ANNUAL GALA 2018
RIVIERA EVENTS & CONVENTION CENTER
2800 HWY 7, CONCORD, ON L4K 1W8
I extend heartfelt greetings to all guests who have gathered to celebrate our 5th annual Brilliant Minded Women Organization & Foundation Gala Event. It’s an exciting time for our organization, as we continue to grow, meet and bring inspired people together. We are honored to be able to celebrate the achievements of our amazing Award recipients.
Brilliant Minded Women Organization & Foundation is extremely grateful to all sponsors and supporters for their generosity, our event could not have happened without their participation. We are happy to have all ends of the spectrum represented and realize the impact of everyone’s participation and the necessity of the roles. We are pleased to provide you with a forum that allows the chance for us to thrive and grow. With your help, we intend to accomplish even more in the years ahead. Finally, a heartfelt thank you, to the 2018 Gala Committee. Your dedication, creativity, and resourcefulness made this evening possible allowing us to create an engaging environment.
MAURIZIO BEVILACQUA – MAYOR OF VAUGHAN
CONSUL ANDRZEJ SZYDLO WITH WIFE KATARZYNA KOCHAN-SZYDLO – HEAD OF THE SECTION OF RELATIONS WITH THE POLISH COMMUNITY, CONSULATE GENERAL OF POLAND (TORONTO)
IVAN KOMARENKO – RUSSIAN SINGER AND MEDIA PERSONALITY
MASTER OF CEREMONY
Marta Pozniakowski was born and spent her formative years in Poland. It is there that she first discovered her passion for film, graduating from the National Film School in Łódź and starting her acting career before emigrating to Canada in 2008 for the happiest of personal reasons: her husband Jack Pozniakowski.
As someone who believes in giving back, Marta is also active with the Polish Orphans Charity ( www.polishorphans.org ), volunteering as its Director of Communication and Entertainment in order to help ensure the annual success of its two main fundraising events: the White Christmas Dinner and the Ball Pologne.
Marta’s life is completed by her family, which now also includes two young boys. There is perhaps nothing she loves more than spending time in their company, whether at home in Toronto, nestled in their little red brick “dollhouse,” or away on a holiday, enjoying new experiences and cultures or the now-familiar beaches of Costa Rica.
Awarded Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada (WXN & Financial Post), and Iconic Women Leaders of the Decade Envisioning a United World by the Women’s Global Economic Forum, Tanya Chernova is an engaging and charismatic expert in human behaviour, award-winning speaker, business coach and #1 best-selling author who has inspired countless individuals in over 60 countries around the world. She has pioneered the groundbreaking global empowerment organization Courageous Living and PNRT (Progressive Neural Resolution Therapy), a revolutionary and proven means of overcoming subconscious barriers and maximizing individual potential.
Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Grenville (a.k.a. ‘G’) has been playing the violin since the age of seven. His musical abilities have been nurtured from a young age with continuous recitals and performances that have resulted in his love for the stage and entertaining others. He comes from a musical family, with his mother playing and teaching piano, his father who sings, and two sisters who are professional pianists and accompany Grenville regularly.
G now resides in Toronto and performs professionally across North America and Internationally for special events and concerts. His wide repertoire of music, bubbling personality, and love for entertaining others, are just a few reasons that make him a perfect addition to any special event!
Kinga Mitrowska born in Montreal began her musical studies at the Faculty of Theatre in Marianopolis College in Montreal and then traveled to Poland, where she graduated with a master’s degree with distinction from the F. Chopin University of Music in Warsaw. She made her debut, which turned out to be a great success, as Despina in Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, staged by Polish State Opera. She was engaged by the Warsaw State Opera as a solist. Among her roles were: Susanna in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, Musetta in Puccini’s La Bohème, or Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata.
Kinga is a recipient of many awards of vocal competitions and festivals. Many of her students are following in her footsteps by also winning in voice competitions “American Protege” “NATS Voice Competition” “Hall Leonard”,”Martys”, “Doreen Chaddock”. In recognition of her talent, the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television nominated her in 2005 for the 20th Annual Gemini Awards in the Best Performance category. In 2007 she was decorated with the Medal of Merit by the Polish Ministry of Culture for her artistic achievements. She is the recipient of the Ontario Volunteer Service Awards that was given to her in 2008. In 2013 she was awarded the Gold Cross of Merit from the President of Poland for her propagation of Polish culture in Canada. Recipient of the Brilliant Minded Woman Award 2016 in Entertainment and Art. Kinga is a member of RCM, Equity, and National Association of Teachers of Singing.
Patti Jannetta Baker
Patti worked her way through the music industry into a position garnering her respect as a singer, entertainer, songwriter, and humanitarian. Discovered in high school, Patti became a teen actress in Canadian Rock Theatre’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar. The show opened at the International Hilton in Vegas opposite Elvis and Gladys Knight then moved to the Aquarius Theatre in Los Angeles.
her own CTV national special, A Family Christmas and toured with Thai sensation Manee throughout Europe and Thailand, filming the documentary Superstar.
I Believe That… “DJing is not about choosing a few tunes. It is about generating shared moods; it is about understanding the feelings of a group of people and directing them to a better place.”
Karolina Podolak is a Polish-Canadian soprano from Toronto. Karolina Podolak work as a radio producer at Global News Radio 640. She developed her passion for music at a young age, studying the violin and guitar.
Group of Ballerina Dancers, I.D.A.
I.D.A is a classical ballet school that offers private and semi-private lessons, as well as small classroom settings for beginner’s ballet. The school also offers a pre-professional/professional ballet program, where the focus is on training ballet dancers in renowned Russian, Vaganova based methods.
Honourable Lifetime Achievement Award
Hazel McCallion, C.M., LL.D., B.A.Sc., is a Canadian political and businesswoman who dedicated more than 40 years of service to the residents of Mississauga, and 36 of those as the city’s Mayor. First elected in 1978, she is the longest-serving mayor in the city’s history, having been successful in 12 municipal elections. Her supporters gave her the nickname “Hurricane Hazel” because of her outspoken political style.
