Community Awards celebrates achievements of citizens

Mayor's Citizen of the Year for 2016, Sterling Middleton. Photo by Montana Cumming

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — The Ninth Annual Community Awards Gala was filled with fun, laughter, and the incredible stories of citizens in the city.

Hosted by Ted Sloan, the Gala recognized the city’s residents with awards for achievements in enriching the social landscape of Fort St. John in recreation, literacy, culture, and humanitarianism.

In light of the rash of wildfires burning in the peace this week, Sloan acknowledged the stories of the community pulling together to help one another in a time of emergency.

“This week has been the week where we have prove that even though times can get tough up here we are still the best place in this country to live,” he said, to a round of applause from the audience.

The first award of the night, for youth under who have worked hard to made the City a better place, went to Erica Thomas-Schulenberg. At just 14-years-old, she is an advocate for cerebral palsy and is committed to raising awareness of it. She has made great strides in introducing wheelchair basketball and making it more accessible in the community.

“Because of her, Fort St. John is a safer, kinder, more inclusive place to live.”

The next award, the Humanitarian Award, went to the Evangel Chapel — accepted by Tony Warriner. The Evangel Chapel was recognized for putting on many free events year-long, and their accomplishments hosting engaging events in the downtown core.

“Seemingly full of endless energy, they continue to welcome everyone in their building and celebrations — regardless of belief, social status, or membership.”

Next, the recreation award, given to someone who makes a difference in the sports culture of the community, went to Paul Van Nostrand — for his efforts helping some of the hugest sports events to come to town take flight. His repertoire of work includes the B.C. Winter Games, the Allan Cup, and the U17 World Hockey Championships.

“Paul can not only put a large army of volunteers together in a short amount of time, he can lead them exceptionally well.”

Following an intermission with live performance from Twin Peaks, the winner of the Cultural Award was announced.

On behalf of the North Peace Historical Society, President Evelyn Sim accepted the award. The 88-member Historical Society was recognized for their work preserving and celebrating history unique to the North Peace region.

“Never one to shy away from a challenge, they also assist high-level researchers with their studies and help to answer any question about the Peace Region. They truly are an incredible group of volunteers.”

The recipient of the Literacy Award was Jane Drew, who as awarded for her work with new Canadian families settling in their homes — becoming the go-to woman for many of these families when faced with new, unfamiliar, and potentially frightening situations.

“She’s become a champion for multiculturalism in Fort St. John and seeks to break down borders.”

Before the Mayor’s Citizen of the Year was announced, local cyclist-turned-author Pat Ferris spoke about his experiences moving to Fort St. John from Victoria, his helping hand in Blizzard Bicycle Club, and eventually writing a book about all of his experiences.

“As soon as I got into town, started talking to people, I found people were as friendly and open as the skies,” he said.

Fort St. John Mayor Lori Ackerman announced the winner of the Mayor’s Citizen of the Year Award — Sterling Middleton.

“Though he’s only been curling for a short amount of time, Sterling Middleton is making a big mark. Starting in Fort St. John, Sterling quickly jumped to the provincial competitive level, and then to the national level — representing Team B.C. in the Canada Winter Games. This was no easy task, but the nearly-monthly flights to Vancouver were worth it. After clenching a bronze medal, he was chosen to represent Canada in the Youth Olympics. After sweeping the round robin competition, Sterling and his teammates continue to be undefeated and eventually won the gold medal, defeating Team USA 10 to 4.

It hasn’t been easy to travel the long distances from Northern B.C. to the rest of the world, but Sterling and his family have worked extremely hard to make it all happen, and they are extremely grateful for all the help they’ve received from the community.

On a local angle, Sterling gives back to his community  by being part of the local curling community. He helps out with the junior program with the Fort St. John Curling Club, where he is never too busy to help someone out.

Balancing school, life, and curling, Sterling is an inspiration to those who need it, and we’re very excited to see what the future holds for this talented, personable young man.”

To see the rest of the nominees in the city, check out the City of Fort St. John’s website.