I’ve been making a list of fascinating Manitobans for a decade now. I’ve always done 100, but this year I had too many to fit in and also wanted to highlight some from previous years.
So... in honour of the province’s 150th anniversary next year, here’s the Manitoba 150 edition of my annual list. All the best and have a great 2020!
Dan Chase: 2019 marked Dan’s 20th year with the Winnipeg Goldeyes. His title — director of sales and marketing — describes about one-tenth of his job. He’s responsible for creating, executing and hosting all the on-field promotions/games/etc. at Shaw Park. He’s done a tremendous job. Congrats on 20 years, Dan.
Mary Dopson: At 100 years young, Mary became the oldest living inductee into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame. She fell in love with track and field during her days at Lord Roberts School, and went on to represent Canada at the 1938 British Empire (Commonwealth) Games. A true trailblazer and legend.
Jennifer Saunders: Retired this year with one of the greatest sporting careers in Manitoba history. She holds a record 24 Canadian racquetball titles — 11 singles and 13 doubles championships. Unreal career. Born in Thompson, she’ll stay involved in the game as the high-performance director for Racquetball Canada.
Lisa Meeches (from 2017): A mentor, role model and inspiration to so many it would be impossible to count. An incredible TV and film production career, plus Lisa was also one of the driving forces behind the success of the Manito Ahbee Festival. In 2017, Meeches was honoured with the Order of Manitoba.
Leticia Spence: The Winnipeg Jets hosted Winnipeg Aboriginal Sport Achievement Centre night and Follow Your Dreams Day this past February. Pimicikamak Cree Nation’s Leticia, a graphic design student at Red River College, was tasked with creating a re-imagined Jets and Moose logo for the occasion. She crushed it. Incredible job.
Thomas Schneider: Competed in the Classica division at the World Pizza Championship this past spring in Parma, Italy. Thomas, owner of Timmy Tom’s Pizza inside Trans Canada Brewing, returned home with the title of Best Pizza Maker in Canada. Boom!
Connor Augusto: At 17 years of age, he has been accepted into two of the most prestigious music schools in North America. Connor, from Oakbank, received acceptance letters to practise French horn from both Juilliard in New York City and Toronto’s Glenn Gould School. Nice job, man.
Maria Nickel (from 2014): A teacher at Woodlands Elementary, Nickel submitted a plan to the Student Spaceflight Experiment Program, which would engage more than 400 students and 17 teachers across the Interlake School Division. Throughout the 10-week program, students would work with scientists to design and propose experiments to fly on the International Space Station. Nickel secured $20,000 from private and public-sector sources for the winning experiment. Students in her division participated in a live video broadcast with the space station. The broadcast involved the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., and NASA Mission Control in Houston. And… she received a Prime Minister’s Award for Teaching Excellence.
Jessica Dumas: The president of Jessica Dumas Coaching and Training and a pillar of both the business community and Indigenous community in Winnipeg. She was recently sworn in as the first Indigenous chairwoman of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. Tremendous choice.
Olivia Lunny: She won CTV’s The Launch, which spawned a massive hit in I Got You. Great live performer, songwriter, and even better person.
Randi Chase: She was one of the victims of the attack and robbery at the Tyndall Liquor Mart. After leaving hospital, Randi spoke honestly and bravely about the incident and how she and her co-workers feel. A Facebook post led to her again speaking from the heart in front of the media about the need to protect her fellow Liquor Mart employees.
Tracie Afifi: A professor at the University of Manitoba, Tracie has spent more than 20 years researching the heavy topic of adults who were abused or neglected as children. For her studies on resilience, post-traumatic stress disorders and much, much more, she was awarded the Gold Leaf Prize from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
Kevin Walters (from 2014): One. Of. The. BEST. People. Ever. When your memorial has to be held in the Burton Cummings Theatre and, after arriving fairly early, all that’s left are a few spots in the upper balcony, you know you are loved. He will be forever missed.
Ryan Bonne: For the past 24 years, Ryan, a graduate of the University of Winnipeg, has donned the suit known simply as The Raptor. Yep. He’s the mascot for the NBA’s Toronto Raptors. An incredible run with some ups and downs, but he stuck it out and was the man in the stands and courtside for the Raps on their run to a world championship. Respect.
Hoosli Ukrainian Male Chorus: An incredible run of 50 years of beautiful voices and intricate arrangements. You’ve perhaps seen them do the anthems at a Jets game, but if ever you have the chance to see Hoosli in concert, take that opportunity. They will deliver.
JoAnne Buth and Dr. Cynthia Grant: JoAnne has made an incredible impact on Canadian agriculture through her work in a leadership role in research and development and as president of the Canola Council of Canada. Dr. Grant is well respected worldwide for her contributions to agriculture and soil research. Both were inducted into the Canadian Agricultural Hall of Fame in 2019.
