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Legacy Awards - 2017 Recipients
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After receiving more than 150 nominations, we are delighted to announce the recipients of the 2017 Legacy Awards!

Volunteer Toronto’s Legacy Awards celebrates 25 Toronto volunteers for their outstanding contributions to the community. From mentors to fundraisers to educators, the Awards shine a light on the unspoken heroes whose efforts are often unknown outside their local community.

On April 18th 2017, in the lead up to National Volunteer Week, a private ceremony took place with the winners, nominators and special guests to celebrate their achievements. 

For more information on the Legacy Award recipients, contact Cara Eaton, Marketing and Communications Manager. 


Award Recipients

Click on their names to learn more about their impact

Prakash Amarasooriya
Olive Clark
Antonius Clarke
Michael Cox
Gillian Dugas
Tom Gleason

Donna Green
Chi Ching Hui
Marc Hull-Jacquin
Don Lebovitz
Liza Lukashevsky
Deb Maybury

Katherine Meaney Svec
Shelley Neal
Wendy Preskow
Joseph Daniel Quigley
Jane Ross
Jack Sisco

Leslie Thurston
Vicky Tsorlinis
Rick Vassallo
David Von Zuben
Shaira Wignarajah
Sybil Wilkinson
Marilyn Wright

 Past Recipients


 The 2015 Recipients

 The 2016 Recipients

Prakash Amarasooriya
Prakash Amarasooriya, volunteer with the
Toronto Youth Cabinet

Prakash Amarasooriya: Setting youth up for success

Prakash started volunteering during high school, where despite juggling five part-time jobs he early on recognized the benefits. From stress-relief to getting his foot-in-the-door with potential job opportunities, he set out to prove he had the skills to make an impact. In his volunteer position as School Boards Lead with the Toronto Youth Cabinet, it’s clear to see he’s met this goal. “Prakash’s volunteer work has benefitted future generations of young people across the province,” says Tom Gleason, Executive Director (also a recipient of a 2017 Legacy Award). “His teamwork and leadership skills have set an example for the young people of the Toronto Youth Cabinet and demonstrated what is possible when young people work together for a common cause.”

Prakash was instrumental in securing a meeting with the Minister of Education, successfully campaigning to have financial literacy included in the Ontario curriculum. Along the way, he’s used his drive, openness, and remarkable ability to form strong relationships to push for fast and impactful change in large bureaucracies, also encouraging others to do the same.

“Volunteering taught me the life skills I needed that I was not taught in class,” Prakash says. “I learned to develop my interpersonal skills, improved my communication skills, became a better public speaker and refined my time management skills.” 

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Olive Clark

Olive Clark, volunteer at the
Etobicoke General Hospital

Olive Clark: 53 years, 1 hospital

The year was 1957: Olive Clark (now 88) and her young family picked up stakes and moved across the Atlantic Ocean from England to Canada. Little did Olive know then, she would make a big impact on their new home in Etobicoke, Ontario, for years to come.

“I was a stay at home mother when a volunteer group was suggested in Etobicoke,” Olive reflects on when she first came to Canada. “I just wanted to get involved in the community and meet friends.”

After her relocation, Olive dove right into volunteering by focusing her time and effort on bringing a new healthcare facility to Etobicoke. “It was needed because there were no other [healthcare] services in that area,” she says. The volunteer group she joined was formed seven years before a new hospital opened in 1972. Her nominating organization, the William Osler Health System, calls Olive a “pioneer,” in making the new facility’s vision come to life. At the time, her volunteering largely focused on fundraising endeavours, from stuffing envelopes, to organizing flee markets and Christmas Fairs, even knocking on doors to raise money for the new hospital. Once the Etobicoke General Hospital opened, Olive volunteered one evening a week in the emergency department,

“The nurses would call me their right hand man!” she says. “I once helped the nurses when a woman gave birth to a baby born right by the entrance doors.”

Now, Olive is the first person to greet and assist everyone that walks through the doors of Etobicoke General Hospital. Rain or shine, she seldom misses her weekly 3-hour shift and is one of their most reliable volunteers. “Olive is well known by the community for her dedication to Etobicoke General Hospital,” says Julie Brown, Volunteer Supervisor. “She not only brings enthusiasm and compassion to her role, but she has gone above and beyond in providing patient-centered care to the hospital and Etobicoke community for the past 53 years.”

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Antonius Clarke
Antonius Clarke, Founder of
Friends In Toronto Community Services

Antonius Clarke: Friends at Jane & Finch

After seeing the violence that plagued his Jane and Finch community, Antonius Clarke started Friends In Toronto Community Services (FITCS) at the tender age of 17. The organization and its initiatives specifically address seemingly impossible challenges in Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods.