That career began in Streetsville, Ontario, where she and her husband, Sam McCallion, owned property. Her first campaign was in 1964 for the position of deputy reeve, and it was unsuccessful. But by 1970, Hazel McCallion became Streetsville’s Mayor, and in 1978, after her town was amalgamated with the Town of Mississauga and Town of Port Credit to form the City of Mississauga, she was elected as Mayor of Mississauga. At that time she sat on virtually every committee in the city and in the Peel Region. Since then, during her12 terms in office as Mayor, spanning 1978 to 2014, Mississauga grew from a small collection of villages to one of Canada’s largest cities. Today it is home to over 750,000 people and 55 of the Fortune 500 companies.
Hazel McCallion has shared her ideas and experiences at meetings and speaking engagements throughout Canada and the world, she sits on numerous boards of community organizations and businesses, and she has received countless awards, including the Leadership in Public Service Award from the International Economic Development Council, runner-up for the World Mayor Award, Membership to the Order of Canada, and the Key to the City of Mississauga, just to name a few.
A mother of three, on her 90th birthday in 2011 she was assessed by Dr. Barbara Clive, a geriatrician, who stated that “at 90 her gait is perfect and her speech is totally sharp. She’s the poster child for seniors”.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Iwona Kirejczyk is a passionate teacher, holding a Master’s degree in Geography from the University of Warsaw, and a Ph.D. in the education of blind and visually impaired children from the University of Gdańsk. She sees the hidden potential in people that often they don’t see themselves and has used her life-long passion for teaching to help others.
Countless parents have told Iwona Kirejczyk about the powerful difference she made in their children’s and their own lives through her teaching and through the compassionate way she interacted with their children. The special relationships she developed inspired new-found confidence in her students and also their parents. Iwona Kirejczyk never hesitated in being an advocate for students, and she supported parents in doing the same, allowing for significant positive changes in the lives of many wonderful but vulnerable children. She follows Winston Churchill’s philosophy: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”
Outside education, Iwona has volunteered with several Polish initiatives and associations. She was the President of the Polish Institute of Arts and Sciences – Toronto Branch, and a curator of the Canadian-Polish Millennium Fund in Toronto. Currently, she is the Director of Scholarships at the Adam Mickiewicz Foundation and reads Polish literature to blind residents at Copernicus Lodge in Toronto.
Iwona Kirejczyk was born in Warsaw, Poland. She is the daughter of Lieutenant Krystyna Puławska – Wolska, member of the Home Army, resistance movement during WWII in German-occupied Poland, who also fought during the Warsaw Uprising in 1944.
In 1990 Iwona Kirejczyk immigrated to Canada with her husband, Juliusz, and their son, Michał. And now, she is a devoted grandmother to her two beautiful grandchildren, Maia and Dominik.
Lifetime Achievement Award
Dauna Jones-Simmonds, born in St. Kitts, is the 13th of 14 children. She migrated to Canada from the Caribbean Island over 42 years ago.
She and her husband, Dr. Wrensford Simmonds (affectionately known as Wrennie) have had a remarkable friendship for more than 45 years. They have two children, Wrensford (Rene) Simmonds II and Dauren Simmonds-Wright, and a son-in-law, Gregory Wright, as well as a daughter-in-law, Dr. Shannon Meadows. As a family that is growing, it has become clear to Dauna Jones-Simmonds that every Sunday must be spent together.
As the Lead Architect behind the 100ABCWomen national project, Dauna Jones-Simmonds recognizes, spotlights, and documents the achievements of Black Canadian Women. She is also one of the Co-Authors of 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women, a book that is now in its second edition. It is no surprise therefore that she is also an active champion for diversity and mentoring, and that she has won numerous awards for her leadership style, result orientation, and diversity efforts.
Additionally, Dauna Jones-Simmonds is the immediate past Chair of the Board of Directors for ACCES, an organization that supports the employment of new Canadians; an active member of the Rotary Club of Toronto; and a Board Member of the Delta Family Resource Centre (DFRC) – a not-for-profit organization that offers a range of support services to caregivers of children, settlement programs and services, community support, and a range of activities that enhance individual skills and promote healthy communities.
In the past, Dauna Jones-Simmonds served as a Board Member for SKETCH, an organization that supports homeless young people as well as at-risk youth. She was also the Executive Director for Ontario JOIN (Jobs Opportunity Information Network) – an organization that supports the employment of people with disabilities –, she had been a mentor to over 36 individuals, and she was involved in TRIEC’s “Mentoring Partnership” program for New Canadians.
Dauna Jones-Simmonds is an avid sports fan, gardener and she loves to create Caribbean dishes
Johanne R. Bélanger
Global Excellence Award
Johanne Bélanger is the President and CEO of Tourism Toronto, as well as a long-time industry builder, a multiple-award-winning business leader, an international speaker, a Chartered Accountant, and a tireless volunteer and mentor.
Her decade-long tenure as President of Freeman Audio Visual Canada was recognized by the industry with the 2014 International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE) Outstanding Achievement in Industry Leadership Award and an induction into the Meetings & Incentive Travel’s 2014 Hall of Fame.
Supporting and mentoring women in business is close to Johanne Bélanger’s heart. She co-founded Freeman Women’s Development, a program aimed at advancing women as leaders and at contributing to an environment where the best talent succeeds, as well as the networking group WITH IT! (Women in Tourism & Hospitality in Toronto). She is also a charter member of the Women of InfoComm Network, a global community committed to supporting and empowering women in AV and technology.
Outside of her business and community service work, Johanne Bélangerserves on several boards, including that of the Ted Rogers School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, InfoComm Asia Pte. Ltd. (IAPL) and the Tourism Industry Association of Canada.
Global Excellence Award
A true visionary and leader, Ghada Hamadani is the Founder and Managing Director of Hamadani Group Incorporation – the designer and manufacturer for the Canadian brand, Sensuelle et chic.
Born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq where she obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from Baghdad University, Ghada Hamadani started her professional career as a lecturer in the Physics and Engineering Department at Baghdad University.
In later years, her journey brought her to the Academy of Design and Technology in Toronto, Canada, where she sharpened her craft. She also then obtained a Diploma in Fashion Design from Yorkville University and a Project Management Professional Certificate from PMI, Pennsylvania-USA.
Among many of her activities, Ghada Hamadani has also worked tirelessly to support initiatives that empower women and children through social and economic integration. She is involved with over 30 North American and International Humanitarian NGOs in that regard.