Jonathan Meikle and Matthew Shorting: Both are members of the Bear Clan Patrol who stepped in to help a fellow Winnipeg Transit passenger being held at knifepoint. For their actions, they received the Royal Canadian Humane Association’s medals of bravery from Lt.-Gov. Janice Filmon.
Volker Beckmann: I unabashedly love wolves and I love the city of Thompson. A lot of this love is thanks to Volker. A true champion of Thompson with a quest to make it the Wolf Capital of the World. He’s the project co-ordinator of Spirit Way, has big dreams of a wolf centre of excellence and to make Manitoba a world leader in wolf management. If you’re ever lucky enough, which I have been, to spend a few hours in Thompson with him and feed off his energy and knowledge — take it.
Abdo (Albert) El Tassi (from 2013): Easily one of the coolest people you will ever meet. Mr. El Tassi has been honoured with the Order of Manitoba, the Order of Canada and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Medal in recognition of his communal work and achievements. He founded the Islamic Social Services Association in Winnipeg, the Winnipeg Central Mosque and AlHijra Schools, the first Islamic school in Manitoba. He serves on the board of the Winnipeg Foundation, the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba, the Winnipeg Islamic Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Bridge Builders. He was recognized as Outstanding Philanthropist 2013 by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. He’s just a beauty and is also tons of fun.
Leah Schwartz: While attending U of W Collegiate, Leah spent the summer as a student in the lab at the St. Boniface Research Centre. She was offered the opportunity to pursue her own research project through the lab, and chose cardiac fibrosis. She entered her project in the Canada-Wide Science Fair and was awarded the gold medal out of a pool of 500 of Canada’s brightest young minds.
Ian August: He’s the artist behind Rooster Town Kettle, a permanent public installation at the Beaumont Station on the Southwest Transitway. Rooster Town, as it became to be known, was a primarily Métis community that existed in the early to mid-1900s in the area of what is now Grant Park Shopping Centre.
Cassandra Phaneuf and Elora Cromarty: Two exceptional students who caught the attention of the Manitoba Aboriginal Youth Achievement Awards. Cassandra in the senior category, and Elora from Norway House Cree Nation in junior. Congrats to you both and continued success.
David Langdon: After 30 years as the resident therapeutic clown at the Children’s Hospital of Manitoba, David retired this year. The Winnipeg Child Life Clown program began in 1986 to reduce stress and anxiety for both children in care and their families and is the longest-running program of its kind in Canada. Congrats on your retirement, David, and all the best.
Gianna Eusebio: Born at 27 weeks weighing only one pound, Gianna faced some tough odds. Thanks to her strong will and the incredible people at the Children’s Hospital/HSC, Gianna, now 10 years old, did an exceptional job sharing her story with thousands as the 2019 Children’s Hospital Foundation Champion Child. I’ve watched her speak several times and she’s just the best.
Helen Granger Young (from 2013): For years one of Manitoba’s most internationally celebrated artists, Helen received some love at home in 2013: not only with a YM-YWCA Woman of Distinction honour, but also with the Order of Manitoba. You’ve seen her statue of Nellie McClung and the "Famous Five" at the Manitoba legislature, but her work can also be found in collections around the world, including Buckingham Palace, the White House and the Vatican.
Rhonda Head: She’s an amazing story. From Opaskwayak Cree Nation, she’s an award-winning classical singer who has performed on the stages of Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Centre. She’s twice survived a brain tumour and is an incredible community organizer and a published author. She released an autobiography last year, Mezzo Soprano: Memoirs of a Rez Girl.
Del Duffield: It took him a few decades of knocking off 10 or so a year, but in 2019 he completed a goal. Del has now golfed all 131 public golf courses in the province. I like stuff like that. Nice job, Del!
Joan Thomas: Winner of a 2019 Governor General Literary Award for her book Five Wives. The book is based on real-life events following a group of women in the rainforest after their missionary husbands are killed. Congrats, Joan!
Anandakumar Palanichamy: Beets are the best. Anandakumar has found multiple delicious uses for the humble beet as founder and CEO of Dr. Beetroot Canada. They produce beet juice, beet ketchup, ridiculously great beet sauce and more. A wonderful family and a great Manitoba story.
Rishona Hyman: She’s used her passion and talent to form Aqua Essence Swim Academy. Now in her 15th year, she’s impacted the lives of countless new Canadians by providing free water safety education and swimming lessons via Ready, Set, Swim! to immigrants and refugees. An incredible program.
Jane MacLatchy: For the first time in the 87-year history of the RCMP in Manitoba, the commanding officer is a woman. The new commanding officer is Chief Supt. MacLatchy.
Tyson Langelaar and Alexa Scott: Between the two of them, they brought home eight medals in speedskating from the Canada Winter Games. Alexa won three gold and Tyson won four gold and a silver, plus also set a new Canada Games record in the 1000 metre.
