A world-renowned artist, a traditional aboriginal singer and dancer, and the president of CentrePort Canada were among the women honoured with YMCA-YWCA Women of Distinction Awards on Wednesday.
Helen Granger Young, who has created artworks by modelling, murals, miniature portraits and painting china cups, was honoured in the arts category. Her works are in collections around the world, including Buckingham Palace, the White House and the Vatican.
Rhonda James, who with her husband has supported powwow clubs for years, including the Wii Chiiwaakanak Centre Powwow Club at the University of Winnipeg, was honoured in the culture category.
Diane Gray, who was the youngest Manitoba deputy minister ever appointed and the first woman to be the deputy minister of federal-provincial and international relations, trade and finance, before becoming the founding president of CentrePort Canada, was honoured in the leadership and management category.
The awards were created by the Winnipeg YWCA in 1977 to honour the contributions and achievements of women.
The winners were chosen out of 86 nominees and the awards were handed out in front of more than 900 guests at the Winnipeg Convention Centre.
Other winners at the 37th annual award ceremony were:
-- Circle of Inspiration: NSI New Voices, made up of Melissa Kajpust, Ursula Lawson and Lisa Meeches. The 14-week full-time training program for young aboriginal adults interested in working in film and television was inspired by Meeches and Kajpust, who spent four years interviewing residential-school survivors. Both Kajpust and Meeches are still with the program and Lawson manages it.
-- Education, training and mentorship: Judith Bartlett, associate professor for the University of Manitoba's community health sciences department in the faculty of medicine. Before last year, she was the founding director of the Manitoba Métis Federation's health and wellness department.
-- Public awareness and communications: Melanie Verhaeghe, senior producer of newsgathering at CBC Manitoba. Her award-winning stories have included going to Uganda to look at the lives of child soldiers in a civil war, to Bosnia for a story on life after the war, and to Honduras to investigate a Canadian company that uses sweatshop labour.
-- Science, technology and the environment: Juliette Cooper, an occupational therapist for 50 years. She has taught at the University of Manitoba for 40 years and has been associate dean of the faculty of medicine. The School of Medical Rehabilitation has established the Juliette Cooper Lectureship in rehabilitation.
-- Voluntarism, advocacy and community enhancement: Randi Gage moved to Winnipeg in the 1980s and was an original member of the Canadian Hospice and Palliative Care Association. She was a veteran of the Vietnam War, a founder of the National Aboriginal Veterans' Association and the founder of the Day of Recognition and Remembrance for Aboriginal Veterans held on Nov. 8.
-- Wellness, healthy living and recreation: Maureen Orchard has spent more than 40 years as a volunteer sports co-ordinator. She helped create the Canadian Wheelchair Basketball Association in 1993 and was its president from 1993 to 1998. She became the first female president of the International Wheelchair Basketball Federation in 2002 and still holds that position. She helped grow the sport to hold U25 Women's World Championships and a Senior Women's World Championship.
Emily Richard was named the Young Woman of Distinction. The 21-year-old social work student at the University of Manitoba is an elite rhythmic gymnast and received the maximum 4.5 GPA in all of her 2011-12 courses. She's the youngest head coach and board member of Rhythmic Gymnastics Manitoba. She went to Kenya last year and co-founded the Wasichana Fund, which provides sanitary napkins to impoverished school girls and teaches health education to girls.
Wendy Yushi Wang was honoured with the Gerrie Hammond Memorial Award of Promise. She is a student at the International Baccalaureate program at Kelvin High School and is the main organizer of waffle lunches at the school to help students who aren't financially able to take a lunch. To help other students, she voluntarily took a 28-hour peer-support training course with Klinic. She has been chairwoman of the school's Youth in Philanthropy group for two years.
Lynette Ens was honoured with the Prairie Award of Promise. She volunteers with Mennonite Collegiate Institute and with CanSkate in Altona. She is a counsellor with Camps with Meaning program and helps run the Daily Vacation Bible School at an inner-city church.