From reaching at-risk youth to forming young women’s and seniors' groups, FITCS and Antonius’ drive has brought a new sense of awareness and change to the community. The “Circle of Change” program for example draws on Native restorative justice fundamentals to help youth that have multiple interactions with the Criminal Justice System. By creating individual treatment plans and offering one-on-one counselling, mentorship and advocacy the program has helped more then 200 youth have their charges withdrawn or reduced.

Most recently in July 2016, FITCS completed the "Rallying da6" walk against violence in the Jane and Finch community. FITCS raised funds from local businesses and brought together a host of different groups to bring attention to the need for collaboration. In doing so, MP Ali Hussen, the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Mayor's Office, and the Chief police joined the walk.

“As the chair of the Board of Directors, I have witnessed the organization's growth from an idea into a real force for change,” says Daniel Michael from FITCS. “Antonius has placed his own well-being aside for the better good of his community.”

In addition, Antonius finds time to use his community leadership skills to chair numerous initiatives like the Toronto Strong Neighbourhood Strategy and the Jane and Finch Crisis Response Network. “Without volunteers nothing will get done out of love,” he says. “Many people work for pay and will not help you if money isn't involved. Only as volunteers can we share in that priceless work of love.”

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Michael Cox, 2016 Volunteer Toronto Legacy Award Recipient
Michael Cox, volunteer with
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto

Michael Cox: A big brother with a big heart

38 years and six Little Brothers later, Michael Cox is an exceptional example of long-term volunteerism and the big impact one can have on another’s life. His involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto (BBBST), the organization that nominated Michael for a 2017 Legacy Award, is proof. His nominator, Kelley Swaluk from BBBST, says, “[Michael] has drawn a path for his mentees towards a life full of opportunities, second chances, and life-changing experiences, some of which many of these children and youth would not have experienced otherwise.”

Through his commitment to BBBST and the Big Brothers program, Michael has made a truly positive stamp on the lives of many children, youth and families. He’s provided one-on-one support for mentees by building rapport and being a positive role model on a consistent long-term basis. No matter his own challenges, personally and professionally, he has prioritized his commitment to his Little Brothers and remains a predictable and influential person in their lives.

Just recently, Michael celebrated his six-year anniversary with his latest Little Brother, Anees. However, only a few years ago on Father’s Day, his first Little Brother called him at home after losing touch for many years. A rather special moment for Michael, he says, “He told me that he had thought about calling for a long time and just wanted to thank me for being a part of his life.”

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Gillian Dugas
Gillian Dugas, volunteer with Anduhayaud

Gillian Dugas: Spreading (and shipping) kindness

Gillian Dugas has gone above and beyond to spread kindness and support—in particular for Aboriginal women and families in Ontario. She has organized multiple donation campaigns for Anduhyaun, an agency in Toronto that supports Aboriginal women and children. “Women fleeing violence come to our agency with sometimes nothing at all, the donations that Gillian has organized have supported these families on many levels,” says Cathi Porciello, Manager of Anduhyaun. From backpacks with school supplies to goodie bags for Halloween, Christmas and Easter, she collaborates with retailers, friends, and her family to make it all happen.

Even more remarkable is that Gillian’s outreach goes far beyond Toronto. She also arranges shipments of clothing and hockey equipment to be sent to communities in Northern Ontario. “I was very proud of getting together in my basement, boxes of winter coats, children and women's clothing, shoes, boots, sweaters and tops as the first shipment I sent to the Big Trout Lake Women's Shelter,” Gillian says. “My husband, daughter and I packed the boxes, drove them to a shipping company in Mississauga and paid for their shipment to Thunder Bay for fly-in to Big Trout Lake.” She adds, “My own daughter and grandson join me in nearly all my volunteering, so I am proud that it is the start of a legacy of volunteering in my family.”

Between her many other volunteer efforts, Gillian is also the sponsor of a Syrian refugee family who arrived in Toronto in June 2016. She even held a Christmas dinner for 60 Syrian refugee families at a local church. Gillian says it is important to volunteer and bring your own energy, skills, time, compassion and inventiveness to helping others in need or just to brighten up their lives, she adds “You can achieve meaningful things when you join together.”

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Tom Gleason
Tom Gleason, Executive Director of the
Toronto Youth Cabinet

Tom Gleason: Policy pusher

Tom Gleason started volunteering when he was in elementary school and since then has volunteered in leadership roles helping to shape Toronto for today’s youth. He’s an advocate, a community builder and the Executive Director of the Toronto Youth Cabinet (TYC), the official youth advisory body of the City of Toronto.

