Making a difference

Three Winnipeg women nominated for prestigious awards have distinguished themselves in the community


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As a girl, Arlene Minkhorst dreamed of becoming a ballet dancer, but she likely never dreamed she'd be running the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 03/05/2011 (4229 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

As a girl, Arlene Minkhorst dreamed of becoming a ballet dancer, but she likely never dreamed she’d be running the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School.

Mary Brabston is a professor who helps the business leaders of tomorrow build up a capital account of confidence and self-esteem at the University of Manitoba’s Asper School of Business.

RoseAnna Schick is a public relations diva with a daunting professional record of promotion. She’s raised the profile of countless artists, actors and musicians and turned herself into a brand in the process. The Métis was the only woman cast on the 2001 TV reality series Quest for the Bay.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ‘It’s quite an honour,’ RoseAnna Schick says of her nomination.

For all their success, the women were humbled by their YMCA-YWCA Women of Distinction nominations.

Minkhorst says she already feels lucky in life.

“I’m the fortunate one,” she says. “I love doing what I do.”

Brabston says she never expected recognition.

“I’m proud, flattered and honoured,” she says.

Schick is, quite simply, thrilled.

“There’s been a lot of esteemed women who have won that nomination,” she says. “It’s just me. It’s quite an honour.”


The nominees say their work rewards them. For Minkhorst and Brabston, their students are the ones who may go on to fame, fortune and success, like business grads who break ground in new industries and dancers and choreographers who create famous ballets. For Schick, who works to get her clients recognized, there’s a similar sense of surprise.

If these women never crossed paths before, they’re certain to meet May 4 at a gala that celebrates the success of Winnipeg women.

Annual events like the Women of Distinction Awards bring talent and diversity together. The gala acts like a giant mixer, sparking new connections and raising the bar to make life better.

Events like this contribute to the city’s sense of community. They may even be a factor in a common perception that surprises newcomers to the city’s circles of influence: an awareness that Winnipeg is tightly knit, not unlike a small town, even with a population that exceeds 700,000.

On the night of the gala’s grand entry, these three women will join more than 70 other nominees in 12 awards categories. They will celebrate the city’s diversity as much as their own success.

The 35th annual awards dinner for the YMCA -YWCA Woman of Distinction is an institution itself.

Local and national hockey legend Jennifer Botterill is hosting the event.

The athlete is one of only four Canadians to take part in all four Olympic women’s hockey tournaments and is a three-time Olympic gold medallist. She retired from Canada’s National Women’s Team this past winter.

Botterill’s mother, Doreen McCannell was an Olympic speed skater.

Past award recipients include musician Heather Bishop, novelist Carol Shields, film producer Norma Bailey, Asper Foundation president Gail Asper, Winnipeg Free Press editor Margo Goodhand, and the late aboriginal activist and social pioneer Mary Richard.

Awards tickets $125

TICKETS for the 35th Annual Women of Distinction Awards, Wednesday, May 4, at the Winnipeg Convention Centre, are now on sale at $125 per person. Tax receipts will be issued.

For more information, please call Arianne Solis at 831-3157 or email





PROCEEDS from the YMCA-YWCA Women of Distinction Awards support programs that encourage and nurture self-esteem, self-reliance, leadership and community involvement. Funds raised vary year to year; over the past five years the amounts have been between $25,000 and $40,000.

The programs sponsored include:

— Make Waves — An instructor-led gentle aquatic program designed for women recovering from breast cancer surgery.

— Y Neighbours — A social and supportive group setting for women at 17 locations in and around Winnipeg, involving workshops, guest speakers, group outings and child-care assistance.

— Y Women — A biweekly, 55-plus support program that includes speakers, crafts and tours.

— YWCA Canada’s Week without Violence — A nationwide initiative designed to build safer neighbourhoods across Canada, including “The Power of Being a Girl” events.

— YMCA-YWCA Youth Leadership Development Programs — A skills development initiative directed at youths between 12 and 17 years of age.

— YMCA-YWCA Community Development — In 2011, funds will support programs for children and youths at the new North Y Youth Centre, International YWCA partnerships, and programs that involve women in developing countries with projects such as youth shelters, community economic development and daycare centres.



Trio in the spotlight

Here are the gala’s thumbnail sketches on the three women profiled here:


— Arlene Minkhorst (Arts)

Minkhorst is director of the RWB School. In addition to providing a national standard of excellence in dance training, she has developed strong community partnerships to ensure students in the professional division receive a solid academic education. Her determination to decrease barriers has resulted in opportunities for boys and inner-city and rural youths to pursue dance. Under her leadership, the school has developed strong international ties and its excellence is recognized world-wide.


— Mary Brabston (Education, Training and Mentorship)

Brabston invests time and energy in her students. She gets to know

their goals and challenges, offers advice, and helps them build the skills,

confidence and connections to realize their potential. As associate

professor of management information systems and director of accreditation

for the Asper School of Business at the University of Manitoba, Brabston

offers knowledge and guidance through her classes, one-on-one meetings with

students and graduates, and the myriad committees she advises. In 2005, she

developed a highly-successful Co-operative Education Program, which has

provided professional development and relevant workplace experience to more

than 400 students and is the largest such program on campus.


— RoseAnna Schick (Public Awareness and Communication)

As a communicator, Schick generates media attention that helps Manitoba artists, events and cultural institutions gain recognition at home and beyond. She provides publicity for dozens of local musicians, has been credited on more than 60 film and television projects, and is a published travel writer. A Métis woman, Schick is committed to promoting aboriginal initiatives, including the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Vision Quest conferences, and the Manito Ahbee Festival. In 2001, she was the only woman to take part in Quest for the Bay, a re-creation of a 1,200-kilometre fur trade voyage from the 1840s, and has since shared the story with thousands as a motivational speaker.

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