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5 People Who Changed Toronto For The Better In 2015

Posted By Camara Chambers, Director of Community Engagement, January-11-16
Group photo of award winners
Winners of the 2015 Legacy Awards

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

At Volunteer Toronto, every day we hear tidbits about the incredible work being done by volunteers to make Toronto a city we’re proud to live in. Whether they are advocating for the rights of those less privileged, making it easier for people in low-income neighbourhoods to access food, or providing a home for the many abandoned cats in the city, Toronto wouldn’t be the same without the contribution of its volunteers.

And every now and again, we come across people who have gone above and beyond in their contribution and wowed us with their commitment to the community. Our annual Legacy Awards began in 2011 and shine a light on 25 special volunteers who have given an exceptional contribution to their community. Last year’s winners amazed us. Here are just five of their stories...

Photo of Khadija Aziz with Award Khadija Aziz, the youngest 2015 award winner, is an 18-year old youth leader and arts advocate in her community of Thorncliffe Park. Her belief that all youth should be encouraged to explore arts and take on leadership roles has resulted in her creating the first ever youth-led art show in East York called Thorncliffe Artscape. At school, her passion and advocacy for the arts influenced an increase in student participation and engagement  and recently, Khadija facilitated the creation of two live murals in downtown Toronto where twenty-four students put their artistic skills to use by painting two 5ft by 5ft canvasses that would be displayed at a youth shelter in Etobicoke. Go to to view her work. 
Photo of Yves Boucher with award  Yves Boucher was working as a fire fighter, when in 2008 he was diagnosed with a stage 3-4 brain tumour and told he only had 5 more years to live. Despite the side effects of the surgery and radiation/chemotherapy, he was still driven to help others and began volunteering his time at Gilda's Club of Greater Toronto, encouraging others to heal. Yves and his dog Betty volunteer at Bridgepoint Hospital visiting patients and providing inspiration for their rehabilitative therapy. When asked about the surgery scar on his head, he replies “Don’t worry, it’s just cancer!” He has helped raise over $25,000 for Princess Margaret Hospital where he continues to receive treatment.
Photo of Reesee with award Reesee survived an abusive relationship and several years later founded Reclaim Your Voice, an event series that creates a platform for survivors and those going through abuse to experience the power of sharing their stories. For many survivors of abuse, it stands as a place of solace and understanding for anyone looking to take an important step in the healing process by speaking out. The events, funded out of her own pocket, are open to men, women, survivors and supporters alike and restore survivors' faith in the opposite sex by emphasizing the compassion that exists within us all.  

Photo of Simon Chamberlain with Award


10 years ago, in an effort to revive the Mount Dennis community association, Simon Chamberlain became a strong voice actively leading community clean-ups and projects to bring people together. Over the past three winters, Simon has been the driving force behind the creation and supervision of one of the best resident-driven projects in Mount Dennis - an Outdoor Community Skating rink in Pearen Park. He spends 30-50 hours a week volunteering at the outdoor rink organizing one of Toronto's few "Learn to Skate Programs." and has been instrumental in helping hundreds of new skaters enjoy an outdoor sport they would not normally be exposed to.  

 Photo of Tamara Doerksen with Award


In 1971, Tamara Doerksen lost her brother to a congenital heart defect. In 2010, she launched Lonny’s Smile Foundation, a children's initiative to honour the memory of her brother, and help children with medical challenges to experience the typical elements of childhood such as play, friendship, laughter and adventure. Under Tamara’s leadership as CEO and Founder, Lonny’s Smile has raised over $100,000 to send more than 100 kids to Camp Oki, Canada’s first Summer Camp for children with congenital heart disease. 


Do you know someone deserving of recognition? We are accepting nominations for the 2016 Legacy Awards until 5pm on Thursday February 4th. If you know someone who deserves an award, nominate them today!

Camara Chambers manages Volunteer Toronto's public engagement strategy and team. This includes working with community partners, leading large-scale events and overseeing various programs that aim to encourage Torontonians to volunteer. In 2014, the community engagement team helped connect 550,000 people to volunteer positions in Toronto!

Tags:  Abuse Stories  Arts Advocates  Cancer  City of Toronto Volunteers  Gilda's Club of Greater Toronto  Legacy Awards  Lonny's Smile  Reclaim Your Voice  Thanking Volunteers  Toronto volunteers  Volunteer Appreciation Awards  volunteer celebration  volunteer recognition  Volunteers 

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