Eight Muskoka Women Receive YWCA’s Prestigious Women of Distinction Award

The 2017 YWCA Muskoka Women of Distinction Recipients. (From left) BACK: Bonnie Dart, Nicole Manion, Norma Connolly, Michelle Emson. FRONT: Dawn Novak, Brenda Wood, Candace Yule, Debby Andrews. (Tomasz Szumski, BlueCamel3DPhotography)

Over 200 people gathered at the Mark O’Meara Clubhouse in Huntsville Wednesday night as eight women from across Muskoka were presented with the 2017 YWCA Women of Distinction Awards – recognized as one of the most prestigious awards in Canada for women.

The recipients were selected from a group of twenty outstanding nominees who were nominated by their fellow community members. This year’s recipients are:

  • Michelle Emson (Bracebridge) – Arts, Culture and Creative Energy
  • Candace Yule (Gravenhurst) – Young Woman of Distinction
  • Nicole Manion (Bracebridge) – Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship
  • Dawn Novak (Utterson) – Community Development and Social Activism
  • Norma Connolly (Huntsville) – Health, Sports and Wellness
  • Bonnie Dart (Gravenhurst) – Mentorship
  • Debby Andrews (Bracebridge) – Lifetime Achievement
  • Brenda Wood (Huntsville) – Inaugural Transformational Award

“Tonight we honour the achievements of the women in Muskoka whose excellence in their field and commitment to cultivating strong, vibrant communities deserve the utmost recognition,” said Niki Rushton from CIBC, Premiere Sponsor of the event. “We also celebrate the YWCA and their work to bring a culture of inclusion to our entire community.”

In addition to the award ceremony, attendees were entertained by a group of twenty enthusiastic young women from the YWCA Girlz Unplugged program. The girls wrote and performed their own chant about balance and personal choices. “WE choose the girls that we want to be!” they sang.

Keynote speaker, Nancy Osborne, Founder of “I GOT THIS, Unlocking Your Instincts”, delivered an inspiring and entertaining speech about facing your fears and stepping outside your comfort zone.

The event also celebrated the 20th Anniversary of YWCA Muskoka. Founders, Sheryl Manolakos and Virginia Hastings reflected on the past two decades.

“We have seen so much growth over the years,” Hastings said. “We have grown from being in two schools to 17; from two programs to 18; from serving around 80 to 1600 people annually. YWCA now offers financial literacy classes; high school scholarships are given out; three major fundraisers are held annually; exercise programs are held for breast cancer survivors; to date, 42 micro loans have been given out to women leaving domestic violence, and much more.”

Executive Director of YWCA Muskoka, Hannah Lin, gave a heartfelt thank you to the event sponsors and volunteers. In particular: CIBC, YourTV, Suzanne Martineau of My Muskoka Remax, TD Bank Group, Muskoka Futures, RBC, Parry Sound-Muskoka Community Network, MacDonald Law, Port Carlings Lion Club, Muskoka Chrysler, BDO, Mark O’Meara Grandview and all the local businesses and individuals who donated to the silent auction.

If you would like to support YWCA Muskoka and its programs for women and children in the community, please visit www.ywcamuskoka.com to make a donation.

YWCA Muskoka’s Girlz Unplugged group perform a chant they wrote about balance and personal choices: “WE choose the girls that we want to be!” (Tomasz Szumski, BlueCamel3DPhotography)
Nancy Osborne, Keynote Speaker at the 2017 YWCA Women of Distinction Gala, delivers an inspiring and entertaining speech about facing your fears and stepping outside your comfort zone. (Tomasz Szumski, BlueCamel3DPhotography)


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