“Tom's passion and hard work to advocate for young people through municipal politics means that all young people of Toronto are positively impacted by his efforts,” explains Khadija Aziz, a fellow volunteer. Since stepping into his role at the TYC, “Tom has totally revamped the operations, leadership structure, and outreach of the Cabinet to attract and sustain higher youth engagement” Khadija adds. The Cabinet now represents a higher level of diversity, and Tom works with his team to successfully engage youth as young as 13.

In October 2016, Tom and Prakash Amarasooriya, also a 2017 Legacy Award recipient, held a petition and successfully pushed the Ontario Ministry of Education to include financial education as a part of the Grade 10 Career Studies course. Even further, Tom works to have the City Council reconsider policies that will negatively impact young people in the city. In just the past few months alone, he’s met with various councillors and City staff to dispute budget cuts.

“I am passionate about creating a more equitable and liveable city, that's what drives me,” Tom says. “I've witnessed dozens of young people learn new skills while making a positive impact that has helped them later on in life.”

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Donna Green
Donna Green, volunteer with the
Foundation Fighting Blindness

Donna Green: Leading the way

Donna Green is a dedicated volunteer and philanthropist who leads by example. Over the course of her life, she has supported and built multiple non-profit organizations. However, her most enduring commitment has been to the Foundation Fighting Blindness.

Donna was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa – an eye disease that causes the loss of peripheral vision – and she has less than four per cent of her sight remaining today. Instead of allowing vision loss to block her path, Donna became a vocal advocate and fundraiser for sight-saving research. For the past 20 years, she has volunteered as a member of the Foundation Fighting Blindness Board of Directors. During Donna’s tenure, the fundraising capacity of the Foundation Fighting Blindness has doubled, growing from under two million dollars each year to four million. In all, over $24 million has been granted to researchers across Canada, including research teams in Toronto.

More recently, Donna founded Stella’s Place, a center for young adults between the ages of 16-29, struggling with mental health challenges and seeking support. The Stella’s Place model is the first of its kind in Ontario.

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Chi Ching Hui
Chi Ching Hui, volunteer with the
Supporting Our Youth Express program

Chi Ching Hui: A welcoming mentor

Every Tuesday you will find Chi Ching Hui rushing from work to the Supporting Our Youth (SOY) Express program. The drop-in session is for refugee or newcomer youth who also identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ+). One of the first youth to participate in the program 15 years ago, Chi Ching was a regular until 2009, deciding he would now support other LGBTQ+ newcomers arriving to the country by coming back to Express as a volunteer.

“I remember my first volunteer experience during my first year of university,” Chi Ching reflects. “At that time I was still relatively new to Canada, not sure who I was, desperately trying to meet new friends. Like many SOY Express Youth I come across with, when they first come to our door, they are still trying to settle in to Toronto or the LGBTQ+ community.”

During the drop-in, one can find Chi Ching mentoring other youth by providing information and resources they need. An average of 25 youth attend the drop-in on a weekly basis, and with Chi Ching’s involvement over the last eight years, he has positively contributed to the well being of hundreds of new young Canadians looking to find a safe and positive community in the city.

Aamer Esmail, Volunteer Coordinator at SOY explains, “For many newcomer, immigrant and refugee LGBTQ+ youth, there is a lack of positive role models in the community. Chi Ching represents a volunteer and a mentor who has lived experience as the community he serves.”

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Marc Hull-Jacquin
Marc Hull-Jacquin, founder of
The Shelter Movers of Toronto

Marc Hull-Jacquin: Breaking the cycle

Marc Hull-Jacquin is the founder and Executive Director of The Shelter Movers of Toronto, a volunteer-based grassroots non-profit that provides free moving and storage services to women and children fleeing abuse.

In early 2016, Marc recognized a critical gap in the current social safety net: women fleeing abuse cannot safely gather their belongings when they leave a harmful home environment. Abuse survivors face a significant risk when they attempt to flee an abusive household. Through Marc's tenacious drive, local businesses and over 130 dedicated volunteers are focused on a practical solution to this social problem. After one year in operation, Marc's organization now serves 12 local shelters and social service agencies, and has served over 120 families requesting assistance.

Marc's innovative service helps to break the cycle of violence by creating a safe, dignified space for women to restart their lives, free of violence. The Shelter Movers' no-cost model is the only one of its kind in Canada, attracting attention from five other major Canadian cities looking to replicate this important service in their community.

