Meet the nominees for the 2018 YWCA Muskoka Women of Distinction Awards



Main photo: The nominees for the 2018 Women of Distinction Awards (from left) Nancy Hyslop, Sue Stevens, Nancy Osborne, Alison Dumont, Patti Kay Hanrath, Kathleen May, Janice Paterson, Andrea Butler, Michele Meadows, Gundy Upans, Rebecca Paul, Janine Marson, Eva Zachary.  Missing from photo are:  Kennedy Watson-Brown, Ashleigh Whipp, Dorothy Barber, Kelli Ebbs, Christine Kropp and Jen Morgan. (Photo courtesy of Josh Ronson.)

The winners of the 17th annual YWCA Muskoka Women of Distinction Awards will be announced at a gala event at the Mark O’Meara Clubhouse on October 24.

YWCA Muskoka defines a Woman of Distinction as “an inspiration to others who has made a commitment to her community as a leader and a role model. As a catalyst for change, she breaks new ground and old barriers. She shows vision, creativity and initiative and has improved the lives of those in Muskoka.”

The award categories are: Young Women of Distinction; Mentorship; Arts, Culture and Creative Energy; Health, Sports and Wellness; Community Development and Social Activism; Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship; Lifetime Achievement; and the Transformational Award.

These are the nominees, in alphabetical order:

Dorothy Barber, Huntsville

Dottie Barber is the Centre Director of Christine’s Place in Huntsville. She has helped to shape the centre from its beginning. Dottie oversees the Centre’s programming, volunteers and directives with the help of the Managing Director and Board.

  Dottie started the Christmas Blessing program, and it has been running for five years. She knows the value that concrete actions have in making people feel loved and supported! The Christmas Blessing provides families in the Muskoka area with presents, food, and other little luxuries.

Dottie’s mission in life is to provide emotional and practical support to those in need. She has been a registered nursing assistant, camp director, homeschooling mom and foster parent, while also helping her husband run a family business. Dottie has been married for 38 years, has five children and twelve granddaughters who keep her very busy!


Andrea Butler, Bracebridge

Andrea Butler is a caring teacher, proud role-model, compassionate citizen, and an energetic volunteer. Her struggles in life were overcome with resilience and reflective time spent with inspirational woman. Her great-aunt Laura dedicated her life to helping others; losing her inspired Andrea to do the same.

 Andrea is a teacher at BMLSS and works to make a difference in her students’ lives by ensuring each is treated as a valued member of the student community. She provides her students an educational environment where they can reach their full potential. She knows all it takes is one teacher to care and provide hope; for Andrea, that teacher was Jill Pulford.

Andrea is a role model for our youth and the LGBTQ community, by being true to herself; she is living proof that struggles can be overcome, and things do get better.


Alison Dumont, Novar

Alison’s vision is that everyone understands the truth of their innate value: they are deserving of respect, care and grace. It is her mission to spread this message in order to positively impact the social well-being of our culture in Muskoka.

 Alison volunteers with Light Up Your World – an initiative run by Christine’s Place in Huntsville. She delivers a self-esteem building, anti-bullying program to grade 7/8 students.

Professionally, she is dedicated to Integrative Health Care through her business Strive, Holistic Nutritional Counselling. Alison’s purpose is to help others uncover their personal formula for sustainable physical, spiritual, and emotional wellness.

Alison is a participant in the TriMuskoka Triathlon Club; she supports those new to the sport. She hosts a free cooking demo annually, to raise funds for the Table Food Bank in Huntsville.


Kelli Ebbs, Huntsville

Kelli Ebbs’ belief in resilient communities is rooted in good, clean food. This comes from being from a family of Manitoban farmers and her array of experience in food and activism work. She literally fed her three boys by foraging, fishing and growing food to fill the pantry.

 In 2014, Kelli helped conceptualize the not-for-profit Muskoka North Good Food Co-operative, which has since resulted in the development of a community kitchen and cannery, the Uproot Community Café and an expanded Grocery Market, prioritizing regionally produced food. These expansions support local food producers, and provide a place for community members to cook, enjoy wholesome food, and expand their knowledge.

