Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
My million-dollar cousin
My uncle Kenny phoned me a few weeks ago to tell me my little cousin, Candace, had won a National Aboriginal Achievement award.
Wow! -- this was big news, but also a big secret until the official announcement.
If you haven't heard of them, the NAA awards are for pretty outstanding aboriginal people. They are very much like winning an Order of Canada. Every year they honour the cream of the crop in aboriginal country.
My cousin is Candace Sutherland, the young girl who spent countless hours over the past several years raising money and food donations to feed the less fortunate.
She ran across Canada last year to raise money and awareness for the Salvation Army, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Diabetes Association and the Canadian Cancer Society. She says her efforts raised well over $2 million.
I guess I can call her my million-dollar cousin.
Candace is 18, so she won in the NAA youth category. There are 15 winners this year instead of the usual 14.
Candace shares the award with another outstanding Manitoban -- Earl Cook, who died in September.
My uncle called me to ask if I would be Candace's chaperone for the big announcement in Ottawa. It would be made in Parliament, and the House was going to make note of them and their achievement. Now who could say no to an offer like that?
I've been to Ottawa before, but this would be my first visit inside the Parliament Buildings.
It was quite the experience to get inside. If you think airport security is tight, wait until you visit Parliament. It's probably the safest place in Canada. Watching the House in session is far more thrilling than CPAC. For a politics lover like me, it's kind of like going to a hockey game. You get to see all the people you've been a "fan" of for years.
I listened and tried spotting as many MPs as I could. I spotted Tony Clement right away by his eyebrows, Rod Bruinooge, Pat Martin, Shelly Glover, Bev Oda, Vic Toews, Rona Ambrose, Jim Flaherty and, of course, Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
It was great to see so many young NDP MPs. On the sidelines were a bunch of earnest pages milling around, consulting each other and looking stressed.
It was really entertaining, especially once the debate got a little heated.
Then it was time to note the award winners, who stood up in the Speaker's Gallery. All the MPs got up too, as well as many of us in the visitor's gallery.
I got a little teary watching all the politicians give this year's winners a long, rousing round of applause. It was well-deserved.
It's too bad more of our family couldn't make the trek to Ottawa, but I tried to clap hard and represent them anyway.
Our grandma would have been very proud of Candace.
So what's next for Candace?
She picks up her NAA award in February at the big Gala in Vancouver.
But she's retiring from running. A week after she got home from her cross-Canada run, she slipped on some ice and broke her ankle.
She can still run a few kilometres, but her ankle swells up and hurts badly afterwards. A doctor told her she shouldn't run long distances anymore.
Candace graduated from Children of the Earth High School last summer. She has a job and is saving money for university. The NAA youth award comes with $10,000; what will she do with it besides help with tuition?
She has a simple plan. My aunt -- Candace's mom -- has a mental disability and has been diagnosed with some other serious health problems.
Candace wants to get them a modest little place to live together. She also plans to continue working and start university in the fall. She plans on becoming a nurse.
I have no doubt Candace will accomplish what she sets out to do. Winning this award brings her dreams just a little bit closer.
Colleen Simard is a Winnipeg writer.
Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 26, 2011 J6
(1 of 23 articles for this week)