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Past Award Winners

WOD 2022 logo with star

Shining a light on the women and girls who build Hamilton and Halton

In honour of International Women’s Day, YWCA Hamilton celebrated the trailblazers that build our Hamilton and Halton community and publicly unveiled the #WOMENBUILDHAMILTON campaign.

Learn about Hamilton and Halton’s most prestigious event honouring women and girls

Meet the 2022 Award Nominees and Winners

Winners from the previous years

Have questions? Contact a member of our team.

2022 Women of Distinction Winners

Meet the 2022 Women of Distinction – Courage of Covid award winners.

Hamilton Winners

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Laurel Trainor - Arts - Hamilton

Laurel Trainor | Art, Culture, Design

Dr. Laurel Trainor’s pioneering and ground-breaking research demonstrates the importance of music for children’s development, mental health, and for sustaining vibrant and thriving communities. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, she works with scientists and clinicians on applying music to promote wellness; enhancing hearing aids for music listening; and using music-based interventions to improve outcomes in children with developmental disorders. She is the Founding and current Director of the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind, and the internationally renowned LIVELab research-concert hall, referred to as a national treasure. The LIVELab supports innovative research, musicians and musical performances, training and workshops for many community groups, and exceptional opportunities for McMaster students.

Renata Hall - Community - Hamilton

Renata Hall | Education, Training, Development

Renata lives all things social justice! With an educational background in Psychology and Biology from Dalhousie University and Social Work from McMaster University, Renata looks to shake the room through her love of building community connections, challenging the status quo, and amplifying the voices of the margins. Renata is experienced in racialized peer support, counseling, and teaching through McMaster University, housing and homelessness support with YWCA Hamilton, and food equity and community network building through her grassroots initiative StreetEatzHamOnt, Renata brings passion and a sharp Black Feminist and Critical Race lens to every table. She is presently situated in the mental health sector within St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. Renata is a liberating, empowering, and critical force across the Hamilton community.

Kristine Leadbetter-Gold - Business - Hamilton

Kristine Leadbetter-Gold | Business Leadership, Entrepreneur, Innovation

Kristine Leadbetter-Gold is Founder of the Women’s Network, TV Producer and Host of “Lead Better with Kristine”, and is the Business Development Manager for Gowling WLG Hamilton. Kristine is passionate about connecting people to things that matter, lifelong learning, and supporting the advancement of women. Known as a rainmaker with an entrepreneurial spirit, Kristine has a keen ability to execute and curate mutually beneficial opportunities. She is an accomplished strategist with 15+ years of experience in reputation management, business development, and community stewardship. Kristine is a speaker, consultant, and published author recognized for her expertise in social capital, leadership, and  women’s networks. Kristine has a Masters in Communications Management, was listed as a 2021 Top 40 Under 40 winner, and is a 3x nominee for WXN’s Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women awards.

Sarah Jama - Community - Hamilton

Sarah Jama | Community Leadership

Sarah Jama is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO). She’s a community organizer from Hamilton with Cerebral Palsy who does work around combating anti-Black racism, policing, and housing insecurity. Through DJNO, she tackles systemic ableism by building up capacity in disabled organizers to challenge structures locally, provincially, and nationally. In her past role as Senior Program Co-ordinator at the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion (HCCI), she ran a Civic Leadership Program to help Black and racialized youth better understand how to work inside and outside institutions to affect structural change. She also led an initiative to form HESN (Hamilton Encampment Support Network) and CareMongering (now called Roots to Justice).

Dawn Bowdish - Health - Hamilton

Dawn Bowdish | Health, Recreation

Dawn Bowdish is committed to protecting older adults and helping them stay safe. A Professor at McMaster University, Canada Research Chair in Aging & Immunity, and Executive Director, Firestone Institute of Respiratory Health, she leads pivotal studies that are uncovering how the aging immune system and the microbiota interact to prevent infections and give older adults more years of healthy, independent living. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she has focused her studies on the impact of the pandemic on long-term care facilities, guiding future planning to protect this vulnerable population. An ambassador of science, she engages extensively in public outreach to disseminate reliable, evidence-based information to build and enhance health within our communities today and for future generations.

Dr. Zobia Jawed Research - Hamilton

Dr. Zobia Jawed | Research, Science, Technology, Trade

Dr. Zobia Jawed, Ph.D., M.Eng., is a researcher, Faculty lead for Engineering design and policy projects, and Assistant Professor  at the Faculty of Engineering, McMaster University.  She is an expert in water & wastewater systems, climate change, environmental sustainability, and decision-support tools. Zobia is passionate about youth and women’s empowerment by providing them with opportunities in the field of STEM. During the pandemic, she supported many businesses in efforts to pivot and remain profitable during times of crisis. She also advanced research and development in a novel wastewater-based testing approach to assess the spread of COVID-19 at the community level. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Pakistani Business Association, Healthy Youth Network, and Conservation Halton.