Kelli worked as an advisor for Breakfast Club of Canada’s Indigenous Student Nutrition programs focusing on procurement, nutrition and food literacy in northern fly-in communities.


Patti Hanrath, Huntsville

Patti Hanrath, Founder of Kinergy Leadership, is a professional, high-energy Leadership and Personal Development Coach and Mentor. She is skilled in guiding individuals and teams through transformative learning opportunities to achieve greater success in their lives.

 While managing and transforming teams at BMO for over 20 years, Patti mentored her team from 17th to 1st in customer service excellence in 8 months. She influenced and empowered many staff members to increased performance and employee satisfaction.

Patti co-created Connect The Brilliance, a Women in Business Networking Group. She has held numerous volunteer positions, including the Chamber of Commerce and Muskoka Futures, mentoring other leaders.

Patti has served on the Board of Directors of Christine’s Place, since 2012, and mentored the Managing Director. Patti is passionate about her mission to encourage and develop leaders.


Nancy Hyslop, Bracebridge

Born and raised in Bracebridge, Nancy has made it an important part of her life to help those in her community. Outside of her career as a successful real estate agent, Nancy has been a committed Sunday school teacher and Awana leader for thirty years.

 She is also a part of the executive team for her TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) group since 1998, helping motivate weight loss through encouragement. She is always the first to arrive at meetings and greets everyone in a supportive and welcoming manner. Her peers describe her as dedicated, and the heart and soul of the group.

Nancy’s warm personality and always ready smile helps to encourage those around her. One of her greatest joys is helping people feel special.


Christine Kropp, Huntsville

Christine Kropp developed her love for hospitality and Muskoka while studying Hotel & Resort Operations at Georgian College and working in luxury inns and resorts.

 Realizing a life long dream, she refurbished a Victorian B&B in London, ON into a luxury boutique hotel, The Idlewyld Inn. Settling in Huntsville, she has owned/operated the Fairy Bay Guest House.

Christine’s love for baking and creating special occasion cakes led her to open Whimsical Bakery which has evolved into the sweetest spot in Muskoka with a bakery dessert cafe in downtown Huntsville.

Dedicated to giving back to her community, Christine’s volunteer work includes Huntsville Hospital Foundation, Chamber of Commerce, and co-founding Connect the Brilliance Muskoka, a professional women’s networking organization. She is also a board member for Huntsville Downtown BIA, Muskoka Tourism and Muskoka Futures.


Janine Marson, Huntsville

Janine Marson is a trained landscape artist whose commitment to fostering the artistic spirit in others has included teaching for the Haliburton School of Art and Design and sharing her passion with hundreds of students at her own studio.

 Janine shared her art skills with Terri Howell, her “matchstick”, who inspired her to reach for higher goals. Janine is also grateful for the support the WIB program gave her to rediscover herself.

Her love of art extends to cooking which spurred her to organize cooking classes at All Saints’ Anglican Church. She designed and led “Stirred Up” and “Stirred Around” for youth and teens. The group provided the local food bank with fresh baked bread.

Janine volunteers with Muskoka Arts and Crafts and The Huntsville Art Society. She also shares her time and talent with Oxtongue Lake for Arts and Culture.


Kathleen May, Huntsville

Kathleen is a speaker, writer and activist. Stirred by feminist authors, Kathleen writes a popular feminist blog. She also writes beautiful travel pieces and has participated in the Muskoka Novel Marathon, recently taking home the award for best adult novel.

 As an activist, she often organizes rallies, strikes, marches and vigils. She was instrumental in starting the Women’s Movement/March in Muskoka.

Kathleen works for two women’s shelters in Muskoka and as a coordinator for the “I Got This – Unlocking your Instincts” women’s programs. She volunteers with Muskoka Parry Sound Sexual Assault Services as a survivor mentor and crisis-line volunteer. She co-founded the Huntsville Women’s group, a welcoming and inclusive group for all women.

Currently, Kathleen works as a Community Connector for Women’s March Muskoka and is preparing for the second season of the YourTV show “Herstories”.