Marc says he is inspired by the stories of courageous women and children fleeing abuse. “Volunteering opens you to people and life experiences to which you might otherwise never have access. It puts you in positions you never thought you could handle, and gives you confidence that real social change is possible.”

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Don Lebovitz
Don Lebovitz, co-founder of
Crohn’s and Colitis Canada

Don Lebovitz: Challenging the stigma

As co-founder of Crohn’s and Colitis Canada, one of the top two health charity funders of Crohn’s and Colitis research in the world, Don Lebovitz has made an impact that stretches far beyond the City of Toronto. Although it did all begin here, 40 years ago, when Don and others realized there was a gap in resources for those who faced the chronic diseases. Approximately 40,000 people in Toronto live with Crohn’s or Colitis. As a parent, Don and his family have bravely shared the loss of their son to help bring more awareness. But to him and many others, the needs were clear. Along with several other parents of suffers, he launched the completely volunteer-driven non-profit Crohn’s and Colitis Canada in 1974.

Through Don’s proactive efforts there’s now a network to lean on, online and in person, for resources, education tools and materials, support, and cutting-edge research and treatments. Erin Spink, National Manager of Volunteer Engagement at Crohn’s and Colitis Canada says, “None of which existed before [Don] stepped forward to help found our organization.”

As an active member of the Crohn’s and Colitis Canada Board of Directors, Don focused on research fundraising to expand the organization’s impact. Using his business and personal contacts, Don has forged relationships with major supporters to raise over $25 million for the organization. Erin adds, “His example is one we can all follow…he is a driving force behind new treatments, countless resources and less stigma.”

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Liza Lukashevsky
Liza Lukashevsky, President of the
Bloordale Business Improvement Association

Liza Lukashevsky: Bringing a community vision to life

As President of the Bloordale Business Improvement Association (BIA), Liza’s volunteering has been instrumental in driving positive change in the community found between Dufferin and Lansdowne, on Bloor Street West in Toronto. For years, Bloordale was home to numerous vacant storefronts, vandalized parks, and low community morale. Although she’s only been at it for two years, Liza has demonstrated that she has an incredible vision for the community. She has introduced a large slate of changes to the neighbourhood that have aided in its recognition as a highly diverse up-and-coming area that continues to change for the better.

Working alongside the Bloordale Community Improvement Association, local resident associations, Cycle Toronto, and local politicians, Liza has spearheaded changes in streetscaping including the addition of murals, artistic bike racks, and new planter boxes. In her position on the BIA she’s also initiated a local farmers' and artisans market in a park that was once run-down and has helped launch a tree tendering program to encourage locals to care for and water trees outside of their businesses.

Importantly, Liza is an advocate of inclusivity. She’s engaged others in the community to have their voices heard. She’s a strong advocate for cycling, increased housing, and public art. Noah Frank who has worked closely with Liza says, “There is a strong sense of community pride, much of which is related to the changes Liza has initiated.”

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Deb Maybury
Deb Maybury, volunteer with
The Gatehouse

Deb Maybury: You’re not alone

For the past five years, Deb has volunteered with The Gatehouse, a community centre that provides support, resources and advocacy for victims of childhood sexual abuse. As a group facilitator, she selflessly gives back her time and energy. “She emanates a strong sense of self and inspires others to move past trauma and become hopeful and stronger in their healing journey,” says Maria Barcelos, Supervisor at The Gatehouse.

In 2013, Deb published a book called Unlock the Door: Beyond Sexual Abuse, which included 39 stories of courage, resilience and healing. During this process, she spent countless hours interviewing, supporting and bringing to life the stories of men and women, survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Her book provided an avenue to share stories that are not often told due to the shame, guilt and stigma that survivors experience. After hearing from a peer-support group, Deb says, “I appreciated the depth of healing amongst the participants. I knew, within a few weeks, that I wanted to support others on their healing journey.”

Deb understands the complex responses that survivors of trauma experience and ensures that the safety of the group process is maintained. She supports and exemplifies the notion of having a voice and sharing in a non-judgmental setting, also acting as a great example to the other facilitators, demonstrating self-confidence, excellent communication and organizational abilities. She now even holds the role of lead volunteer facilitator at The Gatehouse, whereby she supports other facilitators in working through their issues and concerns.

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Katherine Meaney Svec
Katherine Meaney Svec, volunteer with
Dying With Dignity Canada

Katherine Meaney Svec: No man is an island

Katherine Meaney Svec has been a pivotal part of the Dying With Dignity Canada movement for the past decade. After spending the latter part of her career as Chief Technologist in the Neurological Department of a downtown hospital, she became passionate about the need for people to plan ahead while they are still well. “I had seen distressed families torn apart when it came to making the right decision on treatment for a loved one whose own wishes were unknown. Sadly, this is sometimes a rift that does not heal, and recriminations go on for years,” Katherine reflects.