Skylar Park: Skylar has been participating in taekwondo since she could walk. She’s won an international title as a junior, but the Olympics has always been her goal. She’s made it happen, qualifying to represent Team Canada in Tokyo next year. Outstanding job.
Teresa Rogers and Ruthanne Dyck: In 2018, Pembina Trails School Division had two principals named among the best in the country by the Learning Partnership of Canada. In 2019, two more made the list for their outstanding leadership, vision and innovation. Teresa and Ruthanne work at Linden Meadows and École South Pointe, respectively. Congrats to both, as well as the division.
Cheryl Lashek: A civil servant who became wildly popular thanks to her reassuring signature on our elevator permits. Cheryl moved on to a new job, and almost fittingly, no new signature will grace our elevators as the previous "permit in the frame" thing is being phased out. Thank you for keeping us safe all those years, Cheryl, and all the best!
Daniel Blair: He is the founder of Bit Space Development and has grown his virtual reality technology company into one of the highest ranking in the world. With massive breakthroughs in industrial-training solutions thanks to partnerships with Safework Manitoba and the Manitoba Heavy Construction Association, Bit Space now employs 15 people full time and continues to grow.
Christine Anderson: The kind of person that makes an entire town better, Christine tirelessly donates her time to helping make The Pas and surrounding area better for everyone. For her commitment to keeping the streets clean, to caring for the cross-country ski trails, working with the local homeless shelter and countless other projects... Christine was named Citizen of the Year by The Pas and District Chamber of Commerce.
Mia Battad, Nikolaus Reichert, Nika Martinussen: All were recipients of 2019 Schulich Leader Scholarships, the largest STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) awards handed out in Canada. Only 50 students receive one annually in Canada. Very well done.
Trevor Bragnalo and Steven Thompson: Both are recipients of a Decoration of Bravery award, presented in March by Gov. Gen. Julie Payette. Members of the Winnipeg Police Service, Bragnalo and Thompson received medals of bravery after saving a number of people from a burning condominium in Winnipeg in February 2017. Thompson directed four people who were trapped on the second floor to safety by breaking down a door, and rescued a sleeping man on the third floor of the building by pulling him through a window. Bragnalo discovered two people who were trapped in a third-floor suite with windows covered by a locked metal security screen. The constable kicked open the screen and pulled the two people out the window. Despite the intensity of the fire, the two constables did a final sweep of the condo and rescued a final resident from the second floor.
Malcolm Ingram and Sean Stanley: The 1974 rock musical Phantom of the Paradise proved to be a huge box office flop for director Brian De Palma. A flop everywhere, however, except for Winnipeg, where it played for 18 straight weeks at the Garrick and became a "thing." Malcolm and Sean made a documentary about this bizarre and awesome pop culture love affair with the film called Phantom of Winnipeg. Their work was just recently named best documentary at the Sleepy Hollow International Film Festival in New York.
Aaron Cockerill: Huge year. After four years of playing NCAA golf at Idaho, the native of Stony Mountain has been grinding it out on the European feeder golf circuit this year and finished high enough to earn a full card on the big European Tour circuit in 2020.
Shanley Spence (from 2017): I admire this woman so much. Shanley is a 25-year-old Swampy Cree and Anishinaabe hoop dancer, speaker, activist, ambassador and volunteer. To see her perform is absolutely a thing of beauty, but it’s when she speaks that she owns every room she is in. A runner-up in that year’s Miss Indian World, which she entered to inspire young girls, there is likely nothing Shanley can’t do or achieve. She’s the coolest.
Rylie Saunders, Kevin Repay, Michael Osikoya, Kevin Maretz, Derek Benjamin, Atom Dzaman and Joey Senft: Together, they are the Village Idiots. It’s one of the coolest projects in the history of the always punching-above-its-weight Winnipeg music scene. Their weekly (8 p.m. Wednesday) Facebook livestream, Live at the Roslyn, provides artists and fans a super cool/unique/interactive live show. They’re closing in on 100 episodes, have been nominated for two Western Canadian Music Awards, and have exposed Winnipeg talent to countless new fans who may otherwise had not been reached. Tremendous idea and execution.
Danny Schur: The tenacity of this guy is undisputed. For years, Danny has been working non-stop on having a movie made based on his signature piece Strike! The Musical. He made it happen. Stand!, the film based on his play, was released Canada-wide by Cineplex in November. Even suffering a heart attack on the home stretch of the film’s release didn’t stop Danny. Nothing does. He’s relentless in pursuit of a dream. Well done.
Darrick Baxter (from 2017): He’s the founder of Ogoki Learning Systems. They are 100 per cent First Nations-owned and their headquarters are on the Sandy Bay Ojibway First Nation. A few years ago, Darrick created an app to help his daughter learn Ojibway. He also threw it up on iTunes and tens of thousands of downloads later it’s obvious he’s on to something. Over the past few years, Ogoki has grown big time, and have created some of the most popular tribal language apps and learning games in North America. I have the Ojibway and Cree apps on my phone and it’s wicked cool to learn their languages. Respect, Darrick.