Michele Meadows, Bracebridge

Michele’s vision is centered around connection, knitting a community together by sharing and bonding through the common elements of making something beautiful and tangible, and passing that skill on to the next generation.

 Self-employed for twenty-five years, Michele runs the popular Muskoka Yarn Connection. She teaches classes, designs knitwear patterns for two major yarn companies and produces video tutorials. By teaching her skills to others, Michele encourages creativity to blossom. She mentors local women to help them start their own journey in business.

Michele’s goal-oriented mindset allowed her to self-publish her first sellout book and receive the Michael Foster Award for photography; her design was also featured in a national magazine. Michele’s background in fashion design instilled a passion for colour and texture, the constant spark which keeps her creative process burning bright.


Jen Morgan, Utterson

Jen Morgan’s marketing agency, Collective Noun, is building a team of multi-talented creatives and raising the bar for design and digital media in Muskoka and beyond.

 With a background in visual arts, Jen honed her leadership skills at Muskoka Chautauqua and was instrumental in developing the organization’s Kaleidoscope Arts in Education program. This program opened the door for many students to have a dynamic experience led by professional artists.

She furthered her skills as a high school teacher in Pikangikum First Nation, a remote fly-in reserve in northwestern Ontario. Jen went above and beyond her professional responsibilities to connect with her students and the community.

Jen was a mentor to girls as a Girlz Unplugged and Girlz Choice facilitator, a mentorship program for girls and young women in Muskoka.


Nancy Osborne, Huntsville

At 17, Nancy joined the Canadian Forces as a Private and one of the first women in a male-only branch. She retired as a Senior Officer. She was a ground breaker who took a special interest in the women who followed, acting as a mentor, easing their way to their own successes.

 Nancy was among the first women recruited by the UN to provide access negotiations for humanitarian operations in the world’s most dangerous countries. Nancy took the lead to develop training to empower UN women. The demand grew exponentially, and she trained 18 additional women­ facilitators before retiring again.

Over the past 25 years, Nancy remained involved in Muskoka: leading YWCA girls’ programs; serving on various boards; speaking to schools/service groups; chaperoning students traveling and now providing not-for-profit empowerment workshops for women.


Janice Paterson, Lake of Bays

If you’ve been to a children’s event in Muskoka, chances are you’ve seen Janice. As the talent behind Painted Kids face painting, she has painted the faces of more than 24,000 children, ensuring that no child is left out. Janice has supported many local charities.

 As a single mom, Janice also thrived in a high-pressure job for a Customs Broker. She and her husband, Bill, built their own house – one 2×4 at a time.

Janice’s artistic talent extends to wood burning and painting; her heart goes into each piece, with tremendous attention to detail. Janice demonstrated her art and taught at Cultural Days in Huntsville.

Janice served on the executive of Huntsville Lakes Probus Club and on Bay Lake Property Owner’s Association.
She is an avid bird watcher and naturalist.


Rebecca Paul, Bracebridge

From a young age, Rebecca knew she wanted to “help people.” She carried this core value through to adulthood and put it into action, being inspired by many along the way to help hold up our Muskoka community.

 Rebecca’s work at Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Muskoka gave her the opportunity to make an impact through improving and adding to the mentorship programs. Her proudest accomplishments were the successful implementation of the In School Mentoring program which allowed BBBSM to triple the number of children served.

In addition, she was the driving force behind the implementation of the PRISM mentorship program which matches LGBTQ+ youth and mentors for support, fun and friendship.

Rebecca’s volunteer work includes Bracebridge Public Library, Muskoka Postpartum Peer Support Network, and Muskoka Victim Services.


Suzanne Stevens, Port Sydney

A graduate of Ontario College of the Arts, Suzanne Stevens is the owner of Baggypants since 2002 and spends an incredible amount of time using her educated and keen eye to hand choose the fabrics, depending on the seasons. She takes pride in the fact that her products are Canadian and produced in Muskoka. She loves the fact that she can employ local people.