She has been recognized locally and internationally for her continuous contribution towards both business growth and humanitarian work.
Best Community Service Award
Aniela Ganczak is a former urban planner and an active contributor to her community.
She was born in Jozefow, Lublin, Poland, in a military family whose members belonged to the National Army of the Polish Resistance in Germany-occupied Poland during World War II.
She completed her Master of Science in Agriculture from the University of Lublin in 1980 and thereafter worked in Zamosc city, where she first served as an urban planner in the urban planning office and later worked with the city’s housing authority as Manager of Environmental Appropriation and Planning.
Aniela Ganczak is a loving mother and grandmother to her two daughters and two grandsons, and she is surrounded by innumerable friends and supporters. She is also a pillar to her family and community; known for being loving, caring, giving, patient, and always willing to help.
Best Community Service Award
Tania Malak was born in Minsk, the capital city of Belarus, in 1972. She was raised by her father, an engineer, and her mother, a biology teacher. In 1989, after finishing high school with a gold medal, she began her studies in physics at the University of Minsk, where she ultimately graduated with a Master’s Degree in Science in 1994.
Soon after, the unstable political situation in Belarus at the time of the birth of her first child spurred Tania Malak and her young family to move to Canada in search of a better life. Starting over in Canada while caring for a young child and not knowing English was challenging both financially and emotionally for her.
Throughout all the chapters of her career, Tania Malak dedicated herself to building a solid reputation for quality client service and support – something she continues to do today. She believes that there is no other country in the world where she could have achieved as much as she has in Canada, and for that she is grateful.
Mona Amine Osman
Best Community Service Award
Mona Osman is a Lebanese national and a new immigrant to Canada.
She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Studies and Marketing from the Lebanese American University, one of the top institutions in Lebanon. She left her country when the war broke in 2006, traveled to Saudi Arabia from there, and became the first female to head a multinational company in Saudi Arabia. She also held prominent positions in leading media-powerhouses in Dubai, UAE.
Mona Osman also regularly offers her portfolio of skills, knowledge, and experience to assist community members, non-profit organizations, and small/medium businesses with developing marketing strategies and plans.
Best Community Service Award
NesrinThabet was born in Damascus, Syria. She immigrated to Canada over 30 years ago to pursue her studies in business as well as make-up application and aesthetics.
While pursuing her career she furthered her education and became a teacher. NesrinThabet taught for over 9 years and was highly regarded and respected as a teacher. She was also known for her dedication to her community, especially when it came to supporting young women.
In that spirit, she also started a radio show, Basamatalaljudran al mahjer, where she discusses important topics and issues that concern the Arab community. As a result of the radio show, women from around the world have reached out to NesrinThabet for help. From aiding migrants to settle in Canada to assisting high school girls with makeup for their prom, and building up confidence amongst young women through her organized events and motivational speeches, NesrinThabet has done much for her local and global community via the radio show.
She is an amazing motivator, supporter, mother, and friend.
S. Sonia Vaknin, B.A., LL.B.
Charity Of The Year Award
At the age of 7, Sonia arrived in Canada with her family as a Jewish refugee from the former Soviet Union. Facing state-sanctioned discrimination and restrictions on emigration, Sonia’s parents were compelled to find a better life for their children. With minimal – yet greatly appreciated – assistance, Sonia’s family built a new future in a foreign country. Sonia’s upbringing is a major motivation behind her ongoing devotion to give back to local communities and help underprivileged children.
Sonia is a Lawyer and Tax Specialist with a multi-disciplinary business that provides for all of clients’ business and professional needs. She is a partner at HS & Partners LLP Chartered Professional Accountants and owner of Vaknin Law Professional Corporation. With over 20 years’ experience, Sonia has developed expertise in a number of different business areas including personal and corporate taxation, real estate investment, cross-border planning, business succession and more. Sonia is also a board member of Entrepreneurs Organization, a leading international business group.
Sonia has appeared on T.V. business talk shows and continues to serve as a keynote and guest speaker for various events focused on tax and business-related issues.
Volunteer of The Year Award
Doaa Mohsen is a Municipal Government Project Manager (City of Toronto), a Professor of Business Management in multiple Canadian Universities and international Think Tanks, a Certified Senior Business Management Consultant, and a Multicultural Ambassador (Philanthropy) for World Vision Canada.
She over 27 years of public service experience in Canada’s provincial and municipal governments have involved working as a board member for multiple Toronto and Ontario public service forums, as well as advocating for civic engagement, for building a more modern city for Torontonians, and for the role of education in transforming communities and supporting future generations of Canada. Doaa Mohsen has also helped NGOs create inclusive Canadian cities and works hard to help empower women. In her capacity as a Multi-Cultural Ambassador, she sat on the ambassadors’ council for World Vision Canada and proved to be a strong supporter of the multicultural Canadian fabric, bridging together Canadians from diverse backgrounds and communities.
Doaa Mohsen is also an experienced professor, previously having taught at a considerable number of universities, training institutions, and think tanks in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Egypt on the topics of trade reform, investment promotion and development, and modernization initiatives.
Doaa Mohsen is an AWF 40 over 40 award winner and the 2017 recipient of the Excellence in Civic Engagement Prize that is bestowed annually on International Women’s Day. She also won the People’s Choice Award for Community Activism and was featured in the Globe and Mail Waterfront Magazine in 2018.
Volunteer of The Year Award
Krystyna Piotrowska was raised in a small village in Poland during the Communist Era. At the age of nineteen, she married Ryszard Piotrowski and together they migrated to Canada to follow their dreams.
Once both of them were established in Winnipeg, Krystyna Piotrowska joined the Polish Canadian Women’s Federation where she helped articulate the concerns of the Canadian Polish community on public policy issues. Also while in Winnipeg, she completed technical school and worked as a power transformer designer.
Krystyna Piotrowskais a singer and has organized, contributed to, and hosted charity events to help families in need. Her motto is to live today, because yesterday will not come back, and tomorrow may not appear.
Volunteer of The Year Award
Izabella Tinc was born in Tychy, Poland in the late 1970s. She studied there up until she was 16 years old, after which she immigrated to Canada in 1994.
