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Burlington’s Best winners, Claire’s Take, and why this is the best night of the year

Burlington's Best LogoThe City of Burlington honoured 20 nominees and award winners in seven categories at the annual Burlington’s Best Awards ceremony on May 11.
My Take: This event, along with the business awards ceremony, is my favourite night of the year. It’s an opportunity to meet and hear about our amazing residents and business we wouldn’t otherwise know about, who quietly go about making our city better. We are a great community because of our people. I think you’ll agree, once you read more about the people, and the sponsors of these awards. Also check out Claire’s Take below.

2015 Burlington’s Best Award winners


Ward 2 resident Brenda Hunter is Burlington's 2016 Citizen of the Year.
Ward 2 resident Brenda Hunter is Burlington’s 2015 Citizen of the Year.

Citizen of the Year Award Winner: Brenda Hunter

This award is courtesy of the Rotary Club of Burlington-Lakeshore and the Rotary Club of Burlington North. Service above self is Rotary’s guiding principle.

The Citizen of the Year Award is given to a person whose volunteer activity has made a significant and sustained contribution to the vibrancy and wellbeing of the Burlington community.

Brenda Hunter’s leadership and dedication to the healthcare needs of Burlington through her work with the Joseph Brant Hospital Foundation is inspiring.

She is a true champion of the hospital’s “Our New Era Campaign” which has raised more than $48 million and she successfully led the “One room at a Time Campaign” which raised $400,000 in support of the refurbishment of the Palliative Care Unit. Hunter is an example of leadership and volunteerism and her many contributions have transformed our community.

Heritage Award Winner: Winnifred Stewart

This award is sponsored by Heritage Burlington, a City of Burlington citizen advisory committee comprised of 14 volunteers with a mandate to provide advice to City Council on issues related to the conservation of Burlington’s cultural heritage. The award goes to an individual who has demonstrated a long-term commitment to the preservation of Burlington’s heritage, and has volunteered his or her time to support the preservation of Burlington’s heritage.

Winnifred Stewart has been a leader and supporter of heritage and culture in Burlington for more than 40 years. At Joseph Brant Museum, she has documented collection pieces, provided tours to young and old and has worked tirelessly to ensure future generations will continue to learn about the early settlement and development of Burlington and the important relationship with First Nations through Joseph Brant, Thayendanegea.

Stewart was a member of the Friends of Ireland House and spent hundreds of hours raising awareness and funds to ensure it became a museum for the citizens of Burlington. Her dedication and commitment to preserving, documenting and presenting Burlington’s heritage is a strong testament to her sense of community.

Community Service Award Winner: Janice Martin

This award is sponsored by COGECO and is given to an individual or group whose volunteer activity has contributed to the betterment of the Burlington community.

Janice Martin is a compassionate person, with a natural ability to make people feel safe and appreciated, who makes things happen in her community. She spearheaded a single moms’ group at Tansley United Church, which has empowered many single moms, allowing them to form positive and nurturing connections.

Martin helped to set up an after-school program called Chill Zone; a seniors program. She volunteers twice a month at the North Burlington Community Dinners and oversees the Food for Life program at the Tansley distribution location. Martin finds a way to meet needs either directly, by partnering with other community organizations or by sourcing funds and volunteers and then applying her impressive organization skills to make things come together.

Environmental Award Winner: Ken Woodruff

This award is sponsored by waste management company Walker Environmental Group. The Environmental Award is given to an individual or group that improved and/or protects Burlington’s environment.

Ken Woodruff has tirelessly volunteered his time, energy and expertise for the past decade. He believes in the importance of giving of oneself to create a better, healthier Burlington for others to enjoy.

His hard work and dedication to environmental initiatives in Burlington, including protecting the rural environment and valuable green space, has touched many lives. Woodruff has pushed for environmentally sustainable policy and decision-making and has led the BurlingtonGreen team to grow as an effective, impactful organization through various programs, services and advocacy campaigns.

Woodruff’s passion and determined efforts to protect the health of the environment have made Burlington a better city for all of us to enjoy, now and in the future.

Arts Person of the Year Winner: Dan Murray

The Arts Person of the Year/K.W. Irmisch Award was donated to the City of Burlington by the Irmisch family to recognize the importance of the arts in the community and to recognize all of the volunteers who work so hard to showcase the amazing talent and culture of Burlington.

The award is given to an individual who has contributed to the arts in Burlington as an artist, patron or advocate, including, but not limited to, visual arts, media arts, musical arts, performing arts and literary arts.

Dan Murray is a co-organizer of the Burlington Slam Project and has grown from a participating local poet into an international competitor and local artistic mentor.

In his co-organizer capacity, he has hosted nearly half of 2015’s monthly poetry shows, co-facilitated several free writing workshops with HYWire (Halton Youth Writers) at Burlington Public Library and has served in the official coaching role for Burlington’s 2015 International Slam Team.