From serving on the Board, to doing media interviews and heading information sessions, Katherine has been instrumental in igniting the conversation on medically assisted dying in Canada. She’s been the driving force behind the creation of advance care planning kits, spending more than 2,000 volunteer hours researching provincial and internal legislation, crafting documents and teaching workshops across Toronto, as well as training other volunteers to lead workshops on advance care planning across Canada.

Katherine's tireless work to create province-specific directives for end of life care has given countless Canadians the tools to converse with their families about their end of life wishes, as well as the confidence of knowing that they are directing their medical care even if they are unable to speak for themselves. Her volunteer manager, Anya Colangelo, says, “On a regular basis, we receive emails from Canadians thanking us for these documents and the peace of mind they've provided they and their families. There is no doubt that Katherine's work leaves a legacy that will impact Canadians for decades to come.”

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Shelley Neal
Shelley Neal, creator of the rEcess program

Shelley Neal: It takes a village to raise a child

Shelley has been the driving force behind the rEcess program, designed to address a gap in childcare and support that was not otherwise being met in the community. Through Shelley’s efforts, parents of children with disabilities get a much-needed break and time to reconnect as a couple. The once a month program invites families to bring all of their children and drop them off at church for a four-hour play date with a one-on-one volunteer chosen just for them. rEcess is free and completely volunteer-driven.

“Shelley saw the need when she worked as a teacher at Holland Bloorview,” says Julie McCoy, a fellow volunteer. “She saw how exhausted the parents looked, the financial and the emotional toll having a child with special needs has on the entire family.”

Shelley now manages 70 volunteers every month to coordinate the events. “She provides training and encouragement for each of our volunteers and she is the reason our volunteer retention is so high,” says Julie. This is critical given the one-to-one ratio Shelley emphasizes as a key aspect to the program. “Shelley's most important impact on the community is inclusion and acceptance.” Julie adds, “Teaching the volunteers about inclusion and acceptance sends ripples out into the world; as each of them returns to their communities they are bringing this teaching with them and teaching others.”

As busy as life gets Shelley has always made time for the rEcess program and the families. Shelley says, “The children at rEcess are my inspiration and their parents are my heroes.” Through the monthly programming, communities of care have been formed as siblings and parents are able to connect like never before.

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Wendy Preskow
Wendy Preskow, founder of the
National Initiative for Eating Disorders

Wendy Preskow: A national voice

Once a scrapbook enthusiast and Sickkids volunteer, Wendy Preskow has now made national leaps and bounds in bringing together stakeholders to form the National Initiative for Eating Disorders (NIED). It was time to switch her focus to help her daughter who had bulimia and anorexia for 17 years, and others facing the disorders. She formed NIED in 2012 after feeling helpless in finding the right resources, realizing there was a gap she could help fill.

“She could not sit back knowing there were hundreds of thousands of families like hers struggling endlessly every minute of every day often with no end in sight,” says Lynne Koss, a fellow volunteer with NIED.

Motivated by Wendy’s passion and leadership, NIED is comprised entirely of volunteers and is considered the national collective voice for families affected by Eating Disorders. More than 50 free interactive symposia have been hosted with trained professionals, with an audience of more than 2,500 in person and through web-streaming. Wendy and NIED have met with MPPs throughout Toronto to educate and inform about inadequate funding for prevention, treatment programs, training, caregiver support, and research related to Eating Disorders. She helped initiate knitting programs to offer warmth, support and hope to those affected. She’s also received and responded to over 11,500 emails and phone calls from those seeking support. NIED started in Toronto, but has now grown nationally with numerous organizations and stakeholders working towards the same messaging, breaking down the silos that existed in Canada prior to Wendy’s leadership and its formation.

Lynne adds, “Wendy is dynamic, inspirational, tenacious, and filled with passion to help sufferers and their loved ones gain the support they so desperately need, to form networks and partnerships among organizations and professionals, and bring awareness about Eating Disorders to our legislators.”

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Joseph Daniel Quigley
Joseph Daniel Quigley, volunteer with the
Philip Aziz Centre for Hospice Care and Emily's House

Joseph Daniel Quigley: Find your match

Since September 2013, Joseph Daniel Quigley has contributed over 2,500 volunteer hours supporting children and adults who require hospice palliative care services in Toronto. Through volunteering with the Philip Aziz Centre for Hospice Care and Emily's House (Toronto's first Residential Children's Hospice), he's directly been involved in creating new programming, securing donations, and in referring others, putting in more hours at Emily's House, monthly, than any other volunteer.