Upon arrival, she studied at Philip Pocock Catholic Secondary School. The first few years were hard as she had little knowledge of the English language. But after only two years of high school, Izabella Tinc passed her college exams and entered the medical field at George Brown College. She then also met her husband, got married in 1997, and became a mother at the age of 19.
In 2009 after the birth of her daughter, Izebella Tinc made a career change and started taking interest in photography. Today she offers her photography services at numerous charity events as well as for underprivileged families who can’t afford the service.
A recipient of the Ontario Volunteer Award, Izabella Tinc currently resides in the Kitchener area.
Philanthropist of The Year Award
Rita Fragnito is a committed volunteer in her community, a single parent of two, and an avid traveler.
She was born in Italy and grew up with three sisters and two brothers. After a disastrous earthquake that destroyed their home and the town in which she grew up, her family emigrated from Italy when she was 8 years old. For the first few years, the family lived in Montreal, where they learned to adapt to a new lifestyle and culture while also learning English and French. They later moved to Niagara Falls, when Rita Fragnito was in high school.
Community service is dear to Rita Fragnito’s heart as it has been inspired by her family members. She is on the Executive Board of Club Italia Ladies Auxiliary where she has chaired the Miss Club Italia Ambassador Program for 5 years and mentored several young women. She is also on the Diversity & Inclusion Committee of Niagara Casinos and Down Syndrome Caring Parents Niagara.
As a result of Rita Fragnito’s community service efforts, she was awarded the Niagara Falls Volunteer Recognition Award and the Ontario Volunteer Service Award. Her journey is continuing to take her in exciting directions.
Philanthropist of The Year Award
Bogumila Golebiowski is the owner of a chain apparel boutique, an active volunteer and a former primary school teacher.
She was born in Wadowice, Poland – a small town near Krakow – and in 1985 she started working in an elementary school as a teacher. Her dedication and passion for early childhood education and the development of her students never flinched since. She led after-school programs, including Scouts and a Junior Association, in addition to daytime teaching, and while the work was challenging at times, BogumilaGolebiowskifound it incredibly rewarding.
By 2000 she successfully opened her first ladies’ apparel boutique in Mississauga, and soon after, the business expanded, with more stores propping up in large plazas across the Greater Toronto Area. Today Bogumila Golebiowski proudly manages this chain and has found renewed fulfillment since the days of her being an early childhood educator. She finds it especially rewarding to help her clients find outfits that best express their personality and beauty.
Contact with clients at boutiques also exposed her to the reality that many people are faced with unsolved problems in their personal and professional lives. This made BogumilaGolebiowski want to do something to help. Since then, for ten years, she has been a volunteer, dedicating her time, money and other resources to help the Canadian Polish Women’s Heritage Foundation, the Prometheus Foundation -Poland Orphanage, the Child Care Home, the School for Blind Children in Krakow, and other Polish-Canadian charity organizations and parishes.
In 2016 Bogumila Golebiowski received the Prometheus Gold Order of Achievement and the Commander of Cross from the Grand Magistry of the Order of St.Stanislas – Poland, signed by Grand Master Jan Zbigniew IX, Count Potocki.
Philanthropist of The Year Award
Carmela Zita Kapeleris was born in Canada to Italian immigrant parents who always told her that you can do anything you set your mind to if you work hard and respect others. Today she lives in Mississauga with her husband and two adult children, who encouraged her to pursue her dreams and passion.
Carmela Zita Kapeleris has inspired and empowered hundreds of people to live a life of personal and business fulfillment through her various speaking engagements, workshops, multimedia, and philanthropic platforms. She is the host/producer of Kapeleris Talk TV -Real Estate and Beyond, which promotes leaders in the community, charitable causes, business entrepreneurship, ethnic culture, wellness, and healthy living. She is also a two-time author, artist, and poet, and she enjoys nature and wellness activities including hiking, biking, traveling, yoga, tennis, salsa dancing, fashion, and interior decorating.
Carmela Zita Kapelerisalso takes her passions into the community. She is the founder of a non-profit networking organization, an honoured member of The Worldwide Association of Female Professionals, and a board member of several community organizations. She is likewise a proud advocate for World Vision, Children’s Miracle Network, Breast Cancer Awareness, and Adopt a Senior among others. All her efforts have landed her features on radio, TV, in newspapers, along with the Profiles of Success Magazine, RESAAS, and other publications.
Carmela Zita Kapeleriswas recently named by her city Mayor as “an icon in her community” and dubbed by her colleagues as one of “the most innovative and collaborative thinkers in our time, creating a culture of leadership excellence”. A female entrepreneur that has demonstrated excellence, maintained perseverance, and ascended the summit of professional accomplishment, Carmela Zita Kapeleris is energetic and passionate and is leaving a mark on the real estate industry and the world.
Philanthropist of The Year Award
Ellen Schwartz is an elementary school teacher, community leader, author, public speaker, and advocate for research awareness and screening for neurodegenerative diseases.
As the Founder of Project Give Back, she links her decades of teaching together with her personal passion for charitable causes. She is also the Co-Founder of Jacob’s Ladder – the Canadian Foundation for the Control of Neurodegenerative Diseases. Since its inception, Jacob’s Ladder has raised over three million dollars towards research, education, and awareness on neurodegenerative illnesses.
Ellen Schwartz has the ability to move and inspire audiences with her unwavering belief in her son’s abilities, her steadfast commitment to education and research on neurodegenerative diseases, and her heartfelt desire to help others cope with life’s toughest challenges.
She was honoured as “A Woman of Action” by the Israel Cancer Research Fund, and she was recognized for her efforts byVe’ahavta and Aish Toronto. She was likewise awarded a Queen’s Jubilee medal, the Meritorious Service Decoration by the Governor-General of Canada, and the Canada 150 Exemplary Canadian Award.
Ellen Schwartz lives in Toronto with her husband Jeff, and their three children, Jacob, Beverly, and Ben.
Political Leadership Award
First elected in 1997 and subsequently re-elected six times, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, M.D. is the Member of Parliament for the riding of Toronto-St. Paul’s.
In December 2003, in the wake of the SARS outbreak, Prime Minister Paul Martin appointed Carolyn Bennett as the first-ever Minister of State for Public Health. Carolyn Bennett also held the roles of Official Opposition Critic for Health, Official Opposition Critic for Democratic Renewal, and from 2011 until 2015, she served as Liberal Party Critic for Aboriginal Affairs and Chair of the National Liberal Women’s Caucus with the responsibility to encourage and support women as candidates.