Angie and Clint Masse: The owners of A Maze in Corn in St. Adolphe, and now also the owners of a Guiness World Record for the largest snow maze. Ever. Their maze measured almost 3,000 square metres and required 150 semi-truck buckets full of snow to build.
Dr. Flordeliz Gigi Osler and Taylor Morriseau: Both women are researchers in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences and both were named among the most powerful women in Canada by the Women’s Executive Network. Dr. Osler became the president of the Canadian Medical Association last year, the first female surgeon and woman of colour ever to hold that title. Ms. Morriseau, from Peguis First Nation, is a force nationally in diabetes research, Indigenous health and much more. Incredible leaders and people.
Aurelie Delaforge (from 2017): She’s a researcher at the University of Manitoba and discovered AN ACTUAL MONSTER IN THE ARCTIC FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HISTORY!!! She was stationed in Nunavut researching algae when she discovered a crustacean that turned out to be the first-ever species from the Monstrillopsis family to be discovered in the Canadian Arctic. It has eight legs, one eye, no mouth, and yes — it’s only millimetres long — but SHE DISCOVERED A MONSTER. Coolest find ever.
Myazwe: Great delivery, great songs, all kinds of hustle. The Winnipeg rapper had an excellent, deservedly so, year. Among the highlights was an incredible set in front of thousands at Bell MTS Place with Tyga and YG. All the best, man.
Mitch Podolak: Manitoba lost an absolute legend this year in Mitch. The founding artistic director of the Winnipeg Folk Festival, founder of the West End Cultural Centre, a member of the Order of Manitoba, and a known champion of music across Canada. He passed away in August, but left an incredible legacy and will be remembered forever.
Dr. Phillip Peebles (from 2017): Ever been in room with possibly the smartest person in the world? I was at the Order of Manitoba ceremony when Dr. Peebles received his honour. To be in his presence was humbling. He’s an award-winning physicist, and one of the world’s leading theoretical cosmologists. A University of Manitoba grad, he has contributed more than any other living scientist to the understanding of the origin of the large-scale structure in the universe, including the formation of galaxies like the Milky Way. And he’s from here!!! You like Big Bang Theory? Dr. Peebles has made massive contributions to the big bang model and the mapping of the shape, size and age of the universe. He has also provided evidence of the existence of large quantities of dark matter and continues to work on the origin of galaxies. Update: no big deal, he just won a Nobel Prize.
Mariam Bernstein: Has been exceptional as the lead or in a supporting role in many plays in Winnipeg. This year, she was named outstanding lead actress at the Evies (the Winnipeg Theatre Awards) for her portrayal of Ruth Westheimer in Winnipeg Jewish Theatre’s Becoming Dr. Ruth.
Jaylynn Chartier, Phoenix Chartier and Eden Rose Walker: All three are under 11 years of age and were handed the Lifesaving Society’s Rescue Commendation for their role in saving the life of a five-year-old girl they witnessed floating face down in the Saskatchewan River near Grand Rapids. They waded out into the current, brought the young girl to shore, and Phoenix performed life-saving CPR. Absolute heroes.
Faouzia (from 2017): Without a doubt, no question, guaranteed one of the greatest talents I have ever seen. She’s a 17-year-old singer-songwriter from Carman and has no ceiling. She was the first ever teen winner of the Unsigned Only international songwriting competition. She and Matt Epp won the International Songwriting Competition as well, beating out 16,000 other songs from 137 countries. She signed with Paradigm, the same agency that reps Imagine Dragons, Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, Diplo and more. She crushed Canada Day at The Forks with the WSO, but she’s equally good just by herself with her piano. She’s a generational talent, and an incredibly kind and humble soul as well. Update: Had an international hit this year with You Don’t Even Know Me.
Vikas and Shivani Sanger: The owners of SFC Pizzeria on Salter Street launched a unique "pay it forward" program to help feed the hungry in their neighbourhood. Customers are given the option to donate a dollar in return for a sticky note with a handwritten message placed on the wall. If someone in need comes into the store, they can take a sticky note off the wall and redeem it for a piece of pizza. Beautiful.
Sheilah Lee Restall: The creator of the Poppy Blanket project. She brought together hundreds across the province to create an 85-foot-long blanket made from almost 10,000 knitted and crocheted poppies and dedicated it to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. Great job, Sheilah.
