledge of the work of SaskAbilities. Soon, I saw that the vision and mission of SaskAbilities, along with the dedication and commitment of the employees and the directors to assist others, was a wonderful fit for how I wanted to give back to our community.

I decided to become involved in a more impactful way by volunteering my time and by sharing my life experience as a member of the Board of Directors. Over the years, I have seen the work of SaskAbilities inspire positive changes in the lives of people experiencing a disability. I identify these life changing events as miracles because of the utterly profound way in which clients were empowered to achieve their goals and contribute in a very meaningful way to the broader community.

The outcomes from my time on the Board are not singular in direction. As I met more clients and employees, I learned more about their needs and together, we developed effective strategies to meet them. At the same time, we also worked toward our mutual goal of achieving self-fulfillment. This is very rewarding for me and I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this amazing organization. Bruno Konecsni

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Help us honour and celebrate the contributions of these outstanding volunteers and their commitment to supporting Easter Seals, and individuals and families living with disabilities by making a donation to your local Easter Seals

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