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March 27, 2007
For immediate release

4th Annual Volunteer Recognition Awards Recognize Eight Islanders for Outstanding Contributions

Community and Cultural Affairs

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Premier Pat Binns and Elmer MacFadyen, Minister of Community and Cultural Affairs today joined Lieutenant Governor Barbara Hagerman at Government House to present seven volunteer recognition awards.

Eight Islanders were recognized for their volunteer contributions to the communities in which they live. Gladys Dirani, Garnet Buell, Ken Roper, Rikki Schock, Almeda Thibodeau and Judy MacLean received individual awards while Tonya Gray and Shelley Morrison were presented with a joint award. Master of Ceremonies Wes MacAleer read the citations and Her Honour, Premier Binns and Minister MacFadyen presented the awards.

“These remarkable volunteers are being recognized, not only by government, but more importantly by their peers,” said Premier Binns. “Each of today’s recipients was nominated for this award by someone who thought his or her deeds should be recognized.”

Minister MacFadyen added, “It is encouraging to see that the volunteers being recognized are a broad representation of our diverse Island society. Today's recipients include young mothers, retired men and women, people active in their Acadian and Aboriginal culture, and dedicated mentors.”


The Volunteer Recognition Award was created in 2002 to recognize individual Islanders for their volunteer contributions. A public call for nominations is extended in the fall and a selection committee chooses each year’s award recipients. The selection committee members are as follows: Bernice Arsenault of Wellington, Dee MacNeill of Summerside, Darlene Peters of Souris, Tom Wilkinson and Rev. Ross Howard, both of Charlottetown.

The seven Volunteer Recognition Awards were presented to the following individuals:

Garnet Buell, Murray River, PEI, The “Ceilidh King”:

• Well-known volunteer, fundraiser, musician and award winner for many environmental and musical categories.

• With the Murray River Ceilidh Committee, he has raised over $100,000 for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Recently recognized by the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Board as a "Major Benefactor."

• Entertaining since he was a child; sings and plays acoustic guitar, fiddle, mandolin and base guitar. Has been on Community Showcase, Eastlink, Channel 10 once toured in Nashville.

• Often performs at the Northumberland Fisheries Festivals and benefits in the Town of Montague.

• Working on his third CD with all the proceeds going to his favourite charity, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

• All of his performances have been voluntary.

• Dedicated to nature and wildlife; has donated his 100 acre homestead to the Island Nature Trust. Feeds animals around the 15 ponds on his property daily at his own expense.

• Has received a number of awards from Ducks Unlimited, Island Nature Trust and recently the Lieutenant Governor's Greenwing Conservation Award.

Gladys Dirani, Charlottetown:

• Volunteered at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital for 25 years, before dedicating herself to the goals of Canadian Blood Services (CBS)

• First came to Canadian Blood Services after her 40 year old son Billy underwent extensive cancer treatment. Sadly, Billy lost his battle against cancer.

• Launched the Atlantic Regional Aliant Telecom Challenge, a very successful corporate recruitment effort that ultimately turned into a major inter-provincial competition.

• Driving force behind the Donors For Life Program.

• Gave a very passionate and emotional presentation as keynote speaker at the 2003 Charlottetown CBS Donor Awards Ceremony.

Tonya Gray and Shelley Morrison, Charlottetown:

• Both stay-at-home moms active in their children's school, Sherwood Elementary. Tonya and her husband Cory, and Shelley and her husband David, each have four children.

• Realized a playground was needed at Sherwood Elementary after a lot of equipment had been removed for safety reasons ... decided to make it happen.

• Organized the first Sherwood School Carnival in June, 2005, and raised over $20,000.

• As a result, throughout the summer of 2006 a community of volunteers worked on the yard, built equipment and completed a brand new $120,000 playground for the over 500 students at Sherwood Elementary. The playground costs include items paid for in cash and many in kind services. The second carnival is set for June 2, 2007.

• Sherwood Elementary is very grateful for the dedication and hard work spearheaded by Tonya and Shelly.

Judy MacLean, Charlottetown:

• Has always given both her talents and time to assist organizations and individuals in benefits and fundraisers for a number of worthy causes.

• Volunteered with the Charlottetown Boys and Girls Club for over 15 years

• Performed with the Christmas Daddies as a artist and volunteer for over 25 years.

• Volunteer performer at the Rollo Bay Fiddle Festival for over 20 years.

• Teaches young dancers to show their talents and give their time to charities across the Province. Has worked with students in many ways in addition to dancing.

• Volunteered for over ten years with the QEH Telethon, Cable 10 TV-Community Showcase, Anderson House Benefit Concert, North Rustico Legion, Knights of Columbus, the Stella Maris Boys and Girls Club and many community charities and benefits.

• Founded and organized Island Wide Stepdancing and Fiddling Championships.

• Her float won the Spirit of Youth Award at the 2006 Gold Cup and Saucer Parade.

• Volunteered as a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters in 2005.

Ken Roper, Charlottetown:

• A retired teacher by profession, Ken spends at least 15-20 hours per week volunteering his time teaching karate to students while sharing his passion for martial arts.

• Sensei of the Charlottetown Chito Ryu Karate Club for the past five years.

• Instrumental in securing a permanent facility for the club at the West Royalty facility.

• Has been the lead in raising money for the facility and has spend countless hours cleaning and painting to ensure the Karate Club is in tiptop shape for its members.

• Current President of the PEI Karate Association and National Director of "Chitoryu Canada."

• Past elder at the Zion Presbyterian and is presently teaching part-time at the University of Prince Edward Island.

• Ken credits his wife Marilyn and their two sons Daniel and Benjamin for their assistance enabling him to spend 15-20 hours at Charlottetown Chito Ryu Karate Club.

Rikki Schock, South Pinette:

• A member of the Native Council of Prince Edward Island for 25 years and has sat on the Board for over 10 years.

• Has held a number of positions with the Native Council and at present chairs the Elders Group.

• Serves as a mentor to females both on Prince Edward Island and in other parts of Canada.

• CEO of the Belfast Fire Department, the first female member of a fire department in Prince Edward Island.

• Volunteers with the Canadian Red Cross and continues to upgrade her rescue skills.

• In addition to helping people in any way she can, she enjoys acting and shares her talents in many areas throughout the province.

Almιda Thibodeau, Fortune Cove:

• Has been working for the development and vitality of the Acadian and Francophone community of West Prince for several years.

• Through her involvement with various community groups and organizations, she has greatly contributed to the preservation of the language, as well as the Acadian culture and heritage.

• The work she has accomplished for the development of the historical site The Green is one of her most significant accomplishments.

• Founding member of the West Prince Historical Committee, the M'tgunich Quilters and the Chuckles and Vittles theatre group; director of the latter.

• Very involved with activities surrounding the 400th anniversary of Acadia.

• Member of the Acadian Communities Advisory Committee.

• Chair of the Acadian Museum Association of Prince Edward Island.

• Member of the board of directors of Les Francophones de l'βge d'or de l'Ξ.-P.-Ι.

• Deeply attached to the Acadian traditions of La Chandleur (Candlemas) and la Mi-Carκme (Mid-Lent) and she has done presentations on the subjects in schools and elsewhere.

Media Contact: Connie McNeill
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