Lianna Genovese - Youth - Hamilton

Lianna Genovese | Young Trailblazer

Lianna Genovese is a 22-year-old biomedical and mechanical engineering student at McMaster University and CEO/Founder of ImaginAble Solutions. Lianna invented Guided Hands, an international award-winning assistive device that enables people with limited hand mobility to write, paint, draw and access technology. At 19, Lianna was inspired to create the first Guided Hands prototype for a fellow McMaster student living with Cerebral Palsy. Produced in Hamilton, Guided Hands is used by health professionals across North America, and won the Canadian National James Dyson Award, improving the quality of life for people within the Hamilton community and beyond. Lianna is a proud woman in engineering, a solo female founder, engineering ambassador and volunteer public speaker for women in STEM and entrepreneurship.

Halton Winners

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Elaine Delsnyder - Arts - Halton

Elaine Delsnyder | Art, Culture, Design

Elaine Delsnyder is a Recreation Programmer for the City of Burlington and is the Associate Manager for Burlington Student Theatre. Elaine began her journey with Student Theatre in 1979 as a student herself. She soon became a student leader and a volunteer until 1986 when she joined the team as a part-time staff member and she has been bringing joy and inspiring a love for the performing arts in Halton-area youth ever since. Elaine is also an accredited Montessori educator and founder and co-owner of Clanmore Montessori school in Oakville, investing in developing young minds while championing the Maria Montessori philosophy.

Julie Cole - Business - Halton

Julie Cole | Business Leadership, Entrepreneur, Innovation

Julie Cole is a recovered lawyer, mom of six and co-founder of Mabel’s Labels. She has helped her company bring their product to a worldwide market, gain media recognition and win countless awards. Cole is a passionate entrepreneur, published author, and sought after speaker. Julie is no stranger to the media, having appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, HLN’s Raising America, Breakfast Television, The Marilyn Denis Show, CP24, among many others. As a blogger and writer, her articles have appeared in The Huffington Post, Today’s Parent, The Globe and Mail, Profit Magazine, Working Mother Magazine, Chicken Soup For the Soul – Power Moms and numerous websites. When she’s not juggling her busy family and professional life, Julie is an engaged community member serving on boards and volunteering. She is passionate about women’s issues, mentoring young entrepreneurs, and social justice.

Nancy Romic - Community - Halton

Nancy Romic | Community Leadership

Nancy Romic is the Executive Director of Shifra Homes, a not-for-profit maternity residence for young, homeless, pregnant women and babies. Her background as the owner of an Oakville nursing agency has given her the business and social service background to change lives. Nancy has been with Shifra since 2012, and under her guidance, Shifra’s programs have expanded to provide complete wraparound services to ensure the success of these young women. What makes Shifra and Nancy special is that they fight for the protection of the most vulnerable members of our community and Nancy works tirelessly, always putting others first. Nancy often acts as a matriarchal figure to the young women in her care, providing them with love and support..

Navita Dyal - Research - Halton

Navita Dyal | Research, Science, Technology, Trade

Navita is an opportunity architect; at 17, she founded a non-profit organization, GLITR, which provides access to healthcare to vulnerable populations both locally and abroad. GLITR has served refugee, and homeless individuals in the Hamilton Area, as well as financially marginalized individuals in Guyana. As an undergraduate student, she founded her first start-up, Era Diabetes, to help kids self-manage their type 1 diabetes. As a graduate student, she founded WADE (Walking Analyzing Device), the first device to predict the onset of Autism when kids start to walk. Navita has held influential roles at the World Health Organization and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and is now a Product Manager at Google, within the wearable health devices section.

Lauren Cutaia - Youth - Halton

Lauren Cutaia | Young Trailblazer

Lauren is a strong 10-year-old leader who has created a small bracelet fundraiser. She has raised funds for the Compassion Society of Halton, the local food bank, and Halton Catholic Children’s Foundation. Lauren is a role model for other kids and is continuing to raise awareness of how young people can make a difference.