“Daniel provides interim, respite and palliative care to children and adults living with terminal and life limiting illnesses - helping hundreds of people live their lives fully to the end with dignity, respect and comfort,” says Amanda Maragos, his volunteer manager/supervisor.

A survivor himself, Daniel knows the pains of long appointments and uncomfortable treatments, “During six rounds of chemotherapy treating my own leukemia I had come across so many children undergoing the same treatment. I felt drawn to them - deeply so.” Daniel now drives terminally ill clients to their treatment appointments, stays with them, and then drives them home later. He also helped to create a food program and partnership with Summerhill Foods to ensure quality food for homemade means are available to those who need it, at no expense to families. He acts as Emily House’s grocery shopper and is heavily involved in the administration of food services and deliveries.

“I know absolutely that there is some place for every person to volunteer,” says Daniel. "The key is reaching out and finding where is the fit for you. It is a commitment and it should not be taken lightly but it is a beautiful life affirming gift when you find your match.”

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Jane Ross
Jane Ross, volunteer in the Weston community

Jane Ross: A legacy made in Weston

Starting as a member of the Weston Leo Club at 14, Jane Ross has spent the last 45 years serving Toronto as a volunteer. She was the first female member of the Weston Lions Club, and has truly given her blood, sweat and tears to the community in a lifelong commitment, volunteering more than 500 hours each year.

When she’s not working as an Administrative Assistant, Jane is busy at the Weston Lions Arena Snack Bar, keeping the books, also organizing Toronto Blue Jay giveaway events and the Weston Collegiate Alumni Foundation.

“Many organizations benefit from Jane’s work with the Lions Club,” says Samantha Noort, a fellow volunteer. In 2016, $75,000 was invested back into the community through initiatives Jane touched. From sending blind children to camp, providing at risk youth with good breakfasts, supporting the Weston Food Bank, the Humber Regional Hospital, driving scholarships for students, and helping connect youth with the service dogs they need, Samantha says Jane is the embodiment of volunteerism in Toronto.

“My greatest seasonal volunteer commitment starts again with the opening day for the Toronto Blue Jays,” Jane says. “Our Lions Club has been working with the Jays for 40 years, handling the gates for the giveaways. I have been running the volunteers for the past seven years, communicating, organizing gate assignments and coordinating all of this with the Jays staff.” She adds, “I have over 100 unbelievable volunteers for Jays, of all ages, from all over Toronto. Their enthusiasm for the work, knowing that their labour will help others humbles me and keeps me smiling as I run around the stadium on game days.”

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Jack Sisco
Jack Sisco, volunteer with the Yonge Street Mission

Jack Sisco: Lending a helping hand

For over 50 years, Jack Sisco has been part of the Yonge Street Mission, a charity that brings peace, justice and dignity to people who live with poverty in downtown Toronto. In his childhood, he attended the organization’s Sunday school and summer camps, and as an adult he has dedicated over 20 years of volunteering to the charity, helping out with property maintenance tasks and delivering donations of food and clothing.

“In his volunteer role, Jack is responsible for assisting our Property Services Department team with any property maintenance tasks and ensuring that all incoming donations are picked up promptly and delivered safely to the Mission in a timely manner,” explains Racine Senining, Volunteer Coordinator at the Yonge Street Mission.

Many of the Mission’s programs rely on generous donations of food, clothing and other essentials to help support and respond to the basic needs of community members who are struggling with poverty. Jack’s role at the Mission is crucial in ensuring that these donations reach the people who need them most. Racine recalls, “A great example would be during the Christmas season when Jack, wearing an elf costume, brought amazing and wonderful Christmas cheer to everyone at the Mission as he unloaded the trucks and filled bins with toys, food and clothing that went to individuals and families that needed them most for the holidays.”

Jack often works a lot of early mornings, sometimes as early as 5 a.m., when many of us are still asleep in bed. No matter the time of day, weather or road conditions, Jack is always there ready to lend a hand.

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Leslie Thurston, volunteer with
Not Far From the Tree

Leslie Thurston: Biking +1,800 pounds of fruit

Leslie Thurston has single-handedly biked over 1,800 pounds of fruit picked in the backyards of Toronto to community agencies over the past two years. As a volunteer “Supreme Gleaner” with Not Far From the Tree, a Toronto-based fruit picking project, Leslie has led over 50 fruit picks, riding a cargo bike with equipment to the fruit pick, and then biking the bounty of fruit to shelters and food banks across the city.