Prior to her election into public office, Carolyn Bennett was a family physician, having obtained her degree in medicine from the University of Toronto in 1974 and certification in Family Medicine in 1976. As a doctor, she authored “Kill or Cure? How Canadians Can Remake their Health Care System,” published in October 2000; she was a founding partner of the interdisciplinary Bedford Medical Associates in downtown Toronto, and she served as President of the Medical Staff Association of Women’s College Hospital and Assistant Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Toronto. She also served on the Boards of Havergal College, Women’s College Hospital, the Ontario Medical Association, and the Medico-Legal Society of Toronto.
In 2002, Carolyn Bennett was the first recipient of Equal Voice’s EVE Award for the advancement of women in politics, and in 2003 she received the first-ever CAMIMH Mental Health Champion Award. In 2009, the College of Family Physicians of Canada honoured Carolyn with the W. Victor Johnston Award for lifetime contribution to family practice medicine in Canada and internationally.
Carolyn and her husband, Canadian film producer Peter O’Brian, have two sons and a chocolate lab, Marley, with whom they love to spend time on the shores of the Georgian Bay.
Political Leadership Award
DipikaDamerla is a Mississauga-based politician and former corporate banker.
She was the liberal member of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario representing the riding of Mississauga East – Cooksville from 2011 to 2018, starting out first as Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Infrastructure, where she introduced a resolution to reform the 1998 Condominium Act that would help facilitate disputes between condominium boards and owners. By June 2014, DipikaDamerla was appointed as an Associate Minister for the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. She thereafter served as Minister of Seniors Affairs in the Cabinet of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Dipika Damerla lives in Mississauga with her daughter, Sharmeila.
Rosanna Penilla Bharucha
Self Development Award
Rosanna Penilla-Bharucha hails from Manila, Philippines. She left her hometown to work overseas a few months after completing her Bachelor of Science in Commerce (major in Marketing) in 1981. By that time she had already accumulated substantial work experience for her age, having worked in cosmetics, in a Japanese bookstore, and on radio and TV.
15 years later Rosanna Penilla-Bharucha felt a need for change. She immigrated to Canada in March 1996 in turn and made Brampton her first home. There she found a church that helped her settle in and get around, and that introduced her to her first few friends. She volunteered with this church in return, to contribute to the community and meet new people. Some notable projects there included RosannaPenilla-Bharucha’s efforts to help people in distress through World Vision’sNeighborhood Links project. She also established a service business herself, which guided newly landed immigrants in their settlement process.
Her career in Canada to launch quickly as well, beginning with short-term employment in a pharmaceutical company and mobile phone providers before she chose to work from home to stay close to her two children. She had a number of businesses that she owned and managed from there for 13 years including, a dry cleaner, a daycare, a home-care service business for seniors, and an accommodation and rentals business among others. Finally, in the past 5 years, Rosanna Penilla-Bharucha became a Creative Business Coach for aspiring female entrepreneurs.
Outside of work, she has stayed true to her commitment to community service by dedicating her time to the Golden Years Expo, AFW Connect, Absolutely Fabulous Women Awards Gala, and the Boomerpreneurs Network (a support network helping baby boomer small business owners overcome challenges in running their ventures). Additionally, she is currently working with The Waiting Room Magazine – a health and wellness e-magazine for the Peel and Halton region – and she serves as one of the official speakers for Passages Canada, inspiring new Canadians in their adjustments to their new home.
Rosanna Penilla-Bharucha was the recipient of the Women’s Courage Award for Advocacy in 2013, and the Rise to Radiate Award for launching The Boomerpreneurs Network.
Self Development Award
Cozette Dagher is the Founder of 2Traverse. She brings a track record of proven success in strategic consulting based on direct government experience and her relationship-building knowledge.
Cozette Dagher’s expertise in issues management, crisis communications, and stakeholder relations was called upon when she became a Senior Advisor to the Minister of National Defence of Canada at a young age. Cozette Dagher has also served on the political staff of several legislators, municipal councilors and mayors.
Cozette Dagher holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and is fluent in English, French, Arabic, and Spanish. Often interviewed for her insights on current issues, she has been a political commentator on Radio Canada, TFO, Tag TV, and other multicultural networks.
Cozette Dagher also serves on the board of directors of Our Lady of Lebanon, and she contributes to various school boards and parent-teacher associations. She is an advocate on anti-bullying and mental health matters, and a liaison between new immigrants from Arab countries and their integration in Canada.
Self Development Award
Samra Zafar is an award-winning international speaker, human rights activist, scholar, author, and social entrepreneur.
After arriving in Canada as a child bride in a forced marriage, Samra Zafar endured over a decade of abuse. Determined to build a life of respect for herself and her two daughters, she pursued her education as a mature student and a single mother working multiple jobs to make ends meet. Samra Zafar subsequently graduated as the top overall student at the University of Toronto, receiving several prestigious awards and scholarships for her achievement, including the John H Moss Award, a $17,000 scholarship granted annually to the most outstanding student across all three campuses of the university. Samra Zafar now serves as the youngest alumni Governor for the University of Toronto, while pursuing a rewarding career at RBC. Josie sat down with us to share her inspiring story and spoke about the opportunity, inspiration, and the importance of family, balance, spontaneity, and hugs.
Samra Zafar is also the Founder of Brave Beginnings, a non-profit organization offering a mentorship program to abuse survivors, in support of their journey to build a life of respect and freedom. Her work as a community leader and voice of change has earned her many awards including the 2017 RBC Global Citizen Award and the 2018 Ascend Canada Mentor of the Year Award.
Samra Zafar’s work has been featured in prominent media, including Toronto Life, CTV, CBC, Global News, Yahoo News, and many others, collectively impacting tens of millions of people worldwide.
Business Development and Growth Award
Laura Arci received several University scholarships and graduated with Honours. She was the recipient of the distinguished Dean’s Award with an impeccable grade point average ranking her in the top 5 of her class. Laura Arci also received her Systems Engineer certification, and she pursued Harvard’s Intense Business & Finance and Harvard’s Intense Sales, Marketing, and Social Media programmes. IBM and the Tony Robbins Team hand-selected Laura Arci to participate in the distinguished Advanced Leadership, Executive Sales & Marketing Certification for 16 weeks.
