Two Gananoque town councillors are looking to revive an award that appears to have fallen by the wayside in the last decade.
“There’s a really nice plaque at the entrance to the arena honouring people who have contributed to athletic activities in Gananoque, but it’s sat empty since 2010. That doesn’t send a very good message to residents or visitors,” said Coun. Dave Osmond.
The plaque sits at the entrance to the Lou Jeffries Arena and is titled Champions of Gananoque, but little else has been recorded at the town.
“There’s not much we can find in the town’s files. Normally, there is a set of criteria and an evaluation committee, but we haven’t been able to find anything in the files,” said Kari Lambe, manager of community services.
The last recipient named on the plaque was Gananoque resident Deborah Donaldson. The Recorder and Times was able to track down Donaldson, and while she doesn’t have a clear recollection of receiving the honour 10 years ago, she did record the reason it was given.
"I recorded it on my LinkedIn page and it says, ‘In recognition of her dedication and commitment to youth athletics and in gratitude for a lifetime of volunteer commitments which have significantly improved the quality of life for the citizens of our community,’ at the time I was transitioning from a private dance school to a not-for-profit dance school and I had been volunteering a lot with youth,” said Donaldson.
The town’s recreation director at that time was Sue Smith, according to Donaldson, and she believes that Smith was one of the driving forces behind the award as was one of the McCarneys.
“I think it was either started by Hal McCarney or championed by him,” said Donaldson.
But it could also have been both Hal and Neil McCarney Sr. providing the initial drive behind the award.
“I know my father was a big proponent of the hall of fame at the recreation centre and wanted to always honour volunteers, but I only remember bits and pieces from conversations, nothing specific about the award,” said Neil McCarney Jr.
With the full support of council, staff have been directed to seek nominations for the award. The deadline for nominations, according to Lambe, is set for Nov. 27, and will be followed by a report to council on Dec. 1.
“Nomination information and forms are currently being completed. Nominations will be open as of next week, and will be posted on Gananoque.ca as well as through municipal social media channels. The criteria for nominations will be outlined on the nomination form,” said Lambe.
According to Lambe, it hasn’t yet been determined whether a new awards committee will be struck or if council will make the final decision. Meanwhile, Osmond and Coun. Adrian Haird just want to promote a bit of festivity in what has proven to be a dreary year.
“We just want to spread a bit of cheer and joy and recognize people in the community who volunteer their time,” said Haird.
Heddy Sorour, Local Journalism Initiative, Brockville Recorder and Times