Lifetime Achievement Winner

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Susan Denburg - Community - Hamilton

Susan Denburg | Lifetime Achievement Winner

Susan Denburg has led a prolific and impactful career as a visionary leader, passionate and inspirational community volunteer and sought-after mentor and role model. A Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences and Executive Vice-Dean and Associate Vice-President Academic in the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University, she oversees the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative and champions the University’s commitment to research in aging. She was instrumental in launching the Faculty’s Indigenous Health Initiative and has supported the advancement of professionalism, diversity and inclusivity at McMaster and beyond. Her extensive community efforts have addressed challenges of innovative and compassionate care for the elderly. Susan leaves a legacy of mentorship and leadership, and her impact will endure for years to come.

Honourary Woman of Distinction

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Charaya Thach

Charaya Thach | Honourary Woman of Distinction Award Winner

2021 Women of Distinction Nominees

Hamilton Nominees

Amanda Nagy
Angela Jaspan
Danielle Pinto
Diana Abdulrahman
Elizabeth Cronk
Jacqueline Haynes
Naomi Henderson
Natalie Teal
Riana Kruger
Sandee Green *
Victoria Young

Halton Nominees

Maha Tawadrous
Michelle Collins

( * Nominee of Lifetime Achievement Awards)

Hamilton Nominees

Dr. Alison Fox-Robichaud *
Diana Wetherly
Doris Ciardullo
Erin Mitchell
Dr. Frances Lasowski
Karen Mossman
Leanne Sneddon
Marla Robinson *
Dr. Rosa da Silva
Tracey Taylor-O’Reilly
Vicki Gruber

Halton Nominees

Elise Naccarato
Hayley Harlock
Renee France Boudreau
Stephanie VanderLingen

( * Nominee of Lifetime Achievement Awards)

Hamilton Nominees

Abygail Montague
Blerina Ago
Jessica Anderson
Madison Ladd
Negar Balouchestani-Asli
Nicole Crimi
Oyinloluwa Aderibigbe
Sarah Bayliss
Susanne Nyaga

Halton Nominees

Gabrielle Warren
Rachel Shadid

Hamilton Nominees

Amanda Weatherston
Dr. Cheryl Van Der Mark
Dawn Martin
Dr. Erica Roebbelen
Heather Harvey
Jessie Mason
Dr. Karen Trollope-Kumar *
Kathleen Leach *
Dr. Sarah Khan
Vanessa Jarusauskas

Halton Nominees

Anna Policelli
Madison Brydges

( * Nominee of Lifetime Achievement Awards)

Hamilton Nominees

Alexis Wenzowski
Amanda DiFalco
Andrea Pohlmann
Anna Di Carlo
Ashleigh Montague
Brenda Duke *
Camy Hand
Dallas Lombardi
Gina Robinson *
Jeannie Howe
Julie Freeman
Karol De Stefano
Kathryn Clewley
Kofo Owolabi
Lohifa Pogoson-Acker
Melanee McAulay *
Meltem Fidan
Paula Laing *
Perihan (Peri) Eid
Rachel Braithwaite
Robin Lacambra
Sabrina Jaspers
Samantha Mercanti
Sandra Jenkins
Serena Bufalino
Dr. Soumeya Abed
Theresa Horak
Whitney McMeekin

Halton Nominees

Amber Rushton
Honourable Anita Anand
Colleen Mulholland
Gabriela Covaci
Jacqui Cronin
Maria Locker
Nancy Romic
Shannon Tobin

( * Nominee of Lifetime Achievement Awards)

Women of Distinction Award Recipients
2006 – 2021

Hamilton Winners

Olivia Mancini | Frontline Worker Winner
Dr. Elizabeth Richardson | Health Care Hero Winner
Andriana Lukich | Pandemic Innovator Winner
Lisa Nussey | Community Champion Winner
Joëlle Kabisoso | Young Trailblazer Winner

Halton Winners

Christina Mulder | Frontline Worker Winner
Andrew Pohl | Health Care Hero Winner
Lisa Lunski | Pandemic Innovator Winner
Julia Hanna | Community Champion Winner
Ashwini Selvakumaran | Young Trailblazer Winner

Lifetime Achievement Winner

Colleen Mulholland

Honourary Woman of Distinction Winner

Abrar Mechmechia

Diana Weir: Arts | Culture | Design
Emily O’Brien: Business Leadership | Entrepreneurship
Monique Lavallee: Community Leadership
Alfredine (Linda) Plourde: Education | Mentorship
Dr. Audrey Hicks: Health
Blueberry Therapy: Outstanding Small Business
Dr. Heather Sheardown: Science | Technology | Trades
Chyler Sewell: Young Trailblazer
Kayonne Christy: Young Woman of Distinction
Lena Sutton: Lifetime Achievement
Selbina Mwendwa: Honourary Woman of Distinction

