| subscribe to magazine | français

EVERYDAY HEROES
Celebrating volunteers who are enriching their communities.
  • Janette Berthelot
    Founder, Gillie Beans Fund
  • Lia Grimanis
    Founder, Up with Women
  • Emma Halpern
    Lawyer / Creator, Restorative Justice in Schools
  • Sharon Hapton
    Founder, Soup Sisters
  • Deborah McCracken-Nangereke
    Founder, Olive Branch for Children
  • Miriam Schlanger
    Volunteer and Activist
Everyday Hero: Janette Berthelot
Founder, Gillie Beans Fund
After losing her eight-year-old daughter, Gillian, to a rare cancer last year, Janette Berthelot, 35, launched the Gillie Beans Fund. The money goes to the SickKids Foundation for rhabdomyosarcoma research. They’ve already raised over $26,000. “After Gillian passed away, I had two choices: I could turn my back on everything I’d learned about childhood cancer, particularly rhabdomyosarcoma [a fast-growing tumour], and try to rebuild my life, or I could embrace the new knowledge and use it to help other families. I want to help in every way I can.”
Everyday Hero: Lia Grimanis
Founder, Up with Women
Lia Grimanis, 39, survived motorcycle racing, cavern diving, free-falling and “wing walking” (yes, on planes while airborne), and then there was that incident with the shark. . . But, most incredibly, she survived life as a homeless teen on the streets of Toronto. Now, the former high-school dropout is a successful sales executive who founded Up with Women, to help homeless women and children rebuild their lives. “You’re so broken down when you’re homeless, and your future looks like a black hole — you need to know you can live the life you want. I want to capture the imagination of other homeless women. I’m proof of what’s possible.”
Everyday Hero: Emma Halpern
Lawyer / Creator, Restorative Justice in Schools
“If adults and teachers can make youth believe they have value, it can make a fundamental difference. Maybe I’m not going to overhaul the entire school system, but if I can change the life of one young person, that’s what matters.” So says Emma Halpern, 33, a Dartmouth, N.S., lawyer, who at 28 took in a homeless 16-year-old boy who calls her “Mom.” She created a student-run program to address conflict in schools (Bringing Restorative Justice into Schools) that’s reduced suspension rates by up to 82 percent.
Everyday Hero: Sharon Hapton
Founder, Soup Sisters
Whenever her family or friends hit a rough patch, Sharon Hapton, 52, would head straight for the kitchen and show up with soup. “It was just a small gesture that could completely change their day,” she says. “Then I suddenly thought, Why couldn’t this be bigger?” She launched Soup Sisters in 2009, and now over 8,000 bowls of steamy, homemade comfort are served monthly to women and children in shelters across Canada. “A big message comes with those bowls of soup — we care and we stand with you in the fight against domestic abuse and family violence.”
Everyday Hero: Deborah McCracken-Nangereke
Founder, Olive Branch for Children
Deborah McCracken-Nangereke, 30, set off for Tanzania to volunteer over seven years ago — and never came back. “I saw people suffering from HIV,” she says from Mbeya. “It touched me and I thought there was something I could do.” As it turned out, there was. She spent a year volunteering in an orphanage before founding the Olive Branch for Children, to help the most vulnerable people in rural communities across the country. Projects include setting up medical clinics, organizing HIV testing and opening kindergartens in remote villages. “Aid work isn’t about micromanaging everything. It’s about ensuring the programs are run by the communities themselves.”
Everyday Hero: Miriam Schlanger
Volunteer and Activist
A Holocaust survivor, Miriam Schlanger, 92, walks 5 km for breast cancer every year, prepares meals for the homeless for Toronto’s Out of the Cold program, marches in the city’s Pride Parade and bakes and sells challah bread every week on behalf of a charity that feeds underprivileged children and seniors. She also holds fundraisers in her home to support charitable organizations in Israel. “People are my life,” she says. “I just want to continue with my tzedakah [charity].” What her daughter Soozi says: “My mother is one of the wonders of the world.” We met her, and it’s true.
Finalists
Learn more about each of our Finalists. Read their stories.
2011 Women of the Year Winner Categories
View All Winners
How the winners were selected:
Winners were chosen based on their work and accomplishments in combination with votes by Chatelaine readers and our Leadership Panel.