The theme of the meeting, “Community Solutions,” was woven into the day’s events, which recognized volunteers, businesses and other organizations that had made significant contributions to enriching the lives of people with physical disabilities in Ontario.
Volunteers are integral to Ontario March of Dimes in all communities. The Right Honourable Paul Martin Senior Award acknowledges volunteers who have contributed 12 or more years of continuous service to the organization. Four individuals whose combined services amounted to over 60 years were recognized: Mike Goodman of Hamilton, Pat Ford of Hamilton, Marilyn Phillips of St. Catharines and Dirk Depass of Mississauga were all acknowledged for lengthy service and continuous commitment to the issues of people with disabilities and to fostering opportunity, equity and accessibility within the framework of Ontario March of Dimes.
The Reverend Roy Essex Award recognizes an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to Ontario March of Dimes in either direct service, policy-making or fundraising activities. Doug Wilkes of Oakville received this special award for his role in creating a partnership between Tetra Society of North America and Ontario March of Dimes, which has resulted in the establishment of three chapters: Toronto, Oakville and Waterloo. Thanks to Doug’s leadership, technically skilled volunteers create unique, inexpensive devices that meet the specific needs of consumers for whom commercially produced devices are not available.
The Jonas Salk Award was presented by Ontario March of Dimes’ former President, Dr. David Logan, and Dr. Luis Barreto of Pasteur Mérieux Connaught Laboratories Ltd. The award was established by Ontario March of Dimes on the 40th anniversary of the general release of the Salk vaccine for poliomyelitis. Shortly after the awards inception, Pasteur Mérieux Connaught joined as a sponsor, re-establishing a relationship from the 1950s between the two organizations.
This year’s recipient, Dr. David H. MacLennan, is one of Canada’s foremost biomedical scientists. He has received numerous awards, including the Ayerst Award of the Canadian Biochemical Society, the International Lecturer Award of the Biophysical Society, and the Gairdner Foundation International Award. He was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. Dr. MacLennan has led a team of researchers into finding the genetic basis of malignant hyperthermia, and he is the Principal Investigator in the Canadian Genetic Diseases Network of Centres of Excellence. Dr. MacLennan is the J.W. Billes Professor of Medical Research at the University of Toronto.
Role Models in the Community:
The Rick Hansen Award celebrates the achievements of unique individuals whose human spirit and skill continue to inspire. The award has not been given annually, but is reserved for the very special individual whose mark on society is incomparable, difficult to categorize, but leaves one with permanent memories of excellence and devotion to humanity. The 1998 recipient, Craig MacFarlane of Desbarats, is known as a man of such personal innovations. MacFarlane lost his sight at the age of two, took up the sport of wrestling at the age of seven and achieved acclaim over the next decade, winning over 90 per cent of his matches against sighted and non-sighted persons. Craig became the first blind person in the world to water ski jump and won the world’s speed record, winning the U.S.A. Blind Person’s Down Hill Ski Challenge.
Craig MacFarlane is an active public speaker, bringing a message of hope and encouragement to thousands of people with and without disabilities across North America. He has been honoured by seven American governors and has earned 103 gold medals in sports, including wrestling, water skiing, snow skiing and track and field. Unfortunately, Craig was not able to receive the award personally, but Ontario March of Dimes will present it to him in Sault Ste. Marie.
The Ontario Federation for the Physically Disabled (OFPH) Award of Merit recognizes a post-secondary student who is a role model for others. Sharmin Jaffer was presented the award by Rod McFadyen, a long-serving community activist, volunteer with Ontario March of Dimes and former OFPH member. Sharmin, a student of Public Relations at Humber College in Toronto, was nominated for her consistently positive attitude in the face of many challenges presented by cerebral palsy, both academically and personally. Sharmin devotes an extraordinary amount of extracurricular time to many volunteer organizations and has participated in the Terry Fox Run, using her walker to complete the race. Sharmin is an inspiration to other students and teachers alike.
Ontario March of Dimes’ own Barrier-Free Design program strives to raise awareness about accessible building design through a showcase of accessible housing solutions in Thorold, a barrier-free design consultation service in London and two housing registries for accessible accommodation in Niagara Falls and London. The annual Award of Merit for Barrier-Free Design further highlights the importance of integrating accessible design into the built environment. Pamela Cluff, President of Associated Planning Consultants, presented the award jointly to Hamilton Street Railway Company and the City of Timmins, both for adding low-floor accessible buses to the public transit fleets.
Casino Niagara, Niagara Falls, was honoured with the Ontario March of Dimes Vocational Rehabilitation Award for successfully integrating persons with disabilities into full-time employment. The company has demonstrated its commitment to employment of people with disabilities through hiring of students from Ontario March of Dimes’ Supported Employment Services and providing the necessary accommodations to successfully integrate these individuals into the workplace.
The Community Partnership Award recognizes an innovative organization or company working in a unique partnership with Ontario March of Dimes to support persons with physical disabilities. The 1998 recipient, the Network Advisory Committee (NAC) of London, ensures that women with disabilities who have been the victims of violence have access to the support and services that they need. NAC’s notable achievements include arrangements for accessible transportation, attendant services, and ASL interpreters for victims on a 24-hour, on-call basis.
Integration and Full Participation:
The Honourable Justice George Ferguson was in attendance to present the award named in his honour, which recognizes an individual organization’s commitment to the full integration into society of persons with disabilities. Receiving the award was Hugh Scher, President of Advocacy Resource Centre for the Handicapped (ARCH), for its 20 years of successful advocacy, education, and work to advance the interests of persons with disabilities. ARCH’s work has produced precedent-setting legal cases and social policy reform.