2016 Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers Award Recipients
Ten young people received the Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers:
Fitsum Areguy, 24, of Kitchener volunteers with the Young Carers Project (YCP), which educates the public about young carers and builds a supportive community for them. He is a leader on the youth advisory committee; he speaks at public events; and he helped create YCP's guidebook, website and documentary film. Fitsum also volunteers with the Male Allies public education program to end gender-based violence and the REACH For It! Program for youth with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.
Lucie Bingley, 22, of Smiths Falls has volunteered with the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital for the past five years. She volunteers four to five days each week with the hospital's Clinical Laboratory and visits patients in the Dialysis program, all while overcoming her own physical challenges. Lucie is also a talented musician who frequently entertains hospital patients with live performances.
Jillian Bjelan, 19, of Hensallhas contributed more than 1,000 volunteer hours since entering high school. She has donated her time and talents to numerous events in her community of around 1,000 people, including acting as stage manager for the Blyth Festival's 14/19 initiative and serving as a Hensall Fair Ambassador. At school, she co-founded an Active Minds mental wellness group, mentored younger students and participated in various councils.
Janson Chan, 24, of Toronto created the Autism Teenage Partnership, a free drop-in weekly social program for teenagers and youth with autism. The program provides a safe and accessible environment for youth with autism to interact with each other, develop social skills and participate in fun activities. The program is youth-led and run by volunteers, and has helped more than 120 youth and their families.
Josh Copperthwaite, 19, of Mississauga played a large role in the creation of RBC's Paediatric Mental Health Program at the Credit Valley Hospital. He volunteers as a public speaker to increase support for mental health programming and reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health. He also volunteers with Trillium Health Partner's Teen Run Therapy Group, a program that helps teens experiencing anxiety and depression through a weekly group run.
Austin Fowler, 19, of Brantford volunteers each week with Nova Vita Domestic Violence Prevention Services, a shelter for women and their children who have experienced domestic violence. He provides respite for families in the shelter by caring for their children. He also volunteers with the shelter's counselling group for children who have witnessed domestic violence, helping create a safe space for participants to share their feelings and learn about healthy relationships.
Sebastien Martin-Schultz, 19, of Kingsville volunteers on several projects at The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, including the Our Voice Our Turn project to deliver better outcomes for children and youth living in Ontario's child welfare system. He also volunteers with the Windsor-Essex Children's Aid Society Youth Advisory Committee and speaks publicly to raise awareness and fight stereotypes associated with Crown wards.
Taylor Redmond, 24, of Guelph is a Special Olympics athlete who has contributed more than 1,000 volunteer hours. Taylor gives presentations about overcoming obstacles to local schools and university classes. He has volunteered with Motionball, a not-for-profit organization that supports the Special Olympics movement in Canada, for more than five years. He also volunteers with the Community of Hearts Lifelong Learning Centre.
Carly Robinson, 17, of Aurora helped bring the OneMatch cheek swabbing drive to all 31 public high schools in York Region in 2015 and she helped create a teacher resource package every school could use to make it as appealing as possible to run their own event. Collectively they added more than 2,800 registrants to the Canadian Blood Services' OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network.
Jessica van der Veer, 17, of Newcastle has been involved with the Adoption Council of Ontario's Youth Network Group since its inception. She volunteers with the group's advocacy, education and public awareness activities. Jessica has volunteered at Parents Adoption Learning Support since 2009. She also volunteered each week with 5Alive, a group that helps youth with developmental disabilities build life skills.