Kyla and Caitlyn Roy (from 2017): Two of the best stories from the 2017 Canada Summer Games. Older sister Kyla (18) won bronze in the female triathlon, finishing less than a minute from gold in gruelling heat. Younger sister Caitlyn was only 15 at the time (you had to be 16 by the end of the year), and as the youngest competitor in the field finished a solid seventh. The sisters then teamed up with Claire Healey to win silver together in the triathlon relay. Update: Kyla just won an NCAA Div. 1 Championship at Arizona State!
Brad Fotty: He’s the head equipment manager for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and has been there through 13 head coaches and nine GMs, and seen about 3,000 players come and go. Technically, he was there in 1990 when the Bombers won the Grey Cup, but back then he only worked for the visiting team on game days. That means this year’s cup was truly his first. Brad performs a tireless, thankless, but incredibly essential job. Players love him. His humility, his work ethic, he’s a real one.
Steven Schipper: He took over as artistic director of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in 1989. An unprecedented and successful tenure of almost 30 years. Schipper retired this year. A tremendous run.
Samantha Rayburn-Trubyk (from 2017): She’s the president of the Little People of Manitoba, and this year scored a massive victory for our province. Thanks to her tireless advocacy, Manitoba became the first in the country to recognize Dwarfism Awareness Day. This is far from all Samantha is, however. She’s one of the most giving and caring people I’ve ever met and a true champion for those who need one the most. Update: Thanks to her efforts, amateur sports — including hockey — are phasing out the term "midget" to define age groups.
Albert McLeod: Albert was a recipient of a Champion of Mental Health award from the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health. He’s just an incredible, sweet, caring person. A board director of Two-Spirited People Manitoba, a trauma survivor, and an ally and advocate for all. I was lucky enough to be at the awards ceremony in Ottawa when Albert received the award and the speech given was beautiful and moving. All the best, Albert.
Goody Grace (from 2012): There’s a kid just north of Winnipeg racking up tens of thousands of hits for songs he posts to YouTube. That kid is Goody. Update: Goody moved to L.A., signed a record deal, has had hits with Blink 182, G-Eazy and more. From humble roots in Selkirk, he’s made it happen for himself.
Chris Matthew: You all know the story. He was, past tense, "shorts guy." Eighteen years after declaring he would not wear pants until the Bombers won a Grey Cup, he finally put on pants. Some sweet knock-off Zubaz no less. Also, super nice guy.
Barbara and Clarence Nepinak: Both received the Order of Manitoba in 2019. I’ve spent a lot of time with them over the years and they’re just beautiful people and pillars of our Indigenous community. From Barbara’s work with the Manitoba Association of Native Languages to Clarence’s ongoing work to both preserving and advancing Indigenous culture while also building bridges, this is a very deserved honour.
Joey Johnson (from 2012): One of our most under-celebrated athletes of all time. Joey plays wheelchair basketball. Very well. He is, thanks to another gold in London, a four-time Paralympics medal winner. One silver, three gold. Incredible career.
Teresa Dukes: Took over the role of GM and president of North Forge Technology Exchange. North Forge, an absolute game changer for this province, is an innovation-based economic development agency fuelling and supporting some of the brightest minds and ideas in Manitoba.
Calia Pacle: Taking after her grandparents, both sets owning bakeries, Calia has been baking her entire life. She took a pastry course at Kildonan East Collegiate, and this year took her talents to the Skills Canada baking competition. She came home with gold. Great job, Calia.
Ken Opaleke (from 2012): The heart and soul of West Broadway Youth Outreach. Makes this town a much, much better place. Update: Ken was recognized for his service with The Order of Manitoba in 2017.
Katherena Vermette (from 2013): The 2013 recipient of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry, for her collection North End Love Songs. It’s brilliant. I own it. The book is an ode to Winnipeg’s North End, where Ms. Vermette grew up, where her Métis brother went missing, and the neighbourhood to which she returned after becoming a mother.
Venla Hovi: In her just over 30 years, she’s put together a ridiculous resumé. She’s from Finland and has won five medals for her country internationally in hockey. She came to Canada to play hockey for the U of M Bisons and won a national title and was also female athlete of the year in 2018. She’s now an assistant coach for the Herd and broke new ground as the first woman hired to coach in the Winnipeg Jets player development program.
Rob Tetrault and Marc Foidart: Seven years ago, the pair came up with Le Classique, a ball hockey tournament to raise funds for CMV (cytomegalovirus). CMV is a common virus that many live with, but, with someone who’s pregnant, will often result in children being born with hearing loss or developmental delay. Le Classique has grown to more than 60 teams annually and has raised $500,000 since its humble beginning in the parking lot of Le Garage. The bigger legacy, though, has been in lobbying government to change the protocol for newborn screening. Manitoba has changed thanks to Rob’s efforts. Ontario followed. Alberta is next up. It’s an enormous change in awareness that will change the lives of countless families forever. Incredible story.