 Sue is a leader and mentor, particularly to young people. She regularly donates her products and is also involved in local markets in Muskoka over the summer.

Suzanne is a regular at One of a Kind and many more shows throughout the province. She works hard to keep her customers happy and has even created some elegant baggypants to be worn at special occasions.


Gundy Upans, Huntsville

Having been brought up in very difficult circumstances, Gundy was not exposed to altruism. Life was a scramble to survive. But when Gundy became a parent of a severely disabled child, she realized volunteers could change lives.

 As a 24/7 single parent caregiver, Gundy chooses volunteer activities where her son Michael can be included, like The Dwight Lions Club. Gundy also volunteers a significant amount of time at Rogers Cove Retirement Home and the Lake of Bays United Churches.

She was treasurer at Community Living Huntsville for six years and continues to advocate for this agency. Gundy received a Medal of Merit from Scouts Canada for her work with disabled youth.

Using her Chartered Financial Analyst Degree, Gundy gave volunteer business lectures through YWCA Muskoka and mentored youth at Huntsville High School.


Kennedy Watson-Brown, Port Sydney

Kennedy is a 13-year-old Huntsville High School student who leads by example as a community volunteer in Port Sydney.

 During her years at V.K. Greer P.S, Kennedy was known as a kind and polite student, and a willing helper. She demonstrated responsibility and teamwork in school plays, band, Santa’s Bazaars, Spirit Days, and assemblies.

At age three, Kennedy began canvassing for the Canadian Cancer Society with her father. She has grown up lending a hand, at Knox United Church and events such as Canada Day, Turkey Dinner, and the Tree Lighting.

At age 11, Kennedy loomed and sold hats for her classmate’s medical-needs fundraiser, ‘Donate For Nate’, and became a hair donor for a cancer patient wig program.

Currently, Kennedy is knitting for a Prayer Shawl outreach and considering a career in Early Childhood Education.


Ashleigh Whipp, Bracebridge

Ashleigh is the Children’s Librarian at Bracebridge Public Library. At age 29, Ashleigh was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and started chemotherapy on her 30th birthday. Ashleigh underwent six rounds of chemo and 15 rounds of radiation. This October marks her third year of being cancer-free.

 After recovering from treatment, Ashleigh moved to Bracebridge to take the position of Children’s Librarian. Since joining their team, she has organized and implemented programs such as: Toasty Teens, a donation-based winter coats and mitts programs; Back to School Backpack Giveaway, families are provided new backpacks with back to school essentials; a teen mentoring program; a designated teen area; a teen book club and Dungeons and Dragons club night.

Ashleigh is also an active participant in the “Get Ready for Prom” initiative where teens can choose a free prom or graduation dress.


Eva Zachary, Bracebridge

Eva believes that we all deserve a life of resilience and vitality. Her drive is to assist the Muskoka community to reduce suffering to those in need through community collaboration and improving the province’s social justice and systemic supports to Not for Profits.

 Eva is the Executive Director of Muskoka Victim Services; she volunteers on the Board of Directors for the Ontario Network of Victim Service Providers and the Muskoka Community Foundation.

Eva is a leader, educator and advocate in her field and is an active member in her community, volunteering her time in a variety of community partner collaborations and initiatives.

Everyone deserves a chance to live a happy, healthy and sustainable life in their own community. They just need the tools to get there. Eva is dedicated to making that happen.


Women of Distinction Gala tickets can be purchased at and attendees can reserve their own seats online​. Tickets can also be purchased at the YWCA Office at 440 Ecclestone Drive, Bracebridge. Silent auction items are being accepted—please contact the YWCA to donate: 705-645-9827 or [email protected]

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  1. Congratulations to all of the nominees, some of which I am blessed to know personally. You are excellent role models and cover a plethora of reasons why you should be recognized. Thank you to the YWCA for taking the initiative to celebrate volunteerism, business, initiative, creativity, and women of all ages that are leaders in these areas. This week we celebrate YOU!

    • Leslie Tempest on

      Well said Ginger and I wholeheartedly support and agree with your comments! Congratulations to all of these well deserving nominees!

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