Laura Arci’s visionary leadership and successful management of multiple organizations lead to the development of highly effective innovative Marketing and Sales Strategies, leveraging advertising, Internet-based marketing, telesales, database analytics, direct marketing, social media, event planning, and leading-edge lead management and tracking systems. Her executive sponsorship and management of IBM publications and IBM Server catalogs business proved to be very successful in driving increased sales and strengthening IBM business partnerships.
Laura Arci is likewise a successful author focused on inspiring the lives of many by sharing stories of courage, confidence, perseverance, and successful life-changing strategies. She mentors, coaches, and professionally speaks to small groups and to audiences the size of 10,000+ business professionals. She has a magnitude of experience and continues to expand her knowledge by playing instrumental executive roles on multiple boards. Laura Arci was pivotal in leading the IBM Global Senior Marketing and Sales Review Board as the Chairperson driving major strategic decisions. She was also a Board of Director at Blue Mountain Resorts in Ontario.
Laura Arci’s extensive knowledge in construction, renovation and property management lead to the acquisition of a multitude of residential and commercial properties, which has proven to be very lucrative. Her real estate success influenced her second career as a powerhouse Realtor. She works diligently and effectively representing her seller, buyer, and investor clients exceeding expectations and tremendously increasing their real estate wealth.
Business Development and Growth Award
Jane Katkova-Brown is the Principal Counsel and Founder at Jane Katkova & Associates, and the Founder of the Lioness Women’s Club.
Jane Katkova-Brown has always had a keen interest in helping people, following a tradition established in her family. A humanitarian at heart and an immigrant herself, she chose to build a career in helping people migrate to Canada. In 1995, she established a boutique immigration law consultancy firm, Jane Katkova & Associates, in Toronto. After 20 years of practice with a 98% success track record, Jane Katkova-Brown secured a reputation as a highly competent advocate specializing in all types of permanent, temporary, and corporate Canadian immigration matters.
Outside of her legal work, in 2010 Jane Katkova-Brown established the Lioness Women’s Club – a curated community of like-minded women, created to support, motivate and transform women’s lives by helping them grow personally through mentorship. Mentors include leading experts in emotional intelligence, relationship skills, etiquette, wellness, meditation, and health among others.
An immigrant from Latvia, Jane Katkova-Brown holds a Master of Arts degrees from Plekhanov Russian University of Economics and Latvia State University.
Business Development and Growth Award
Linda Leatherdale is one of Canada’s leading financial journalists, serving as Money Editor for Sun Media, including the Toronto, Ottawa, and Edmonton Suns, where she has gained a loyal following of readers.
Originally starting her journalism career at the Orillia Packet & Times newspaper in her hometown, Stephen Leacock’s Mariposa, Linda Leatherdale was recently awarded a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal for her life’s work, and she is the recipient of many awards for her taxpayer/consumer crusades, retirement planning, and real estate seminars, as well as for being instrumental in getting legislation passed in her quest for a healthy, wealthy middle class.
Outside of journalism Linda Leatherdale is the Vice-President, Marketing and Business Development for Cambria Canada; a privately-held, family-owned, U.S.-based manufacturer of natural quartz surfaces, and one of the fastest-growing companies in North America that are exporting its products globally. Cambria brand advocates have included supermodel Cheryl Tiegs, actor/author Mariel Hemingway, Linda Leatherdale’s good friend rockabilly legend Ronnie Hawkins, an Order of Canada recipient, and HGTV star Scott McGillivray.
Linda Leatherdale is the author of the best-selling book, Money Is A Girl’s Best Friend, and she is working on two new books. She has sat on numerous boards, including the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, Credit Canada, Southside Shuffle, and the Arthritis Society of Canada. She has likewise served as Chair of the Bronte Business Improvement Area (BIA). Linda Leatherdale is married and is the mother of two children.
Business Development and Growth Award
Rain Liu is the Founder of the Canada China Educational, Scientific and Cultural Association, and the Canada China E-business & Technology Alliance.
Originally born in China, Rain Liu holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering and is well-known for her talent in literature and the performing arts. During university, she was a broadcaster and an anchor on a university TV show. Her outstanding performance there landed her a news reporter and editor job with Zhangzhou City TV station in China. But while she was highly successful, Rain Liu decided to join her family in their migration to Canada in order to keep the family together.
Alongside her work in business and technology, Rain Liu has helped coordinate the Toronto Chinese New Year Celebration, the welcome ceremony for the Chinese Prime Minister in 2010, and several charitable events. She is also regularly featured on the Toronto Chinese TV channel.
Witnessing the increasing influence of China on the world, and the fast development of the Chinese community in Canada, Rain Liu has utilized her unique background and vast social network to promote business and technology cooperation between Canada and China. In so doing, she established the Canada China Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Association (CCESCA), which to-date has hosted several big events, performances, seminars, and forums to promote the cultural, economic, and technological exchange between Canada and China at the national level. In the past three consecutive years, CCESCA also co-hosted the Canada China Cross-Border E-commerce event with the ministry of Commerce of China.
In late 2017, furthering her efforts, Rain Liu initiated the Canada China E-business & Technology Alliance that led more than 50 Canadian entrepreneurs and business professionals to participate in the China International E-Commerce Expo, the latter which she also helped organize. The Alliance is also the co-host of the China International E-commerce Festival.
Rain Liu and her coworkers are continuously exploring new ways to curate greater levels of cooperation between China and Canada.
Angela De Montigny
Mind, Body & Spirit Award
Angela DeMontigny, a single mother to a teenage daughter, is an internationally renowned Indigenous Designer who has developed her own unique, signature style that has been showcased around the world since 1995.
Her original, upscale, wearable art is her trademark, and she honours her native heritage (Cree/Metis) by drawing inspiration from traditional elements for the foundation behind her collections. Angela DeMontigny presents a contemporary side of her culture and describes her designs and exclusive product lines as a true example of Indigenous Luxury.
