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2023 Youth Award Winners

Take a look at the inspiring stories of this year’s Youth Award Winners and learn more about some of the people you are supporting with your donations and volunteer work.


2023 Leah Award Winner

Dayanara’s dedication and selflessness have been an inspiration to all those who have had the pleasure of working with her. Dayanara’s commitment to her family and community embodies the spirit of The Leah Award. Her resilience and determination in the face of adversity is truly remarkable, and she is a great example of how the power of love and compassion can overcome even the most challenging of circumstances.

Dayanara connected to Aunt Leah’s Threshold’s program in May 2022. As a single mother and refugee, Dayanara has faced significant challenges but she has always put her son first. Dayanara demonstrates unconditional love and support for her son, working tirelessly to provide him with a prosperous life. Despite facing numerous obstacles, Dayanara has remained a pillar of strength and stability for her son.

 In addition to her unwavering commitment to her family, Dayanara also volunteers her time and resources to help others in her community. While in the Thresholds program, Dayanara has wholeheartedly participated in the Mom and Baby Program and Cooking Club. With support from Aunt Leah’s Bootstraps program, Dayanara is looking forward to entering the workforce this summer.

The Leah Award

Unconditional Love and Support

Bruce was a friend and long-time supporter of Aunt Leah’s who passed away on March 6, 2010. It was important to Bruce to be more than a donor. He also gave his time as a volunteer and shared his wisdom, helping Aunt Leah’s in various fundraising endeavours. Bruce was known among his family for giving them his unconditional love and support and was always proud of their achievements.

In Honour of Bruce Ambrose

Jason 2022-Jeremey Wright Award Winner

2023 Jeremy Wright Award Winner

This year’s recipient of the Jeremy Wright Award is Kadesha, a remarkable person who shows maturity, resilience, and strength despite facing challenges in her life. She reaches all her goals, pushes through barriers, and keeps a positive mindset.

Kadesha will graduate from high school this year. She started to practice nail art as a hobby, and has turned her hobby into a small business. She successfully obtained a Nail Technician Certificate. Her instructor was so impressed with how much she had self-taught that she provided Kadesha with advanced-level training. 

Kadesha is a wonderful support for her siblings and friends and creates positive experiences for them. She advocates for them and for herself. She demonstrates a grateful and respectful attitude to her youth workers and her landlord. She attends Aunt Leah’s events, welcomes other participants, and helps wherever she can.

Kadesha is a remarkable young woman who shows a clear sense of purpose and drive to create a bright future for herself. 

The Jeremy Wright Award

The Jeremy Wright Award was created to honour the memory of Jeremy Wright, a Support Worker, who was very special to the organization. The award is to recognize and support a Support Link youth with goals that they have set and are actively working towards. It is presented to a youth living in the Support Link Program who has strived to achieve their personal best and who most “follows their bliss.”

In Honour of Jeremy Wright

Cynthia Kollie

2023 Rona Award Winner

It has been such a pleasure to work with Maryam. She has s demonstrated strength and growth throughout her time with Aunt Leah’s. She has worked hard to overcome many barriers and has exuded confidence while pursuing her education and career goals.

Maryam demonstrated her work ethic by working on action plans for scheduling, time management, and preparedness. Maryam gradually transitioned from afternoon meetings to morning meetings and then began employment. After securing employment, Maryam started working with our education program to pursue her goals. Maryam is now attending post-secondary education and is working on her long-term career goals.

Maryam is someone of great strength. Despite facing adversity, Maryam has maintained her housing since moving to Canada by advocating for herself. Maryam is very proactive and solution-focused and isn’t afraid to ask for help when she needs it. Maryam has also made great strides in managing her mental health.

Maryam is always a pleasure to be around. She has a great sense of humour and is often smiling. Maryam continues to live independently while attending school and working part-time. We are so proud of Maryam and can’t wait to see what the future holds for her.

