Mayor Farbridge honours Guelph’s difference makers

Press release.

Four outstanding local citizens will be honoured with Mayor’s Awards tonight at the Guelph Chamber of Commerce’s annual Awards of Excellence gala.

This year’s winners are Andrew Bloomfield, who founded the Bridges Over Barriers group for adults with Autism and helped create films, a discussion guide, and other materials to promote greater understanding and inclusion of people with Autism; Charles Cecile, who has helped preserve Guelph’s natural heritage as an advocate and volunteer for Nature Guelph; Alina Kislenko, who has created a local community of support and advocacy for adults with ADHD; and Phil Greenway, who has been a business leader, mentor, volunteer, and community builder for more than 30 years.

“It is a great privilege for me to recognize these four individuals and share their stories with the community,” said Mayor Karen Farbridge. “Andrew, Charles, Alina and Phil are inspiring examples of how one person really can make a difference. “

Mayor Farbridge presented each honouree with a photograph of Market Square by local photographer Kim Lawrence.

Guelph’s Mayor has presented Mayor’s Awards each year since 1997.

A description of each honouree’s achievement is below.

Andrew Bloomfield

In 2004, Andrew Bloomfield hosted a discussion group with two men who, like him, have severe Autism, cannot speak, and communicate using various types of keyboards (called Supportive Typing). The men found the time so precious that they continued to meet almost every month, and the Bridges-Over-Barriers group was born. Today the group has members from all over southern Ontario and beyond, and it is one of very few support groups of its kind in the world.

In 2010 Bridges-Over-Barriers produced a documentary film and book, both titled In Our Own Words. The filmmaker who made the documentary was so inspired that she made a short dramatic film called Holding in the Storm, which premiered this year on World Autism Awareness Day. The film features a poem written by Andrew called “What it’s like to be me,” as well as the words of several Bridges-Over-Barriers members. Andrew and his mother Elizabeth wrote a discussion guide to accompany the film. In the Foreword, Andrew wrote that one of their aims is to “stimulate ideas of ways that people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (or other differences) can be better included in our communities.”

Autistic adults are often assumed to be of low intelligence, incapable of literacy, or lacking in thoughts or feelings. Andrew invalidates all of those assumptions. A remarkable poet who has published 140 poems in three collections, Andrew gives us insight into his life with striking images and phrases. He has said, “We have so much to say. Please assume we are intelligent, help us to express ourselves, and listen.”

With the support of his parents and friends, Andrew has risen above severe challenges to foster greater understanding of Autism and make our community a more inclusive and connected place.

Charles Cecile

Guelph’s natural environment has benefited significantly from the commitment, leadership, and expertise provided by Charles Cecile. For more than 20 years, Charles has been an active volunteer for Nature Guelph (previously Guelph Field Naturalists), serving as newsletter editor, secretary, treasurer, and – for more than a decade – coordinator of the Environmental Committee. As a trained ecologist, Charles has provided a knowledgeable and respected voice in advocating for the protection of Guelph’s natural heritage system. He has shared his love of nature with the community as a volunteer leader of outdoor programs, and through many articles in the Nature Guelph newsletter.

On behalf of Nature Guelph, Charles has devoted countless hours to thoroughly reviewing development applications, visiting and reviewing the sites of proposed developments, and commenting on their environmental implications. He often makes submissions to the City’s Environmental Advisory Committee, communicates with Planning department staff, and provides comments to City Council on key environmental concerns. He has made important and well-argued suggestions that have led to the mitigation of the adverse ecological impact of development proposals.

Charles’ comments always reflect his thorough knowledge of Guelph’s natural history and his understanding of provincial and municipal policy relating to development, including the protection of wetlands, water tables, and endangered or threatened species. They also reflect his unfailing integrity. Charles is not afraid to be persistent when he finds a development to be inappropriate, but in equal measure he voices support when he finds a development to be well-planned and respectful of the environment.

Because of his long history of involvement in the development planning process, Charles offers a historical perspective on the cumulative impact of changes to the landscape of our city. Charles’ experienced, articulate, and thoughtful advocacy has made a positive difference for Guelph’s natural heritage.

Alina Kislenko

When Alina Kislenko moved to Guelph in 2007, there were very few resources available for adults with ADHD. In just five years, Alina – a therapist specializing in ADHD and Asperger’s in adults – has created a thriving community with many different service options and peer supports. Her contributions include a free monthly support group, a weekly hands-on techniques group, a weekly radio show on CFRU, regular appearances on Rogers TV, a local newspaper column, a website called “ADHD Interrupted,” and a very active online community on Facebook and Twitter. In addition, Alina offers personal counselling and coaching services and runs a weekly yoga class. Alina has ADD herself, and, in her words, “loves blabbering on about it!”

A graduate of the University of Guelph, Alina has volunteered for many local organizations including the Distress Line, Volunteer Centre, Homewood Mental Health, Guelph Enabling Garden, St. Joseph’s Hospital, and the Self-Help Alliance.

In the words of her nominator, “Alina’s advocacy on an issue that is so often swept under the carpet has helped the community to gain awareness and make space for the needs of the ADHD population, which is just bursting with potential.”

Alina has said that her goal is to provide resources not only to deal with the negative “side effects” of ADHD, but also to help embrace ADHD and all the gifts it brings. Through her professional and volunteer efforts, Alina has helped to increase wellbeing for people in the ADHD community in Guelph and beyond.

Phil Greenway

As a business leader and community builder, Phil Greenway has been an inspiration and role model in Guelph for more than 30 years.

Phil has been at the helm of a number of local family-owned and operated businesses, including Danby Products Ltd, Cocoon Development Corporation, Greenway Home Products, and Greenway Group Global Strategies. As a business mentor to many in the community, he has helped build a stronger and more connected business community in Guelph.

Phil’s volunteer contributions are extensive. He has served as President of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce and helped create the Chamber’s Moving Business Forward magazine. He served on the University of Guelph’s Business Development Round Table, and was a speaker at the Guelph Wellington Economic Summit, the Guelph Chamber of Commerce Technology Conference, and the Royal City Men’s Club. He participated in a Business Design Program through the Rotman School of Management and Innovation Guelph.

Phil has been a Rotarian for more than 10 years and served as President of the Rotary Club of Guelph-Wellington. He also served as a member of the Guelph General Hospital Foundation Board and was part of the hugely successful Partners for Better Health campaign. An active member of Norfolk Street United Church, he has served as a Trustee and Board Chair, and was instrumental in the sale of the church. He is a founding member of Guelph United Ministries, a collaborative effort of the six local United Church ministries, and he spearheaded a proposal for the United Church of Canada to relocate its head office to Guelph.

Phil has been unfailingly generous in sharing his considerable expertise, knowledge, and leadership talents with local individuals, organizations and projects. Countless business and community leaders in Guelph have been positively influenced by Phil’s example.


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