YWCA Women of Distinction Awards Gala was held this past week at the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium on Thursday evening, celebrating women throughout the Westman Region for their contributions to their communities.

Each year, the Awards Gala recognizes the ongoing efforts, dedication, and leadership of the strong, talented, and selfless women who help shape our society.  A total of 22 women were nominated by their peers for their commitment and for making a significant difference in their community by showing vision, creativity, and initiative.

"This evening is our biggest event for the Board," shares YWCA Board President, Candice Waddell-Henowitch.  "It's our biggest fundraiser and it's also the night we get to showcase all of the amazing women in Westman, so it's extremely important to us!"

Proceeds from the YWCA Women of Distinction Awards Gala support a variety of YMCA-YWCA programs that touch the lives of women, youth and children from Brandon and the surrounding area.  "We, as an organization are doing the best that we can to support those who need help," says Waddell-Henowitch, "and we're continuing to do that on a daily basis.  Our staff is committed to that, and our staff does a good job of trying to help everybody who needs it, whenever they can."

Brandon resident and business owner, Kori Gordon, was this year's award winner in the Healthy Living, Recreation and Wellness category.  Gordon owns and operates the Natural Elements Wellness Centre on Victoria Avenue.  She says her all-natural wellness centre focuses on all-natural alternatives to traditional health methods, focusing on physical, mental and emotional well-being.

Gordon says her business is extremely unique. "There's nothing like it in Brandon or area. I have a number of services that are only available there, and there's nowhere else in Manitoba that offers them.  So, that makes it interesting from the marketing perspective, because you're educating as well as marketing."

Gordon said she was very honored for being nominated and then winning this award.  "It's something I never thought I'd accomplish, but I'm very excited. It means a lot.  My mom was nominated many years ago so I'm kind of following in her footsteps.  It's just awesome to have the recognition; people seeing that there's options and opportunities out there for women if they put their head down and make things work!"

At the Thursday evening Gala, Amari Stock and Sophia Smoke both received the Young Trailblazer Award.

Grade 11 student at Neelin High School, Amari Stocks, is a leader in her school community.  As a mentor for the Canadian Student Leadership Association, VP of the Neelin Student Representative Council, and public speaker, she has already earned over 3 levels of leadership and facilitates classes to teach leadership to other students. 

"I love that job because it allows me to connect with so many different types of people from across Canda," explains Stocks.  "I've gotten to meet so many different people, with so many different and unique stories, and have learned so many amazing and valuable lessons about life. Empowering young women and girls along the way has been a blessing in itself!"

"This is such a tremendous honor for me," shares Stocks. "I've grown up with 3 generations of women and so being a strong and caring young woman is something that has always been so important to me and to my family.  I have so many women who have been mentors to me."

"Tonight, to be surrounded by some of the most remarkable women in our community is such a gift, and I'm so honored to have the chance to be here," she adds.

"I honestly believe that every woman here is a winner," shares Stocks.  "Just the chance to be nominated and to be here with everyone is just a win in itself!"

Here are the 2023 award winners:

Agriculture: Susan Ainsworth

Business Leadership: Heather Day

Community Service & Social Action: Shannon Saltarelli

Education & Mentorship: Shannon McKenzie

Healthy Living, Recreation, & Wellness: Kori Gordon

Science, Technology & Trade: Dr. Poonam Singh

Young Trailblazer (17 & Under): Amari Stocks and Sophia Smoke


Pictured below:  Healthy Living, Recreation and Wellness Award Winner, Kori Gordon and Young Trailblazer, Amari Stocks.

Please listen to more of the interview with YWCA Board President, Candice Waddell-Henowitch, and CJRB's Barry Lamb below.