2020 WOW Award Recipients

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In 2020, we honoured the courageous people who helped keep others connected and included during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can read the announcement of the 2020 WOW Award winners here, and learn more about the winners below.

2020 WOW Award Winners

Laura (left) with program participant Amy.

Laura Campbell: Program Coordinator, Integra Supports, Victoria

Laura coordinates community inclusion day services for adults with diverse abilities at Good Neighbours. When the program had to close due to the pandemic, Laura used her experience with technology to coordinate virtual programming, such as online cooking classes, Zumba and Zoom meet-ups, and “at home kits” to keep people connected with the program and their networks.

Laura uses social media, texting, zoom, phone calls and the program space to ensure safe social connections take place, uses a variety of techniques for virtual programming, and facilitated one-to-one supports in community at a safe distance for those who needed it.


The Family Support Institute: Angela Clancy, Executive Director, on behalf of the Family Support Institute, New Westminster

The Family Support Institute was chosen as a winner by the selection committee for their rapid response to ensuring individuals and families were kept informed during the pandemic, and their creation of opportunities to keep people connected and feeling safe.

FSI listened to families about what they needed and created workshops and online learning and connection opportunities. They invested staff time to intentionally connect with families and to find ways to get information out about how to stay safe and connected in very scary and uncertain times.


Brenda Gillette: BC CEO Network

Brenda was chosen by the selection committee for her outstanding work in supporting service providers during COVID-19.

Brenda worked tirelessly to assist agencies in accessing personal protective equipment (PPE), sharing information on resources and supporting agencies to be innovative in their practice to ensure individuals remain connected.

Brenda co-hosted CLBC teleconferences with agencies to make sure their questions were heard and supported.


Birgit Giesser: Music Therapist, Ridge Meadows Association for Community Living, Maple Ridge

Birgit was chosen for transforming her centre-based music therapy program to a mobile and digital outreach service.

Knowing the importance of making sure people were not feeling isolated during this time, Birgit worked out of her car to connect with individuals, meeting people for sessions outside in parks, backyards and carports. Birgit developed an instrument “loaner library” to make sure individuals could continue with their music program from home.


Vicky Manderson, Lisa McIntosh and Sheral Jones: Communitas Supportive Cares Society, Abbotsford

Three very hard-working Communitas Supportive Care Society managers were chosen for creating a new program called, ‘Zoombaya’ during the pandemic, particularly for those who are more isolated.

Zoombaya is regular virtual, interactive, fun and informative program, delivered online through Zoom that has become a great source of support for individuals by offering creative and energizing programs to keep people connected as well as safe. 

“We are incredibly grateful for this recognition. Early on we quickly realized that we needed to get creative and come up with new ways to connect with the individuals we serve in a meaningful way. It’s been an incredible experience as we’ve seen so many new connections form across programs- connections that otherwise likely wouldn’t have happened. This program couldn’t have come about without the efforts of the whole team, it’s been humbling to work with such creative colleagues and see them use their gifts to reach others.” – Vicky, Lisa and Sheral.

(left to right) Lisa, Sheral and Vicky with their nominator Christine Petkau.

Susan Simmons: Coach, the Great Big Swim, Victoria

Susan was chosen as a 2020 WOW Award winner for her industrious and energetic work with a team of self advocate swimmers to create a fundraiser that saw people swim the shoreline of Greater Victoria (10 km at a time) for a total of 80 km!

Susan made sure people remained connected and supported while giving their families a much-needed break from caregiving. Susan’s work in encouraging individuals to achieve and even exceed their own personal goals has empowered participants not only in their swimming skills but also in many other areas of life.


Dr. Behn Smith: Aboriginal Health Physician Advisor, Office of the Provincial Health Officer

Dr. Behn Smith was chosen by the selection committee for her tireless efforts in supporting individuals, families and service providers with public health information and expertise, and for delivering information in a way that is accessible for the people CLBC serves.

Dr. Behn Smith has been providing highly skilled and unique support to the entire community living sector throughout the pandemic. She has spent time researching very specific issues, advocating for individuals and gone well beyond what might have been expected.


Ali Westlund: Recreation Manager, City of Kelowna

When the Kelowna Recreation Centre was closed due to the pandemic, Ali quickly arranged new virtual programs to bring into participants’ living rooms so people could continue to feel connected. Ali became a DJ and took the Friday night dances online.

Ali arranged for music performances to be streamed, organized virtual lunch socials and created a weekly newsletter featuring photos and updates of what staff and participants were up to. While hosting these virtual programs, Ali worked behind the scenes to make sure that when permitted to re-open, careful steps were being taken so activities could continue while keeping individuals and staff safe.