Lisa Pijuan-Nomura – Arts|Culture|Design
Tammy Hwang – Business Leadership|Entrepreneurship
Clare Freeman – Community Leadership
Dr. Anna Moro – Education|Mentorship
Louisa Drost – Health
Col. Marguerite Ward – Lifetime Achievement
Maddie Brockbank – Young Woman of Distinction
ArcelorMittal Dofasco – Outstanding Workplace
Jamie McMillan – Science|Technology|Trades
Candace Gagne – Honourary Woman of Distinction

Marlaise Dawson – Arts|Culture|Design
Erin Dunham – Business Leadership|Entrepreneurship
Grace Mater – Community Leadership
Dr. Kimberley Dej – Education|Mentorship
Jill Wiwcharuk – Health
Anju Joshi – Lifetime Achievement
Chelsea Mackinnon – Young Woman of Distinction
Alectra Utilities – Outstanding Workplace
Kathy Lerette – Science|Technology|Trades

Diana Panton – Arts|Culture|Design
Amy Back – Business Leadership|Entrepreneurship
Nancy Smith – Community Leadership
Emily Ecker – Education|Mentorship
Dr. Carys Massarella – Health
Anne Tennier – Lifetime Achievement
Shruti Ramesh – Young Woman of Distinction
REfficient Inc. – Outstanding Workplace
Deborah Sloboda – Science|Technology|Trades

Patti Cannon – Arts, Culture or Design
Dr. Brenda Vrkljan – Business, Education & Mentorship
Sarah Glen – Community Leadership
Dr. Maroussia Hajdukowski-Ahmed – Lifetime Achievement
Rachael Finnerty – Health
FirstOntario Credit Union – Outstanding Workplace
Alba Guarne – Science, Technology or Trades
Rebecca Babcock – Young Woman of Distinction

Kaime Woody Sherman
Lenore Lukasik-Foss
Ann Herring
Laura Michele Fortino
Brenda Symons-Moulton
Annette Hamm
Dr. Joanna Wilson
Louise Noel-Ambrose
Myriam Builes Lopez
Zaynab Al-Waadh
Romita Sur

Alexis Fletcher
Alyssa Lai
Astrid Hepner
Bernice E. Downey
Debbie Bang
Hailey Milligan
Juliet M. Daniel
Katherine Kalinoski
Maggie Steele
Mannat Malik
Nancy McMillan
Patricia Akers

Colina Maxwell
Maxine Carter
Emily Hart
Helen Martin
Helen McLeod
Jan Park Dorsay
Julia Scozzari
Karen Shea
Kim McCarthy
Laura Babcock
Sharon Babineau

Cheryl Jensen
Jan Lukas
Jeanette Eby
Krista Warnke
Loretta Hill-Finamore
Lorna Zaremba
Lucene Charles
Marni Flaherty
Mary Koziol
Patricia Jordan
Linda Dayler

Anna Sponer
Casey Johnson
Diane Chiarelli
Dr. Cheryl Ann Levitt
Leah Schwenger
Lisa Hepfner
Lorraine Chapman
Medora Uppal
Susan Tian
We ROCK

Donna Skelly
Dr. Jean Clinton
Emily Clark
Janice Locke
Kathy Archer
Queen Cee
Sally Palmer
Sandy Shaw
Sharon Marafon
Taunya Laslo
Woman Abuse Working Group

Barbara Milne
Emmaline Houston
Florence Sicoli
Jennifer Powell-Fralick
Joe-Anne Priel
Linda Ense
Mildred Gould
Ruby Amog
Shirley Elford
Hamilton Police Services 50th Anniversary Steering Committee

Debbie Crickmore
Dr. Alexandra Papaioannou
Joanna Chapman
Judith Bishop
Karyn Callaghan
Lynda Lukasik
Nomi Cuneo
Sandie Heirwegh
Susan Fowler
North Hamilton Community Health Centre

Ardyth Webster Brott
Betty Ann Bushell
Cathy Ferreira
Elizabeth Beader
Jessie Stoneman
Lauren Wallace
Madina Wasuge
Nancy DiGregorio
SACHA- Sexual Assault Centre (Hamilton and Area)

Annette Brennan
Betty Mullin
Carole MacVicar
Elize Hartley
Krys Croxall
Krystena Wan
Nathalie Xian Yi Yan
Patricia Daenzer
Susan Clairmont
The Robert Land Mom’s Group

Women of Distinction Award Recipients
1975 - 2005

Brandy Gowling
Geraldine Voros
Judi Patridge
Mary Lamb
Renee Simone Wetselaar
Ruth Greenspan
Sara Lukacin