A consummate trailblazer, Angela DeMontigny has produced some of Canada’s most prestigious showcases and galas for Indigenous designers and has been a passionate advocate and supporter of Indigenous designers, artisans, women, and youth entrepreneurs throughout her career. She is regularly asked to speak at international symposiums and conferences using her influence on the mainstream fashion industry to educate audiences on the vibrant culture, art, and history of Indigenous people across North America.
She is the Co-Founder of the Canadian Aboriginal Design Council, the Co-Founder of the newly launched Ontario Fashion Exchange (OFEX), aBoard Member of the Hamilton Arts Council, a Member of the Humber Programme Advisory Committee for Fashion Arts & Business, and a Board Member of the newly formed, Aboriginal Conservation and Ecology Inc. (ACE).
Throughout each cycle of creation and production for her house of design, and her various roles in the community, Angela DeMontigny makes an impact by mentoring and collaborating with other up-and-coming Indigenous designers on the revival of tradition and artistry through marketing and exporting business innovation, and fashion.
Angela DeMontigny has an exhaustive list of local, national, and international wardrobes. She has also been interviewed many times on national television shows, for documentaries, and for music videos featuring her designs and artistic direction.
Mind, Body & Spirit Award
Ida Gerasolo is a professional ballerina, ballet instructor, and owner of I.D.A. International Dance Academy.
She was born in 1987 in Toronto, Ontario, to Nicola and Angela Gerasolo. Her father was born and raised in a small town in Calabria, Italy, and moved to Canada when he was 15 years old. Her mother was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and later moved to Toronto when she was 6 years old. Nick and Angela Gerasolo had three children, Vince, Carm, and Ida, who is the youngest of the three. Growing up, Ida Gerasolo’s family-owned Carwin Service Centre, a successful auto mechanic shop located in Mississauga, Ontario.
Ida Gerasolo danced and trained at Christina Pora’s Classical Ballet School, Hamilton City Ballet, Quinte Ballet School, and The National Ballet School of Canada. She also holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance from York University and her Associate Teaching Qualification from the Cecchetti Society and The Royal Academy of Dance.
Upon finishing her 7 years of studies, Ida Gerasolo decided to open a private studio in Toronto offering private and semi-private lessons. And with the success of her students there and support of her husband, Nolan Zucchet, Ida Gerasolo moved and opened a full-time ballet school in Mississauga. This school, I.D.A. International Dance Academy, is now celebrating its 5th year in operation.
Carol Starr Taylor
Mind, Body & Spirit Award
Carol Starr Taylor is an author, certified life coach, motivational speaker, business consultant, founder of The Travelling Sisterhood, and practitioner of NLP, timeline therapy, and hypnotherapy.
She has been an entrepreneurial veteran for thirty years, offering life coaching and consulting services to men and women for personal, professional, and business development. She is also a motivational speaker, conducts workshops, and she curates conferences on community building, personal and business networking, relationships, and sex, dating after divorce, how to manifest change, self-esteem, self- worth, self-love, how to create your diamond life, Dare To Dream Big, and more. Her book, Life in Pieces: From Chaos to Clarity, centers-in on some of these themes.
Carol Starr Taylor holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with honours and a specialty in Mass Communications. She has had numerous appearances over the years on radio, television, and in articles.
Patti Jannetta Baker
Art and Entertainment Award
Patti Jannetta Baker is an internationally-renowned singer, entertainer, songwriter, and humanitarian.
Discovered in high school, she started out as a teen actress in the Canadian Rock Theatre’s production, Jesus Christ Superstar. Opening at the International Hilton in Las Vegas and later moving to the Aquarius Theatre in Los Angeles, the production recorded at MGM Studios.
Opening to rave reviews, Patti Jannetta Baker self-wrote and produced Memories of the Imperial Room – a glimpse of a lost era of glamour and elegance, a musical journey and an introspective tribute to her late father, Louis Jannetta, and the iconic stars that performed in the Royal York Hotels’ Imperial Dining Room.
Patti Jannetta Baker later obtained an international music record deal, which had her tour Canada, USA, Europe, and Asia, sharing her music and voice. The albums, Patti Jannetta, Breathless, and Jannetta produced Top 10 and Top 20 hits as well as a Juno Award nomination for Most Promising Female Artist. Moreover, her album, Tell Me You Love Me, which was released on Much Dance Mix 95, earned a Diamond Record for over one million copies sold.
She has performed with Michael Buble, Burton Cummings, Randy Bachman, Ronnie Hawkins, Bobby Curtola, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chubby Checker, Alan Frew, Rick Emmett, Michael Burgess, John McDermott, and many others. Her awards include Sopot International Music Festival Poland Musician’s Favorite Award, City of Toronto Award of Merit, Quality Records Diamond Record, Queens Golden Jubilee Medal for volunteerism, Laurie Pallet Patron of the Arts Award and Canada’s Recording Legacy Award.
In her humanitarian efforts, Patti Jannetta Baker co-founded Music Makes Miracles, which helps non-profits fundraise with music. Past initiatives of the organization have included theBackFortMac Concert, held in response to the devastating fires in Fort McMurray, the ParaSport Ontario’s Evening for Inclusion, and the PAL Canada Maple Honours and Concert for the SickKids Global Charity. She is also the Co-Founder of SING! (The Toronto Vocal Arts Festival), Co-Chair of Mississauga Italfest, and President of CAAMA (the Canadian Association for the Advancement of Music and the Arts).
Art and Entertainment Award
Kristina Kulikova is the Founder of KulKat Entertainment and the Artistic Director of the Shiver Show. She is a young female entrepreneur who aspires to inspire those around her by pursuing her dream.
Kristina Kulikova is originally from Almaty, the capital city of Kazakhstan. She immigrated to Toronto at eight years of age. Her parents, both of Russian descent and top managers in large electrical plants in Kazakhstan, saw that Kazakhstan was becoming increasingly nationalized at the time, favouring policies towards the Kazakh population. This put them on the search for a new home that offered a better life and better potential for their kids: Toronto became that place.
Meanwhile, there have always been two facades to Kristina Kulikova: one in banking and the other in dance. Since the age of 6, she has actively pursued Ballroom/Latin dancing. With the encouragement of her parents and her relentless dedication, she rose to the top of North American Dancesport, taking the title of Canadian and North American Finalist in National and International Championships, all while completing her university degree on a nearly full scholarship.
