Kelowna Rotary club and local crusader recognized for making Kelowna a welcoming community

Winner_Sunshine Rotary Kelowna - webpageThe Kelowna Sunrise Rotary and local diverse ability crusader, Shelley DeCoste, have been breaking down the barriers and building strong partnerships with a goal to make Kelowna one of the most diverse and inclusive cities in the Province. They were both recognized for their efforts today with Community Living British Columbia (CLBC) Widening Our World (WOW) Awards for exceptional contributions to people with developmental disabilities.

Through Rotary at Work, the Kelowna Sunrise Rotary has been supporting the people CLBC serves to develop skills and find employment. The Rotary won a WOW Award because they believe in inclusiveness and work hard to make a better community for everyone. People of all abilities participate in all aspects of the club, including helping with club business and representing the club at events and through public speaking engagements.

Winner_Shelley-DeCoste-photo-1-webShelley DeCoste is a change maker. Shelley is a tireless advocate for true inclusion throughout the Okanagan. In 2010, Shelley launched the province-wide campaign to change the word ‘disability’ to ‘diverse ability’. Shelley is a self advocate liaison with Pathways Ability Society, volunteers with a variety of organizations in community, participates in Special Olympics and supports other individuals with developmental disabilities to participate in recreational activities, is a proud Rotarian who promotes inclusion wherever possible and is a motivational speaker around Employment for People with Disabilities. Shelley is the true example of what the WOW Awards represent.

Click here to see a photo gallery from the event.

Since 2009, CLBC has presented WOW awards to recognize British Columbians who are helping to build community inclusion. The 2015 nomination process invited British Columbians to nominate someone they think is helping to build communities where people of all abilities feel welcome, valued and respected. CLBC received over 50 nominations and the winners were chosen by an evaluation committee of community and family members, CLBC community council members, CLBC staff, service providers and individuals served by CLBC.

This year three other WOW Awards were presented to deserving recipients:

  • Victoria – Adam Irwin-Gunn will be acknowledged for his tireless volunteer work, support of the self-advocacy movement and raising awareness of what it is like to live with autism
  • Powell River – Chris Weekes for helping the people CLBC serves build support networks and skills through music
  • Chilliwack – Garth McCreedy for mentoring and supporting individuals to gain confidence and connections both in and outside the workplace

To see photos submitted from many different B.C. communities, and for more information about the WOW!clbc Awards visit

Click here to learn more about Kelowna Sunrise Rotary.


Seonag Macrae, CLBC CEO

“I want to congratulate this year’s WOW Awards winners and all of the nominees for 2016. It is clear from the nominations received that there is a wealth of innovative ideas, activities and initiatives being spearheaded by community champions across the province. These efforts not only raise awareness about inclusion, but help everyone see that through our individual acceptance of diversity, our communities become richer and more vibrant places to live.” 

Minister of Social Development and Social Innovation Michelle Stilwell

“Congratulations to these champions of inclusion. As community leaders, you have made a difference by ensuring that people with developmental disabilities are equally treated and given the same opportunities to participate in everyday activities and all aspects of the community. The annual WOW Awards are a reminder of how important it is to recognize people who are simply doing what is natural to them, they don’t think its exceptional, when in fact their impact on people is far reaching, sometimes life changing, and should be acknowledged.” 

Honourable Norm Letnick, MLA for Kelowna

“These awards highlight the great work that is taking place around diversity, inclusion and citizenship here in Kelowna and throughout our communities in BC. Both the Sunrise Kelowna Rotary and Shelley DeCoste exemplify the ideals of inclusivity and diversity. Congratulations on receiving this honour from CLBC.”

Sylvie Zebroff, Nominator

“Shelley DeCoste is not only a woman of ideas and action, she has taught so many people what it means to be part of a diverse community. Shelley makes things happen, through her advocacy and her inspirational presentations in community about life and work with a diverse ability (mild cerebral palsy) and about the power of language to change attitudes has affected the lives of many people. She has vision, and guts. I am proud to call her my friend.” 

Shelley DeCoste, Nominator and WOW Award Winner

“I nominated the Kelowna Sunrise Rotary because I love being a part of the Club. They make me feel that I’m a part my community. We’re always out volunteering; they include me in all their activities and help me to get to events and meetings. I enjoy it so much that they make their Friday 7 a.m. meetings worth it!”

“I was surprised to hear that I won a WOW Award. I was so excited to nominate the Rotary that I didn’t think anyone would be nominating me. I was very proud to read Sylvie’s nomination of me and look back at all the accomplishments I have achieved. It makes me want to fight a little harder to help other people succeed.” 

Bill Reynolds President, Kelowna Sunrise Rotary, WOW Award Winner

“I am pleased that Kelowna Sunrise Rotary has been acknowledged as being an inclusion champion. We were thrilled when we heard that Shelley, one of our members, nominated our Club for a WOW Award; and to be chosen as a winner for being inclusive, is a real honour. We are lucky to have Shelley as a member of our Rotary club. Our group is more enriched by having her and her ideas at the table, and her depth of knowledge on diverse abilities and inclusiveness can’t be valued enough.”

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