“Her efforts have ensured that fresh fruit is being delivered to people in Toronto who otherwise wouldn’t have access to Toronto’s bounty,” says Megan Anevick, Program Manager. “[Her] contribution goes above and beyond our wildest expectations, and her dedication has allowed our organization to increase our reach and impact.”

Imagine the effort it takes to bike over 100 pounds of apples through Toronto’s crowded streets. Leslie’s experience doing just that has positioned her to provide advice and mentorship to a newly recruited team of Supreme Gleaners.

“What I love about volunteering from Not Far From The Tree is that I get to be beside trees, I get to eat organic food as part of the fruit we pick is mine, I get to give some of the fruit to homeless people locally, and I get to share the fruit with my friends and family who then share it with others,” Leslie says. “It was all going to waste before. I get to combine many of my loves - non-wastage of food, sharing, nature, fruit, and cycling.”

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Vicky Tsorlinis
Vicky Tsorlinis, volunteer with the
Malvern Collegiate Institute and others

Vicky Tsorlinis: Cross the sidelines

Vicky Tsorlinis believes in community, plain and simple. Whether it's supporting parents and students from the Malvern Collegiate Institute, leading fundraising events for charities, volunteering at a hospice or collecting personal goods, Vicky is a volunteer force to be reckoned with. Through marriage, seeing both children off to post-secondary school, and holding down a full time job, her volunteering hasn’t wavered.

While her children were in high school, Vicky led fundraising events and programs to provide over $105,000 in scholarships for all students, maintaining a roster of over 250 donors who support her year after year. She’s served as the school council’s Treasurer for seven years, and has researched and organized over 20 seminars featuring experts in areas such as anti-bullying, responsible social media use, teenage anxiety, underage drinking and drug use. She uses social media to bring awareness and build a community, yet insists on sending handwritten letters when asking for donations.

Vicky in addition has raised $23,000 for the Ride to Conquer Cancer, $21,000 for the Bayside Rowing Club and $15,000 for Emily’s House, a children’s hospice. Whether donating supplies to a downtown refuge, volunteering at a local hospice or grocery shopping for the blind lady who lived in her basement, Vicky consistently goes to great lengths to help others who can’t help themselves.

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Rick Vassallo
Rick Vassallo, volunteer with the
Chrysalis Anti Human Trafficking Network

Rick Vassallo: Survivor and thriver

Volunteering for the Chrysalis Anti Human Trafficking Network, Rick Vassallo has shown great empathy in working with people who have experienced being trafficked for forced commercial sex or labour. Through crisis counselling by telephone, he reaches women, men and youth, fostering a safe environment where others can discuss their situations.

Rick has volunteered for four years with the Chrysalis Anti Human Trafficking Network. Because of his past experience as a sex worker and as a survivor of sexual abuse, he understands the unique challenges involved in overcoming abuse and has been a real asset to the organization. James Venneear, Volunteer Coordinator, says, “I have received a number of compliments about Rick's work on the crisis line.”

Rick has also given back through his time at the LAMP Community Health Centre, serving on the community relations team for approximately two years. He even helps newcomers orient to Toronto, giving them a place to stay and guidance in finding temporary employment, sometimes achieved through the network he's grown while volunteering.

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David Von Zuben
David Von Zuben, volunteer with
The Stop Community Food Centre

David Von Zuben: Food and hope for the soul

For over 30 years, The Stop Community Food Centre has been at the forefront of dignified, innovative programs that provide access to healthy food and confront the underlying issues that lead to poverty and hunger. The Stop programs include drop-in meals, a food bank, community kitchens and gardens, perinatal and family support. David Von Zuben is one of the tireless volunteers who makes this a safe welcoming place where anyone, regardless of where they live, can enjoy a nutritious meal.

Every day approximately 200 free lunches are served by David and other volunteers during his shift. That adds up to almost 57,000 within the year. Over healthy meals, David facilitates a space to connect across neighbourhoods and cultures.

“At a time when our city struggles with poverty, when hateful political discourse across the world fills our airwaves, this kind of social solidarity that David is a part of is more important than ever,” says Sonia Arana, Volunteer Coordinator at The Stop.

Some of David’s responsibilities include welcoming people into the drop-in, providing information on meals and other activities, serving food during lunch hour, setting up the coffee table, juice, cups, milk, and sugar, also wiping down the tables, and ensuring that the room is clean. Many times he offers support that has been requested at the last minute, often involving hard physical work—the kind of work that no one likes to do, but has to be done. Sonia adds, “David feeds not only our hungry bodies; more importantly, he also feeds our souls hungry for hope.”