Vivek Bhagria (from 2013): The lone Manitoban on Team Canada at the 2013 World Dwarf Games. He brought home two medals, but even cooler than that, he participated in 11 of 13 events at the games. Hardcore. The games were also the largest sporting event in history exclusively for athletes with dwarfism. Update: After years of grinding it out, Vivek brought home DOUBLE GOLD this year in football and soccer.
Maddison Yetman: Diagnosed with an advanced form of sarcoma, Maddison made a video from her hospital bed on the eve of the federal election encouraging people to vote. The video garnered massive national attention and grabbed the attention of many vying for office from coast to coast. Maddison passed away early in November, but without doubt made an impact on many.
Christine Hanlon: I love lists. That’s how this whole fascinating list thing started. Christine recently released Everything Manitoba: The Ultimate Book of Lists on paperback. She did a great job. With contributions from Shanley Spence, Niigaan Sinclair, Dave Baxter, Joanne Kelly and many more, it’s a no-brainer gift for Manitobans. I know quite a bit about our province, but there was plenty in the book that was news to me. Well done, Christine.
Rusty (from 2018): For almost a decade, Rusty, the glasses-wearing therapy dog, has been comforting patients and staff at the St. Boniface Hospital. Good boy. Update: Rusty announced his retirement this year. Well deserved.
Kristen Campbell: She’s done plenty in her hockey career to warrant a spot on this list, but her performance in goal for the Wisconsin Badgers in the NCAA Frozen Four final may never be duplicated. NCAA women’s hockey is very, very good. The Frozen Four, the hockey version of basketball’s Final Four, is a tournament between the four best teams to determine a national champion. Not only did Kristen, from Brandon, lead Wisconsin to a title... she didn’t let in a single goal. Not one. Clean slate. Shutout after shutout after shutout. A goals-against average of 0.00. Unreal.
Varina Penner and Adriana Glikman: Adriana, program co-ordinator with B’nai Brith Canada, launched the Diverse Minds creative writing competition in Winnipeg. Students in grades 9-12 from all over the province were invited to write a book that showed tolerance, inclusion, empathy and diversity. The target demographic was elementary school-aged children. I was on the judging panel and the submissions were really good. Absolutely fantastic. The overall winner was Varina, a student at Springs Christian Academy. Her book, A Bear Like Me, was published as part of the prize. It’s tremendous.
Leila Castro (from 2018): She is the founder of 204 Neighbourhood Watch Inc., a weekly safety patrol. She has previously received the Newcomer Volunteer Award, and was named a Manitoba Hero in 2018. Leila is tireless. She’s been active finding shelter for First Nations communities displaced by fire, volunteers with the Alzheimer Society and much more. A true asset to our province.
Sofia Costantini: Has taught and choreographed dance for film/TV, the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Pan Am Games, Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, Prairie Theatre Exchange and more. Much more. Her resumé is long and impressive, but for me it’s her work at Sisler and Tec Voc schools that stand out the most. Ms. Sofia has made an incredible impact on countless students through dance. She’s just awesome.
Brielle Beardy-Linklater: A member of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation who grew up in Thompson, Brielle has become an exceptional advocate for Indigenous health and issues that uniquely affect the LGBTTQ+ community. Her efforts were recognized with the Sybil Shack Human Rights Youth Award at the Manitoba Human Rights Awards.
Dayna Spiring (from 2018): As president and CEO of Economic Development Winnipeg, Dayna has been an incredible voice, leader and champion for Winnipeg. A true, passionate advocate for making Winnipeg a destination for both business and tourism. She’s awesome. Update: For her role on the Winnipeg Football Club board, Dana will be the first woman to have her name engraved on the Grey Cup.
Big Dave McLean: An absolute blues legend and one of the most quietly revered musicians in Canada. McLean has the respect, the Junos, the Western Canada Music Awards... and, in 2019, can add member of the Order of Canada to an incredible career.
Nihal Bhullar and Dawn Williams: I’ve got time for people who drop everything to help someone in need. This is not about someONE in need, but something in need. Nihal and Dawn found a sweet and very lost otter by the U of W on a freezing February day. They waited two hours keeping the otter contained under a dumpster until help arrived. It ended well. Thank you as well to the Humane Society for looking after him and getting him back to where he belongs.
Brigette Lacquette (from 2018): Brigette, from Mallard, Man., became the first Indigenous woman to represent Canada in Olympic hockey. A great athlete and even finer person. Update: She’s become an incredible inspiration and mentor to countless Indigenous youth with countless visits to First Nations communities.
Suzanne and Marco Suzio: In 2014, they started a charity called Madox’s Warriors after their nine-year-old son passed away from a brain tumour. One of their ideas was to pitch Manitoba Public Insurance on a childhood cancer awareness plate. Originally denied, they received word this year that, after reconsidering, the plate had been approved and will be happening. Nice job. Never give up.
Vivian Santos: Her day job is city councillor for Point Douglas. In her spare time, though, she’s an avid competitive arm wrestler. She’s now won back-to-back provincial titles on both the right and left arm. Love it.
