Four Women of Distinction honoured at 2016 Gala

The Juniper Centre played host to the 2016 YWCA Women of Distinction Awards the evening of April 23, honouring women who have made exceptional contributions to the community throughout their lifetimes.

“The four women we’re speaking about tonight are accomplished, passionate, strong, determined, and inspired,” began Kate Whitton, who emceed the evening’s program. “Reading the stories of these women through the eyes of their friends, family, and colleagues whom they are revered by is incredible.”

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Nominees this year were June Bourguignon, Jennifer Dyke and Brenda Nelson, with Emily Pruder receiving the Chantelle Chornoby Memorial Award for Young Women of Distinction. All received awards for their efforts. Whitton introduced the nominees for the evening, and presented awards with the help of committee vice president Laurie Rasmussen-McCauley. Mayor Dennis Fenske was also on site to present the women with certificates of appreciation from the City of Thompson.

Bourguignon was the first nominee to be introduced that evening, celebrating almost 40 years of community service since moving to Thompson in the 1970s. Described as a master fundraiser, Bourguignon has contributed countless hours raising money for youth bowling, minor hockey, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, Operation Red Nose, the Royal Canadian Legion, and the Legion Ladies’ Health Auxiliary. But her accomplishments don’t end there, with direct involvement in 4H youth programs, annual Remembrance Day services, as well as working with evacuees during the 1988 forest fires. Whitton stated that, “June’s neighbours describe her as caring, kind, interested in neighbourhood activities, and one who watches over the neighbourhood kids. She’s dedicated to family and community; when asked about her proudest moments, she simply states, ‘Watching my children grow up, graduate, contribute to the wealth of the country, and being a grandma to three grandsons.’” This is the second award recognizing Bourguignon for her lifetime achievements in April, as she also received the City of Thompson’s volunteer of the year award earlier this month.

Dyke was nominated for her work in improving both Thompson’s green spaces and the lives of its children. Currently working with cognitively challenged students by day, Dyke has also sat on the Deerwood Elementary School parent advisory board, assisted with youth bowling and soccer coaching, and continues to help organize the Family Day barbecue every year. She’s also committed to Thompson’s parks, having contributed countless hours to the Communities in Bloom initiative, and the two passions came together for her crowning achievement on the Rotary Park Development Association, where she was instrumental in securing $750,000 in funding to construct the Rotary Park splash pad. She has also volunteered with the Juniper Centre as a board member. “She’s revered by co-workers and friends, who say she’s inspirational, a role model, and someone to look up to and respect,” read Whitton. “She’s dedicated to her family, our neighbourhood, our children and the community as a whole; in the words of her friend Rachel, ‘Jennifer always stands up for what’s right, even if she has to stand on her tippy-toes.’”

For 28 years, Nelson has been a foster parent to some of Thompson’s most at-risk youth. Nelson has always expressed personal devotion to the empowerment of the children in her care; she has taken great care to provide opportunities for her children to learn about their aboriginal heritage, and has been a continuing educational advocate for youth affected by fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), working with schools to develop individualized learning plans for afflicted children under her care. Throughout her time as a foster parent, Nelson has adopted two of the children she has fostered, and continues to take on new children along with her adoptees. “Brenda is a role model, teaching compassion and the value of family through her selfless dedication to her children, and she continues to be a leader and mentor for other foster parents in the community,” Whitton described.

The final recipient that evening was Emily Pruder. Whitton described Pruder as, “a community leader, a trailblazer for human rights, advocating for equality of marginalized groups and dedicated to the empowerment of young women and girls.” Pruder began volunteering with the R.D. Parker Collegiate music students association, and helping to clean up a selected neighbourhood every spring. Pruder had also been both a leader and active recruiter for Thompson’s Girl Guides, tripling the program’s participation over the course of three years. She had also quickly stepped in to co-ordinate Thompson’s community Christmas dinner, and is a founding member of Thompson’s LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered and queer) advocacy group, Pride 55, the first of its kind in the region. “At the young age of 22, Emily’s accomplishments are truly extraordinary, and we can only anticipate the remarkable results of her efforts as they continue in years to come.”

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