Murray has become a top ranked Canadian spoken word artist who has successfully branched out into a musical career and continues to lend his time to help other writers. His contributions to this community as an organizer, artist and emerging mentor have had a tremendous impact on all who know him.

Junior Citizen of the Year Winner: Chris Choi

Youthfest was founded in 2002, and avidly promotes the importance of youth in our community, develops youth responsibility and action in the community and connects youth to meaningful volunteer opportunities and available supportive service. The winner will receive a $500 bursary, courtesy of the Bank of Montreal, which has been a leading and supportive partner since the inception of Youthfest.

The Junior Citizen of the Year Award is given to a high school student, 18 years of age or younger, who has made a significant contribution to the Burlington community.

Chris Hoic is a natural leader, bringing dedication and passion to his various community volunteer roles. He has made a significant contribution at Burlington Public Library by assisting with the Teen/Senior Tech Meet-Up program where teens help seniors with computer skills.

Choi is recognized as a leader on the library’s Central Branch Teen Advisory Board and is a Youth Representative on the Library’s Advocacy Committee promoting lifelong literacy. Chris helped shape the development of 3 Things for Burlington, supported by Community Development Halton and Burlington Public Library, which promotes random acts of kindness by teens to create a positive impact on the citizens of Burlington.

Senior Person of the Year Winner Bob Pring

This award is sponsored by the Williamsburg seniors residence in Burlington. The Senior Person of the Year Award is given to a Burlington resident aged 55 years or older who has advocated on behalf of seniors and/or made a significant contribution to the Burlington community.

Bob Pring’s volunteer community contributions are many and include the Art Gallery of Burlington, working with youth in hockey, developing skills across the generations in lawn bowling and helping those less fortunate through local social service agencies.

Pring recently initiated a project to make handcrafted canes for Burlington’s veterans and recruited members of the Sculptors and Woodcarvers Guild to help carve them. He knows the power of the arts can improve the lives of children in both school and life and has actively engaged and instructed children in woodcarving demonstrations for many years.

About Burlington’s Best

Burlington’s Best Awards are managed by a citizen’s committee established in 1965 with the mandate of recognizing Burlington residents who bring honour to the city and make a difference in their community. To learn more about the city’s annual recognition awards, Burlington’s Best, visit

burlington's best tablesClaire’s Take:

I wasn’t too sure what the night would be like at the Burlington’s Best awards on May 11th, but Marianne told me on the way there that it was her favourite event of the year. The event was held at the Burlington Convention Centre, which I had been to once before for the Women as Career Coaches night. Even though the event started at 7:30, the doors were open at 6:30 to give people a chance to mingle and talk. A buffet dinner was also offered to everyone, which included a variety of salads, pastas, and cold cuts of meat. I was easily distracted by how the fruit was cut into pretty flower shapes, but the nice smell of the pasta being cooked brought me back.

With former MP of Burlington Mike Wallace as the master of ceremonies beginning with his opening remarks, our Mayor Rick Goldring also spoke about Burlington as an excellent place to live. For all of the nominees, there was a brief one-minute video to introduce him or her and acknowledge their contribution to Burlington. I found it interesting to hear how people are getting involved in the community and seizing their opportunity to make a difference.

Instead of just complaining about something, you can go out there and be the change. The award categories brought in a diverse group of people that highlights all the different genres in our city.

I liked hearing the background stories on how the nominees got motivated to pursue their passions or follow their dreams. One nominee that went on to win the Arts Person of the Year that stood out for me was Dan Murray. He explained how at first he couldn’t imagine himself speaking on stage in front of a crowd and started as a participating poet. Now he has been successful in international competitions and has become an artist mentor for others who are starting out. He also told the crowd how he has his mother to thank for being so supportive of his dream of becoming a musician at a young age.

I’m always amazed and happy when people overcome even their smallest of fears, and push themselves because they know they can achieve their goals. It makes me happy when I see others doing what they love to do, because life is too short to wonder “what if”.

Regardless if the nominees won or not, they should all be congratulated. The selflessness that people have and the desire to help all different kinds of citizens is lovely to hear. I don’t know how the Burlington’s Best Awards Committee picked just one winner for each category, but watching those quick introduction videos made me want to get up and give them all a high five.

It certainly was a pleasant and inspiring meeting, and I now understand why Marianne said this is her favourite event.






Written by Marianne Meed Ward

A Better Burlington began in 2006 after my neighbours said they felt left out of city decisions, learning about them only after they’d been made.

As journalist for 22 years, I thought “I can do something about that” and a website and newsletter were born. They’ve taken various forms and names over the years, but the intent remains: To let you know what’s happening at City Hall before decisions are made, so you can influence outcomes for A Better Burlington.

The best decisions are made when elected representatives tap the wisdom of our community members, and welcome many different perspectives.This site allows residents to comment and debate with each other; our Commenting Guidelines established in 2016 aim to keep debate respectful.

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