Women of Distinction from across Muskoka honoured at gala


Main photo: YWCA Muskoka Women of Distinction Award recipients (back from left) Bonnie Dart, Nicole Manion, Norma Connolly, Michelle Emson; (front from left) Dawn Novak, Brenda Wood, Candace Yule, and Debby Andrews.

With over 250 guests in attendance and stories from some of Muskoka’s most incredible ladies, the 16th annual YWCA Muskoka Women of Distinction Gala made the community proud.

Each year, the Women of Distinction Gala celebrates incredible women in Muskoka who deserve recognition for their accomplishments.

This year’s event, held October 25 at the Mark O’Meara clubhouse in Huntsville, featured a dinner, silent auction, keynote speaker Nancy Osborne, and, of course, the awards ceremony.

YWCA Muskoka, a not-for-profit organization, strives to implement change in Muskoka so that women and girls can thrive and lead, safely. The YWCA values include leadership, dignity, transparency, inclusivity, diversity, and sustainability, thus creating a strong platform for women in the Muskoka area to seek support and form a healthy community.

“The YWCA is one of the most important organizations in Muskoka,” said Huntsville Mayor Scott Aitchison. “It’s our responsibility to not only inspire women, but empower them.”

The gala also celebrated the YWCA’s 20th anniversary.

“The anniversary is cause for celebration!” said Hannah Lin, executive director of the YWCA. “We are the smallest community in Canada to develop a YWCA. It’s so important in a rural area to create social connections and support for women.”

Huntsville native and Women of Distinction nominee, Kathleen May, has devoted her life to supporting and liberating women. Not only does she work for the Huntsville and Bracebridge women’s shelters, but she volunteers at various organizations around the area including the Muskoka Women’s Advocacy Group and the Huntsville Women’s Group. She’s also a mentor for sexual assault services and works on their helplines.

I love how the gala celebrates women and brings them together here in Muskoka.
women of distinction nominee Kathleen May

The eight award recipients were:

Transformational Award – Brenda Wood (Huntsville)
Arts, Culture and Creative Energy – Michelle Emson (Bracebridge)
Young Woman of Distinction – Candace Yule (Gravenhurst)
Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship – Nicole Manion (Bracebridge)
Community Development and Social Activism – Dawn Novak (Utterson)
Health, Sports and Wellness – Norma Connolly (Huntsville)
Mentorship – Bonnie Dart (Gravenhurst)
Lifetime Achievement – Debby Andrews (Bracebridge)

Norma Connolly’s family expressed how proud of her they are. “My mom inspired me to go to school to be a nurse,” said Jordan Connolly, Norma’s son. “When she comes home from work it’s all she talks about. She’s so passionate about her patients and everyone can see the love and care she puts into their lives. I’m really proud of her. She deserves this!”

Congratulations to the Women of Distinction nominees on their incredible accomplishments.

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  1. Noreen Sparrow Parry Sound on

    It’s good to see such awesome women acknowledged like this . I’m pleased to join in all the accolades for all of them and an extra one for Debbie Andrews as she’s the only one I know congratulations!!!

  2. Gloria Reszler on

    Congratulations to all receipts. It may be a small community YWCA but, goodness, what strong and accomplished women come from there!

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