Scott Cairns (from 2013): Winnipeg man was among a group of scientists who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013. A member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is currently working in Syria to dismantle that country’s stockpile of weapons. It was for those efforts that he received his award. Incredible achievement.
Don Finkbeiner (from 2016): Great ambassador to the world for Manitoba’s north. I’ve seen him in action in Churchill with guests from all over the world, and thanks to people like Don, I guarantee they return home with a great impression of our province.
Nic Demski, Andrew Harris, Thomas Miles, Geoff Gray and Brady Oliveira: It’s one thing to suit up in CFL for your hometown Winnipeg Blue Bombers. That in itself is a big deal. But to be on the roster of the team that ended the 29-year championship drought is legendary. They’ll have this forever. What a great run.
Ryder Rodriguez: This kid is unbelievable. He’s only eight and has already made an incredible impact on so many. He’s from Ste. Rose and one of his ventures is the Hat Trick Program. He raises money through raffles, bake sales and barbecues to enrol kids in hockey who otherwise might not have the opportunity. There are kids in Dauphin and Ste. Rose already playing thanks to Ryder. He is also behind the Beanies for Preemies project, where he raised money to purchase yarn that turned into 400 beanies for premature babies at children’s hospitals. He’s also done major work for CancerCare Manitoba and the True North Youth Foundation. Again, he’s eight. Great kid.
Tracie Leost (from 2016): This past May 2016, I presented Tracie with a Young Humanitarian award courtesy of the Manitoba Teachers Society. She’s a truly amazing young woman. She ran 115 kilometres raising awareness for murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls while raising money for the Families First Foundation. After losing two friends to suicide in the span of four days, she led and implemented mental health programs in her school, Garden City Collegiate. Recently, she was the subject of a Vogue video about her work for MMIWG called Run Sister Run.
Angie Cerilli and Julianna Thompson: Our Canadian women’s ball hockey team came home from the 2019 world championships in Slovakia with a gold medal. Angie and Julianna were a big part of that team, their first time representing their country. Awesome job.
Red River Rising: Led by president Nicky Cottee, Red River Rising are the supporters group for Valour FC. Gathering in a corner of the stadium known as The Trench, their chants, songs and enthusiasm at home matches are fantastic. They were easily one of the biggest highlights of the inaugural Valour season. Love them.
Chief Betsy Kennedy (from 2016): She became the chief of Manitoba’s War Lake First Nation in 2006, making her the longest-serving female chief in Manitoba. Chief Kennedy received the Order of Manitoba in 2016 for her contributions to the health and welfare of her community and for her commitment to the environment.
Adriana De Luca and Michelle Lalonde: Have guided Tiber River Naturals into a spot on this year’s Canadian Business Growth 500 List. By constantly evolving, their bath and body line posted a five-year sales growth of 478 per cent to rank as one of the fastest-growing companies in the country.
Patrick Falconer: He was a consultant with Barrier Free Manitoba for a decade. His vision, tenacity, intelligence, empathy and strategic thinking led to the Accessibility for Manitobans Act. It’s the tireless work of people like Patrick that improves the lives of Manitobans of all abilities. Massive respect.
Shahina Siddiqui (from 2016): She’s an educator, spiritual counsellor and writer. Since arriving in Winnipeg from Pakistan four decades ago, she has worked tirelessly to support refugees and bring communities together. Siddiqui is a co-founder and current president of the Islamic Social Services Association (ISSA). ISSA played a major role this year in supporting the Syrian refugees who came to Manitoba. She has been a founding member of a number of national and provincial organizations, including the Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute, Canadian Muslim Leadership Institute, Interfaith Council of Women and Federation of Canadian Muslim Social Services. Her bio is amazing. Siddiqui was recognized as the 2016 Canadian Red Cross Humanitarian of the Year in Manitoba.
Fred and Blake Morden: Blake is the founder and Fred the current owner of Morden’s Chocolates. This year marked their 60th anniversary; 60 years in business is no joke. From their Russian Mints winning top prize in New Orleans at the 1984 World Fair to continuing to evolve while staying true to their roots, Morden’s is a Manitoba treasure.
Mike Johnston: He’s the grades 9-12 welding teacher at R.B. Russell Vocational High School, and has had an immense positive impact on countless students in Winnipeg’s inner city. He’s a tireless advocate for Indigenous youth and education. A recipient of the Canadian Welding Foundation Educator of the Year, Mike has beautifully blended metal fabrication with awareness of the MMIWG crisis as well as championing the beauty and strength of Indigenous people across Canada. I’ve seen first-hand what his leadership has meant to so many of our kids and it’s truly inspirational.
