Governor General of Canada

Governor General of Canada

January 28, 2015 18:35 ET

Presentation of Caring Canadian Award During Their Excellencies Visit to Western Canada

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwired - Jan. 28, 2015) - During their visit to Western Canada, from January 27 to 29, 2015, Their Excellencies the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, and Mrs. Sharon Johnston presented the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award to 13 volunteers who have made a difference within their communities. The list of recipients and their citations are listed below.

About the Caring Canadian Award

Created in 1995, the Governor General's Caring Canadian Award recognizes living Canadians and permanent residents who have made a significant, sustained, unpaid contribution to their community, in Canada or abroad. Often working behind the scenes, these individuals volunteer their time and efforts to help their fellow citizens. The award also brings to light the example set by volunteers, whose compassion and engagement are a part of our Canadian character. For more information or to nominate a deserving individual, visit

Tuesday, January 27
Calgary, Alberta
Austin Bender
Calgary, Alberta

Austin Bender is a proud supporter of Bullying Ends Here, and of raising awareness about social stigmas. At his school, he started the Gay Straight Alliance, to create a safe and welcoming place for students to share their thoughts. At the invitation of the Calgary Police Diversity Board, he works with a group of 20 individuals to bring awareness to issues troubling youth in Calgary.

William "Bill" Bone
Calgary, Alberta

A year after tragically losing his only daughter to suicide, William "Bill" Bone decided to give back to the community as a way to honour her memory. He began volunteering with the Canadian Mental Health Association-Calgary Region. Since that time, he has spoken with youth at local schools about suicide and its prevention. In addition to his current role as chair of the CMHA-Alberta Division Board, Mr. Bone has served in a number of positions with CMHA-Calgary and other related organizations, with the constant goal of educating Calgarians about suicide prevention, bereavement and stigma.

Mona Cooley
Calgary, Alberta

Twenty years ago, when her daughter was officially diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Mona Cooley discovered there were few support programs available for families of individuals with mental illness. She took action by reaching out to the CMHA-Calgary Region, where she began volunteering her time and subsequently initiated the Family Support Program. This service provides assistance, education and information on how to support family members or friends of someone living with a mental health condition. Ms. Cooley currently shares her expertise with the wider community through a variety of speaking engagements.

Deborah Dobson
Calgary, Alberta

Deborah Dobson has worked in the field of mental health as a psychologist for Alberta Health Services (AHS) for many years, as well as by serving on the boards of the Potential Place Clubhouse and the Psychologists Association of Alberta. She joined the CMHA-Calgary Region board of directors in 2003 as a volunteer; since then, she has contributed her time to supporting fundraising events to meet the housing needs of CMHA-Calgary Region clients. In addition to her participation in a variety of committees, she has also served as a member of the editorial committee and as science advisor for e-Balance magazine.

Gordon Hoffman
Calgary, Alberta

For the past 20 years, Gordon Hoffman has been giving of his time to benefit local charities. He is the founder and chair of Operation Kickstart Society, which educates and trains individuals having difficulty entering or re-entering the workforce. Additionally, he heads the Project Warmth Society of Alberta, which collects, cleans, repairs and distributes warm clothing, outerwear and blankets to those in need. He also makes time to mentor leaders at local charities and to encourage those around him to volunteer and donate their time to the community.

Candace Watson
Calgary, Alberta

Since being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Candace Watson has used her journey of recovery as a platform to educate and assist others in her community. Married, with three small children, she demonstrates that it is possible to live a full and productive life while living with a mental health condition. She serves as a champion for mental health by regularly speaking at the Family Support Program's peer support group as well as at other public CMHA-Calgary Region events, where she is inspiring, honest and courageous in sharing her story with others.

Wednesday, January 28
Vancouver, British Columbia
Salina Dharamsi
Vancouver, British Columbia

Salina Dharamsi passionately engages children in discussions on equity and acceptance. In her community, she has worked to promote child welfare by supporting breakfast programs in schools and by volunteering with Canuck Place Children's Hospice. Internationally, she has worked to empower youth by serving as a World Vision youth ambassador in Rwanda and by advocating for children to be better prepared for natural disasters.

William Grut
Vancouver, British Columbia

A Canadian physician, Dr. William Grut has dedicated his time to help improve the quality of life for people around the world. He founded Rose Charities International, which has successful projects in over 13 countries in Africa and Southeast Asia. He has raised funds and organized volunteers to bring sustainable programs to communities facing extreme hardship. He trained local surgeons and set up clinics in Cambodia after the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1990s, and started projects in Sri Lanka after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004, to help survivors, particularly children.

Morris Klos
New Westminster, British Columbia

Morris Klos has been a volunteer with the Telecare Crisis and Caring Line since 1998. He is an empathic listener who is concerned about the well-being of callers using the crisis line and who is able to remain calm during stressful times. His demeanour has had a positive impact on the way Telecare serves its clients. Within the broader community, he coaches and referees local and provincial soccer leagues, helping players improve their skills and push themselves to be outstanding, compassionate and respectful towards others and to the game itself.

Tracy LaPointe
Vancouver, British Columbia

A volunteer with Union Gospel Mission for over 14 years, Tracy LaPointe was once a client of the Mission herself. She has overcome many challenges: she was diagnosed with polio as an infant, and faced addiction and poverty later in life. She began volunteering with the Mission four to five times a week to help the women and children of the Downtown Eastside. She doesn't let the polio-induced paralysis impede her work, and she has proven that anything is possible when it comes to her dedication to the community.

Noel Walter MacDonald
Vancouver, British Columbia

For the past eight years, despite trying circumstances, Noel MacDonald has worked diligently to build trusting relationships in the Downtown Eastside. Fraught with addictions, mental health issues and poverty, the community and its residents have benefitted from the compassion and selflessness Mr. MacDonald brings to his work. His ability to interact with people at all levels with the utmost of respect has allowed him to successfully guide many individuals towards the services they need and to making healthier choices.

Karen Pruim
Surrey, British Columbia

Karen Pruim has been a volunteer with the Princess Project since it started in 2010. This charity provides graduation outfits to underprivileged students living in the Lower Mainland area, anywhere from Ladner to Mission. She works with schools, businesses and people in the community to gather and distribute clothing items and accessories with the singular goal of giving young graduates a memorable day. She helps them gain more self-confidence and greater overall self-esteem. The Princess Project relies on more than 125 volunteers and starts in the early spring.

Ali Solehdin
North Vancouver, British Columbia

Ali Solehdin provides consistent service to the greater Vancouver communities through many different organizations. He moderates civic events, actively contributes to committee meetings or welcomes guests at events. A long-time volunteer and advocate for educational initiatives, he joined the board of directors of the Laurier Institution in 2012, where he initiated a series of community dialogues on such issues as racism and ethnicity. He has also volunteered with the Institute for Canadian Citizenship since 2010.

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