The Rona Award:

Kindness, Compassion, Strength, Pride

This award is presented in honour of Rona Castagnier, a long time co-worker and friend of Aunt Leah’s Place. Rona was a very strong, kind, compassionate and proud person. Rona wouldn’t hesitate to give someone her last dollar if they were in need, even if it meant that she would go without. In honour of Rona, Aunt Leah’s gives an annual award and bursary to a participant from one of Aunt Leah’s Training Programs who has shown the characteristics that Rona appreciated the most.

In Honour of Rona Castagnier

Kaylie-Page---2022 Champion Award Winner

2023 Champion Award Winner

Aisha, a former youth in care, reflects the Champion Award. Her deep-seated desire to help others is evident in every facet of her life. Aisha has expressed her career goal of working in a field where she can assist families and youth, just as she has been helped in the past.

Aisha is currently in the final semester of the Human Services Diploma program at Thompson Rivers University – Open Learning, where she has shown unwavering dedication and diligence in her studies. As  a single mother to a two-year-old daughter, she has not only pursued her studies but took the initiative to volunteer at a non-profit organization even before beginning her practicum there. This particular organization is focused on personal development for individuals of all ages, from youth to retirees, through various community programs. Additionally, Aisha previously volunteered at a non-profit organization that aimed to address food insecurity and provide meals to children and adults in her former community.

Aisha embodies the Champion Award through her altruistic acts and career aspirations. She will continue to bring about positive changes in the lives of youth and families impacted by the foster care system and individuals who require assistance.

The Champion Award

Creating Positivity

In 2017 Aunt Leah’s community lost a dear friend, Jennifer McFarlane. Jennifer was the Human Resources Coordinator for Aunt Leah’s. Jennifer established connections with everyone at Aunt Leah’s using humour, laughter, thoughtfulness, and appreciation. Jennifer loved that her work in Human Resources was part of a mission to work proactively at the ‘entry’ and ‘exit’ points of the foster care system, helping low-income families maintain custody of their children and supporting foster youth aging out of foster care.

Jennifer had a deep appreciation for the community of support established at Aunt Leah’s Place and the services provided. In honour of Jennifer, Aunt Leah’s is providing an annual award to an individual who has been active in championing for positive change for youth and families affected by the foster care system.

In Honour of Jennifer McFarlane

Kaylie-Page---2022 Champion Award Winner

2023 Leadership Award Winner

Many staff and youth’s first impressions of Percy are that he is an incredibly intelligent and wonderful conversationalist with a deep knowledge of vast amounts of different topics. Percy is immediately considerate and welcoming, super passionate about music, and is one of the most self-reflective young people we have come to know. Percy chooses daily to overcome his anxiety and chooses to keep connecting and advocating not only for himself but others.

Percy engages daily with Aunt Leah’s staff and continues to thrive in leadership skills connecting with other participants in our programs. He encourages their growth and meets them where they are at.

Along with Percy’s natural ability to connect with others, he shows huge strengths in home improvement work and his artistic endeavours.

Percy goes above and beyond for those around him such as waking up early enough to shovel the driveway before 7 am so that his landlord wouldn’t have challenges getting to work in the winter months.

Percy advocated his way into Aunt Leah’s Programs and has been advocating for his future every day since. This is a youth that deserves to be recognized for his positive leadership, advocacy, and empowerment skills that will take him far in his life.

The Leadership Award

Positive Leadership, Advocacy, Empowerment

This award is presented in honor of Pam Costello. Pam passed away on June 5th 2022 and had been a solid fixture of Aunt Leah’s for close to 21 years. Beginning her career with Aunt Leah’s as a Family Support Worker for teen mothers at Aunt Leah’s House, she moved on to work as a youth worker in our Support Link Program and then as the Support Link Program Coordinator. Pam was a natural at connecting and advocating for youth. Pam’s leadership abilities and willingness to grow and help, moved her into the position of Director of Operations; she was a “jack of all trades” always surprising us with her various abilities to get stuff done. Pam went above and beyond to ensure the young people connected to Aunt Leah’s were safe and supported. During a time when services were pausing in-person support, Pam was working to create a safe way for youth to connect and remain in the community at Aunt Leah’s. Pam will be deeply missed and we were so fortunate to have had her as part of Aunt Leah’s Family.

In Honour of Pam Costello