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Shaira Wignarajah
Shaira Wignarajah, volunteer with
Baycrest Health Sciences

Shaira Wignarajah: 40 to 1,000

What started out as a 40-hour high school requirement for Shaira, recipient of a 2017 Legacy Award, soon after became over 1,000 hours of giving back in many different ways – often in leadership roles. As a volunteer at Baycrest Health Sciences for seven years, she has received three recognition awards for contributions and is our youngest award recipient for 2017, at only 22 years old.

Shaira says her passions lie in helping young individuals realize their potential, and improving their mental and emotional health. She started her volunteering journey by creating a manicure program for the elderly residents; also in the process teaching other youth volunteers how to create their own programs at Baycrest. She then became co-vice President of Baycrest’s Youth Council, serving for two years, and is currently co-president, serving for another 2.5.

Shaira encourages others to use arts as a means of expression, herself turning to music and drawing to release negative feelings. She extends this through her position as vice president of the Winters Community Arts Club, which provides free arts, drama, and dance programs for children in the Jane and Finch community. She’s also a volunteer at the South Asian Autism Awareness Centre, is co-chair of the Campus Mental Health Strategy at York University, and sits as a member on the North Toronto Health Link Patient and Family Advisory Council.

As if we could expect her to have more time, she has written, edited, and published eight articles in medical journals, along with an article on Advanced Care Planning published in Hospital News. Shaira also presented at the World Cancer Congress in Australia and delivered a keynote at the 2nd Global Congress on Hospice & Palliative Care. She is currently a fourth year student at York University in Kinesiology (BSc).

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Sybil Wilkinson
Sybil Wilkinson, volunteer with Hospice Toronto and others

Sybil Wilkinson: Immeasurable impact

Seventeen years ago, after directly experiencing support from Hospice Toronto for her sister, Sybil Wilkinson sprung into action, joining as an in-home volunteer. Through this role, and as a long-term volunteer with organizations like the AGO, Harbourfront Centre and the Historical Society, among others, she has been an inspiration with an unwavering commitment to community engagement and volunteerism.

Over her time as an in-home hospice volunteer, Sybil has impacted more than 15 Hospice Toronto clients through thousands of hours of care and support. “I see my volunteer work with Hospice Toronto as a drop in the bucket compared to what I have received,” says Sybil. “I'm incredibly in awe of the support and respectfulness of the staff, of the entire organization." While we can measure the hours Sybil has given, what is immeasurable is the impact of holding the hand of someone as they leave this world.

Sybil’s also served on several committees, in addition to continuing her in-home role. She’s become an ambassador for Hospice Toronto in the community, attending volunteer information sessions sharing her experiences with potential volunteers, participating in outreach initiatives and even starring in a recent outreach video.

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Marilyn Wright
Marilyn Wright, volunteer with the
Toronto Christian Resource Centre in Regent Park

Marilyn Wright: A guiding light

As a volunteer with the CRC Regent Park Community Food Centre, Marilyn Wright has touched all parts of the organization and is instrumental in both fundraising and volunteer engagement functions. Since 2008, she has deeply supported poverty-relief and capacity-building work. In 2012, she coordinated cash and furniture donations, right down to the salt and peppershakers, to outfit 87 affordable rental units. And in 2016, she helped pull off their "Building Lives Benefit" event that attracted 400+ attendees, garnering $315,000 in sponsorship, ticket sales, and donated cash and gifts for core programming.

Marilyn currently serves as a member of the CRC’s Honorary Board of Directors and Fundraising Committee, and is a weekly coordinator for visiting corporate and community teams who assist in serving meals at the Centre. By way of Marilyn's support, the CRC has cultivated strong philanthropic and volunteer partnerships with a number of Toronto organizations across the corporate, community service, and faith-related sectors. As volunteer team host, just last year she was instrumental in the stewardship of more than 90 visiting corporate teams, who contributed 25,000+ in donated hours to the CRC.

Marilyn says, “I volunteer alongside those who are privileged and those who are not. I can say that we all volunteer because we have been influenced by someone in our lives who has instilled that value in us.” She adds, “When we volunteer together we are equals because we respect each other and are there for the same purpose."

Outside of the CRC, Marilyn is an equally dedicated supporter of orthopaedic care and research. She’s served as a member of the former Orthopaedic and Arthritic Hospital Foundation Board, the Sunnybrook Hospital Foundation Board, and the Canadian Orthopaedic Foundation Board, among others.

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For media inquiries regarding the 2017 Legacy Award recipients, please contact:

Cara Eaton
Marketing and Communications Manager
416-961-6888 ext 231


Photos taken by Salathiel Wesser Photography

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