A dedication to helping youth at risk reach their full potential is the common denominator tying together this year’s six diverse recipients of Rotary Club of Toronto West’s Youth Impact Awards.
Janice O’Born, Julie Polsinelli, Amber Morley, and John Tyers were celebrated as this year’s individual award recipients, while LAMP Community Health Centre and The Royal LePage Shelter Foundation were named as organizational honorees at the 14th Annual Awards Gala, held Friday with more than 300 guests in attendance at the Old Mill Inn in Etobicoke.
This year’s Rotary Lifetime Achievement Youth Impact Award went to O’Born, chairman of The Printing House Charitable Office.
Since founding the Charitable Office in 1985, O’Born has raised millions of dollars on behalf of charities as varied as The Hospital for Sick Children and SickKids Foundation, Sunnybrook Trauma Unit, CANFAR, The Canadian Centre for Diversity, and VOICE, through the various fundraising projects she’s directed.
“A believer in the importance of supporting family and community, Janice influences every person that she meets with the spirit of voluntarism and philanthropy,” reads her Rotary profile, which also notes that O’Born has received many recognition awards for her contributions and humanitarian endeavours in helping children and youth.
In addition to walking away from Friday’s gala with the Lifetime Achievement Award, O’Born’s The Printing House Charitable Office was also named the recipient of a major portion of the funds raised at the silent auction tables at Friday night’s gala. Those funds will now be used to support VOICE and the Canadian Centre for Diversity.
The balance of funds raised will go towards many local and international projects, with an emphasis on helping youth at risk.
Other Youth Impact Awards handed out in recognition of exemplary contributions and dedication to assisting youth include:
* Individual under 18: Julie Polsinelli, 17
Now a Grade 12 student at Humberside Collegiate Institute, Julie first became involved with fundraising for the Heart and Stroke Foundation when she was in Grade 5 at Fern Public School – an experience she said showed her the true extent to which an individual can positively affect change. A leader in her community ever since, Julie has been involved with Harbourfront Camps, the Scotiabank Marathon, Inside Ride, and Ontario Track 3 Ski Association over the years. More recently she has volunteered with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Toronto Youth In-School Mentoring program.
* Individual under 25: Amber Morley, 23
A youth activist described by many as a “trailblazer,” Morley has championed south Etobicoke youth’s desperate need for recreational gym space and positive, youth-led programming through deputations at city hall, and at rallies and meetings with community leaders.
A recent Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal recipient, Morley is exceedingly active in her community, serving on the Board of Directors for the Remix Project and on the Grants Committee for the Laidlaw Foundation, plus delivering youth workshops on improving mental health, anti-bullying, self-esteem, healthy relationships, goal setting, and leadership at LAMP Community Health Centre.
* Individual Award: John Tyers
A native Etobian and longtime local coach, Tyers now spends much of his spare time volunteering with a program he co-founded in 2009 – the Islington Community Golf Association. Based out of the Islington Golf Club, where Tyers is a longstanding member, this free program “uses the game of golf to teach disadvantaged youth aged eight to 18 various life skills, with an emphasis on social skills and respect for others,” while also encouraging higher education and offering youth opportunities for summer employment.
Over the past 27 years, Tyers has also co-ordinated with golf club members to fund an annual Christmas dinner for Etobicoke communities in need – prepared by the Islington Golf Club and served by Toronto police volunteers.
* Business Award: The Royal LePage Shelter Foundation
Recognized as the largest public foundation in the country dedicated exclusively to supporting women’s shelters and violence prevention programs, the Royal LePage Shelter Foundation has raised more then $15 million for women’s shelters since 1998.
Across Canada, nearly 200 shelters are funded, helping 30,000 women and children each year. And since Royal LePage covers the foundation’s administrative costs, 100 per cent of the funds raised go directly to the various causes undertaken.
The foundation also funds programs that help children to heal from the devastating effects of domestic violence, teach youth how to develop healthy relationships, and help women and children rebuild their lives after abuse.
* Community Service: LAMP Community Health Centre
LAMP “strives to improve quality of life by supporting people to reach their full potential” by working in partnership with the community to address new and emerging community needs, and by supporting a wide range of health care services, community programs, and advocacy initiatives that promote physical, emotional, social, and economic well-being.
Established in 1976, LAMP has grown and expanded over the years to the point where it now currently hosts 19 LAMP programs and boasts six participating agencies.
Services include social and health programs for individuals and families, and co-ordination of resources to facilitate and improve human services. Direct services include clinical and non-clinical community programs, community development and engagement projects, and community education activities for all ages, with particular focus on persons who face barriers to access.