Post decided to retire from competitive dancing and leaving the dance world for nearly a year to pursue her banking career, Kristina Kulikova realized she was missing that strong connection to self-expression through movement, creativity, and inspiration that one experiences in performance and dance. In turn, she came back to her true calling in the arts and established an entertainment production company: KulKat Entertainment.
KulKat Entertainment is an industry leader in providing entertainment across a multitude of dance genres, combining the artistry of unforgettable costumes, makeup and performance. Since inception in 2014, it has performed for wide audiences and also community organization/events such as Sick Kids, Canadian Tire, TIFF, and Hellenic Heritage Foundation & West Jet, to name a few.
For Kristina Kulikova, Kulkat Entertainment has given her the power to create unbelievable show numbers, and to meet and work with some of the best-trained dancers in Canada including, World Ballroom & Latin Champions, Canadian National Ballet Artists, as well as former Cirque du Soleil performers and the like.
Art and Entertainment Award
Andrea Trentadue has been hosting CHIN TV’s Festival Italiano di Johnny Lombardi for over 15 years, one of the longest-running Live TV Programs in Canada.
Every Sunday, Andrea Trentadue is joined by viewers from across the country to celebrate a love for all things Italian. She has interviewed many guests, including members of the government, chiefs of police, artists, actors, musicians, and local entrepreneurs; however, some of her most inspiring are her conversations with members of grassroots charities and local fundraisers.
She is the recipient of the SHAW Cable Award and Bursary 1996 for the continuation of media studies, The Jackie Rosati Media Award 2012, and she was recognized by the Pugliese Federation of Ontario as Pugliese of the year 2014.
Born in Damascus, Syria, in 1954, Helen Nejmehis the youngest of five children and daughter to a truck driver and a housewife. She had humble beginnings and dreamt of becoming a lawyer.
After attending the University of Damascus she met and married Nami Nejmeh, and continued to pursue her career goals until political unrest in the region made it necessary for her and her husband to move out of the country. This brought them to Canada with their three children. There her name, Elaine Nejmeh, was inadvertently recorded by immigration officials as Hilini, or Helen due to language barriers. Elaine Nejmeh has ever since adopted the name, Helen Nejmeh.
As their children grew, Helen Nejmehestablished a career in retail, working with Sears Canada for two decades until she retired in 2010. During retirement, she has nurtured her passion for helping others and spends much of her time serving in different capacities at her church and its women’s ancillary.
The break of the Syrian Civil War seven years ago, and the mass number of Syrian nationals seeking asylum in Canada, in turn, hit home for Helen Nejmeh; especially as members of her own family were directly affected by the war, including one relative who got kidnapped. Helen Nejmehhas responded by opening her arms and home to sponsoring refugees and helping them settled in Canada, just as she did decades ago herself. She has since been providing aid ranging from assisting newcomers with completing government paperwork, to getting them enrolled in English classes and looking for a place to live. She also recently organized Ladies of Syrian her role as a member of the Beaux Art Gallery in Brampton -a two-week art exhibition featuring eight Syrian artists.
Helen Nejmeh is proud to help her fellow Syrians during a tumultuous time in their home country. She plans to continue to do what she can to help those coming to Canada transition with relative ease and start their new lives.
Susan Woods is the Founder of Reach Out, and a former social worker and professional fundraiser.
She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Science (honours) specializing in Psychology. Most of her career from then was spent working as a social worker and professional fundraiser for United Way Peel Region and Interim Place. In all her efforts she raised more than $25million for her community through various jobs. One memorable experience during that time for Susan Woods was helping a family of teenagers who lost their mother raise enough funds to stay in their family home.
When she became a parent Susan Woods resurfaced the issue. She was enraged and tried to find her abuser (this was before the time of computers). Not to mention, the Peel Regional Police had never taken on a case such as this before. Ultimately, Susan Woods and her team found the abuser living in Victoria, British Colombia. 18 months of court processing later, the man pled guilty – the words Susan Woods had longed to hear. The court case made news around Canada, and in turn, Susan Woods was swamped with interviews that shed light on sexual violence.
In the aftermath, she founded Reach Out, a group helping adult sexual abuse survivors. Reach Out’s goal is to listen to other survivors under the mantra that talking is healing. Reach Out supports numerous victims today.
Margaret Priscilla Cordova
Student of The Year Award
Margaret Priscilla Cordova was born and raised in Toronto, Ontario. The oldest of four children, both of her parents are immigrants from Peru who came to Canada more than 20 years ago.
Margaret Priscilla Cordova recently graduated from St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Secondary School with the Honour Roll Award, Outstanding Achievement Award in Leadership, the Extended French Certificate, and the Thomas J. Reilly Scholarship for demonstrating excellence in modern languages. She is currently pursuing the French Studies program at Glendon College, York University on the Outstanding Community Work in the Spanish Community Scholarship, and in hopes of becoming a French Teacher.
Using her talents, Margaret Priscilla Cordova also serves her community. She teaches children how to play the piano, she tutors youth who need assistance with learning French, and she has taught English grammar to a group of young women from Argentina. She is also fully immersed in her Catholic faith and dedicates many hours to teaching children about the Church and the Sacraments, and coordinating various large events and retreats alongside her parish priest.
Margaret Priscilla Cordova loves to lead and believes that the best leaders are the ones who serve others, and less those who seek others to serve them.
DONORS & SPONSORS IN KIND
- Marie Aqueci
- Branco and Slavica Zica
- Lucja Stec
- Hazel McCallion
- Jolanta and Krzysztof Grzelczyk, consul general of Poland in Toronto
- Iwona and Juliusz Kirejczyk
- Helen Nejmeh
- Mona Osman
- John and Kate Kiefte
- Aniela Ganczak
- Grazyna Tomaszewska
- Rita Fragnito
- Ludmila Schnaider
- John Hufsky from Husky Food
- Ewa Wantuch
- Bart Jakubik from Starsky Foods Aurora Inc.
- Iryna Yakovenko
- Lama Ramadan
- Ilona Girzewska
- Bonnie Levy
- Ellen Schwartz
- Josie Morand
- Urszula Urlich
- Bożena Poczyniak
- Kenneth Michalak