Betty Bechtel
Elizabeth Weaver
Hillary Smith
Joanne Ruggieri
Lyla Miklos
Mary Pocius
Melanie McFarlane
Myra James

Carolann Fernandes
Dr. Marie Bountrogianni
Elham Farah
Eva Marsh
Laura Ludwin
Mary Lou Weir
Renate Manthei
Shelley Scott

Barbara Jane Cowan
Dr. Lori Whitehead
Jean Yvonne Miles
Joyce Oliver
Margaret Warriner
Pamela Tracz
Pat Mandy

Andrea Henry
Connie Smith
Elizabeth Latner
Katie Alexandra Hui
Kelly Hayes
Ollie Thompson
Phylis Tresidder
Rhona Trott
Sura Abdul-Razzak

Antoinette Mongillo Howson
Barbara Patterson
Caroll Wiggens (nee Montag)
Carrie Bell
Esther Pauls
Gillian Leek
Patti Beckett

Anne Bain
Aznive Mallett
Bonnie Stayzer
Jasmine Kaur Aujla
Jill Rumble
Mary Gallagher
Sharon Easton

Carrie Sinkowski
Carron Barbas
Ceed Stapleton
Charlene Lockhart
Cumuli Arcand
Dr. Irene Turpee
Eleanor Rodney
Hilena Zylstr
Judy Kloosterman
Kelly Heaney
Lana Lowe
Linda Jacobs
Magenta Chernets
Marie Tuttle
Marjory Nairn
Mary Kiss
Mary Long
Meghan Burke
Odette Clarke
Pat Coward
Patricia Naber
Stephanie Morrison

Andrea Lynne Horwath
Ann Sloat
Anne Vallentyne
Dr. Barbara Gowitzke
Joyce Brown
Paulina Veronique Cote
Sunni Genesco
Vincenza Travale

Birgitt Williams (nee Bolton)
Candace Malott
Evelyn Myrie
Irene Stayshyn
Joyce Caygill
Leonor Sorger
Marlene Thomas Osborne
Sheila Copps
Virginia Binko

Doris Sanchez
Dr. Heather Johnson
Janice Brunet (nee Freckleton)
Marie Peebles
Sharon Bonham
Sr. Agnes Ward

Angela Maloch
Catherine Gibbon
Christine Silverberg
Denise Giroux
Patricia Kozowyk
Ruth Williams
Therese Quigley
Wendy Moore Spors

Doreen Johnson
Jude Johnson
Lydia Coy
Priscilla De Villiers
Shameela Karmali-Rawji
Thelma McGillivray

Doris Clark Ludwig
Florence Irvine
Gwen Lee
Jacqueline Pearce Harbour
Joan Bean
Shirley Turkstra
V. Jane Gordon

Basanti Majumdar
Denise Davy
Gwynneth Hawse Cook
Hoda El Maraghy
Patricia Wallace
Shirley Elford

Joan Coldwell
Joan Rapsavage
Marietta Pupo
Marion Farnan
Marnie Paikin
Sister Joan O’Sullivan

Barbara Chambers
Dr. Gene Sutton
Eleanor Morrow
Eunice Swanborough
Jeannette Walkem
Joy Warner

Brig. Elizabeth Peacocke
Diana Stewart
Elizabeth Holbrook
Lesley Russell
Marjorie Baskin
Shirley Molot

Alvina Werner
Betty Lou Lee
Irene Pearce
Judith Bishop
Mary Chantrell
May Cohen
Sheila Davies

Cecelia Carter-Smith
Eileen Morrow
Heather Murphy
Lynn Marie Spencer Duncan
Pat Ford
Patricia Rolston

Edith Schooley
Hanna Newcombe
Joan DeNew
Jody Orr
Mary Keyes
Olive Newcombe

Christine Hamilton
Emily Smith-Cain
Grace Harris
Joan Berta
Lynne Powell
Muriel Beatty

1983 – Joan S. McKee
1982 – Dorothy Thomas
1981 – Gloria O’Connor
1980 – Ruth Cornwell
1979 – Joan McKee
1978 – Mary Gibbon
1977 – Norma Berti

Dolores Marks
Doris Short
Elizabeth Lee
Elizabeth MacKay
Flora Nicholson
Jenny Hilstead
Joan Balinson
Mildred McGilivray
Nib Johnson
Patricia Lopresti
Shirley Gibbon

Dr. Roberta Bondar
Elizabeth Page
Carmeta Gentles
Roberta Jamieson
Anne Jones
Ellen Fairclough
Gwendolyn George
Patricia Wallace
Karen Cimba
Phylis McAvoy
Irmagard Westman
Denise Roger-McQuilkin
Bettina Campbell

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