Catherine Metrycki (from 2016): She’s the founder of a new online floral business. Her startup, Callia, was the winner in 2016 in an incredible field of other new startups at Innovate Manitoba’s PitchDay. Update: Catherine was recently on Dragons’ Den and secured a deal.
Dylan Carreiro: From Clifton School to Garden City Collegiate to taking the pitch for Dundee in Scotland, Dylan has put together a stellar soccer resumé. A former Canadian under-20 player of the year, he returned to Winnipeg this year and was the first Manitoban to score for Valour FC.
Aida Champagne: She’s the chairwoman of the Manitoba Filipino Street Festival. It’s purely a volunteer gig, one that requires Aida to give up most of her summer to organize what has grown into one of Manitoba’s best celebrations.
Patti Kustoryk: One of the most decorated fiddlers our province has ever produced. She’s won everything from multiple Canadian Junior to North American fiddle championships and this year was inducted into the North American Fiddlers Hall of Fame. She’s mega smooth and can rip.
Dorota Blumczynska: An incredible woman. She’s the executive director of IRCOM, the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization of Manitoba. She’s been an incredible ally for people from all of the world coming to our province. A staunch defender of human rights and ensuring dignity for all. She has also just recently been elected president of the Canadian Council for Refugees.
Joel, Danielle and Francois Grenier: They are the good people behind the St. Labre 200. It’s a go-kart race that draws thousands to the community of St. Labre, southwest of Steinbach. There is much more to the event than just showing up and racing. Contestants have 24 hours to build a go-kart basically from scratch using limited parts. This year, the event received the Innovation Award at the 21st Manitoba Tourism Awards. The event has also been a tremendous fundraiser over the past decade, donating almost $100,000 to various organizations, including Habitat for Humanity and the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. Tremendous event.
Joanne Schiewe (from 2015): When I met her, and same goes for everyone who has had the pleasure, you knew you were in the presence of one of the toughest women alive. I used to race against and lose to her, all the time. Not soon after completing an Ironman triathalon, Joanne was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Surgery, chemo, radiation… nothing took her spirit. All it did was strengthen her resolve. She ran in the Winnipeg Police Service run months after surgery. She was an avid fundraiser following her diagnosis. I’m telling you, one of the toughest people alive. Update: Joanne passed away, but will never, ever be forgotten.
Alyx Delaloye (from 2015): One of the coolest moments at Bell MTS Place since the return of the Jets: Adorable Alyx holding up her "Chemo by day, Jets by night" sign. I was at the game, and the second time they showed her on the screen, people went off. The players stopped and stared at the screen and tapped their sticks. I saw men and women brought to tears. It was amazing. She’s as sweet as can be, and is still fighting back with all she can with an indomitable spirit. Update: Alyx is doing well!
Wilma Derksen (from 2012): Wilma has shared with all of us her long walk through grief toward forgiveness after her 13-year-old daughter was abducted and murdered. Update: She’s written some very personal and exceptional books, and also opened Candace House, a safe haven for victims of crime and their families.
Andrea Macasaet: Andrea locked down the role of Anne Boleyn in the musical Six, a pop-infused show about the history of King Henry’s six wives. The show blew up the Edinburgh Fringe and a North American tour has seen the show extended twice in Chicago, and it did a month in Boston. Now, Andrea will be onstage in an open-ended run on Broadway in New York City. Huge.
Emily Cablek, Dominic and Abby Maryk (from 2017): Returned home safely to their mother Emily after four years apart. Incredible story. Update: Emily wrote a book about the harrowing experience. Incredible resilience and perseverance.
Manny Aranez: An absolute legend in the basketball community who deserves a lot of credit for his tireless dedication. Manny is the president and chief organizer of the Philippine Basketball Association. Launched in 2001 with just seven teams, the league has grown to hundreds of teams and more than a thousand participants every season.
Maria Mitousis (from 2015): The lawyer who was severely injured by a mail bomb at work. The same woman who spoke of what happened with amazing grace, strength and humility. Such an amazing woman. She made nothing about her, only spoke of optimism and gratitude. Truly fascinating.
Sharon Bajer (from 2017): At the inaugural Winnipeg Theatre Awards, Sharon took home the outstanding lead actress award for her work in the RMTC Warehouse comedy Hand to God. Performing after a gruelling and courageous battle with breast cancer just makes her even that much more amazing and awesome.
Dr. Marlyn Cook: She’s the community physician for Misipawistik Cree Nation on the northwest side of Lake Winnipeg. Dr. Cook was the first First Nations woman to graduate from the U of M’s faculty of medicine and has worked as a doctor in First Nations communities since 1987. This year she was a recipient of a national Indspire award in the health category.
Gerry Atwell: Winnipeg’s music scene lost an absolute legend with the passing of Gerry. He’s won a Juno and has performed with and for thousands of Manitobans over the years. More than just his talent, it was respect people had for him as a person. He was loved and adored by many. A real loss. R.I.P.