On October 25th, we were given the opportunity to celebrate our #EverydayAutismHeroes at the 2020 BC Autism Awards, presented by Applewood Auto Group! It was a truly inspiring night, and we are so proud of all of our nominees. If you missed the show, you can watch it anytime on our YouTube channel and join the discussion.
Without further ado, here are the 2020 BC Autism AwardWinners!
Community Impact of the Year is presented to an individual, program, or community group that has demonstrated a commitment to creating inclusive communities by championing opportunities for people with autism. The Community Impact Award showcases the reach of our autism community through four categories, one for each of AutismBC’s locations: Vancouver Island, Northern, Interior, and Lower Mainland.
Vancouver IslandRegion, Winner: Heather Stout
Click to watch Heather’s interview:
Heather is a dedicated member of Sooke Autism Support Society, where she has made a tremendous impact in her community. As a professional photographer, Heather has initiated two hugely successful initiatives that give families lasting memories: Sensory Santa and Pictures on the Porch. SASS’s first Sensory Santa allowed a low-pressure atmosphere for children to meet and connect with Santa while getting candid pictures. Pictures on the Porch provided COVID-friendly portraits to local families from the comfort of their very own yard! Heather has also been a leader in the SASS bottle drive and Sassy Face Masks, which donated partial proceeds to the organization. Thank you, Heather!
Northern Region, Winner: Fort. St. John Child Development Center, Special Services Program
Click to watch Fort St. John CDC’s interview
The Special Services Program and the Fort St. John CDC is a devoted team of six who go above and beyond to ensure that every single child in their program feels included in their community. Their passion is evident in everything they do; just listen to how they describe their program (we’ll give you a hint: “family”)! Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, these women have created things like take-home packages and Zoom get-togethers for the children they support. The Special Services Program staff are inspiring and caring, and we are thrilled to call them Everyday Heroes!
Interior Region, Winner: Marshall McAnerney
Marshall McAnerney’s story starts with his son, MJ. MJ, a child on the autism spectrum, was passionate about helping other kids just like him, so with Marshall’s help, they created ajuice stand to raise money for autism. Over time, that juice stand has turned into the HM Ride for Autism and an annual golf tournament that have raised upwards of $450,000 in donations for autism organizations! Marshall has impacted countless lives in the Interior through his initiatives while being a staunch advocate for his son. Thank you, Marshall!
Click to watch Marshall’s interview:
Lower Mainland Region, Winner: Joette Heuft, Square Peg Society
Joette Heuft founded the Square Peg Society in 2014 after discovering the lack of support and services for autistic adults. Through her personal, lived experiences with her son, Joette was inspired to focus on “adult issues” including mental health, employment, housing, life/social skills, and being an advocate for post-secondary. It is easy to see Joette’s passion as she describes her work in the community. The Square Peg Society truly fills a need in our province’s autism services. Congratulations, Joette! Thanks for being a Hero in Our Story.
Click to watch Joette’s interview:
Volunteer of the Year, Winner: Vicky Ryan
Volunteer of the Year is presented to an individual who demonstrates a tremendous impact in the province to support the autism community.
Vicky Ryan is the leading force behind Girls Club, an organization specifically tailored for girls with diverse abilities. She has been described as being inspiring, impactful, dedicated – three adjectives we all agree with! Since Vicky founded Girls Club in the Lower Mainland, it has grown to four chapters province-wide and supports more than 500 families. Girls Club is a place where girls can be themselves and embrace their differences. On behalf of all the girls in BC, we want to congratulate Vicky on her win!
Inclusive employment has made huge strides in the last decade; however, there is still a lot of room to grow. This category honours a business that goes above and beyond to hire staff with diverse abilities. The nominees are humble and give the autism community a real sense of pride!
This year, we’d like to congratulate Emelle’s Catering on their win in the Inclusive Employer category. Emelle’s works with their employees to showcase their strengths by taking the time to get to know them as the unique individuals they are. Mary Lee and Nicole treat everyone as a valued part of the team and give many people feelings of pride, self-worth, and independence. This organization is humble yet fierce and definitely a great example for other employers. Thank you, Emelle’s!
Click to watch Emelle’s interview:
Self–Advocate of the Year Award, Winner: Jenny Story
The Self-Advocate of the Year Award goes to an autistic self-advocate who has advanced the well-being of other autistic people in the province.
Jenny Story, now 27, is an accomplished 2D and 3D animator and published author. Dysnomia: Outcasts on a Distant Moon is the first part of a trilogy series that was released to rave reviews and quickly became a Canadian Best Seller. Jenny has faced her share of hardships and bullying; however, she remains undeniably positive and acts as an inspiration for children and parents everywhere. Jenny is proof that you can achieve your dreams with a little bit of dedication and perseverance. From all of us at AutismBC, thank you, Jenny! You are an Everyday Autism Hero, and we can’t wait to see where you go from here!
Click to watch Jenny’s interview:
Nina Pickburn Award, Recipient: Mel de Levie
The Nina Pickburn Award isnominated by the AutismBC Board of Directors to an individual that has demonstrated an outstanding contribution to autism in BC.
Dr. Mel de Levie has been nicknamed “The Autism Doctor” by his many patients and colleagues. He is soft-spoken, humble, and kind and has devoted his life to helping others. Although he will tell you he despises public speaking, it is impossible not to listen when he speaks. Dr. de Levie has impacted families from BC to Quebec through his pediatric work and through his medical expertise in legal cases that helped change how autism is funded in BC. Currently, Dr. de Levie works at the ABLE Clinic and through his private practice. Dr. de Levie is a deserving recipient for this award because of the lives he has and continues to change!
Click to watch Dr. de Levie’s interview:
Thank you to all our nominees and winners. You make us all so proud!