Canada Day was low-key for many this year, but the day saw three Yukoners recognized by Governor General Julie Payette for their extensive volunteer work.
While July 1 traditionally marks the day when the Governor General announces nominations to the Order of Canada, this year the committee overseeing the list weren’t able to meet due to COVID-19.
Instead, a list of 123 remarkable Canadians was announced by the Governor General to receive Sovereign’s Medals for Volunteers, Decorations for Bravery, or Meritorious Service Decorations with award ceremonies to happen at a later date when such events can occur.
“The Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers recognizes the remarkable volunteer achievements of Canadians from across the country in a wide range of fields,” according to a press release related to the announcement. “As an official Canadian honour, the medal pays tribute to the dedication and exemplary commitment of volunteers.”
Among the list of recipients are three Yukoners recognized for their volunteer work. Gary Hewitt, who’s been involved with the Arctic Winter Games since its inception in 1970 as well as a long list of other organizations; Sylvia Kitching, who’s volunteered with the Royal Canadian Legion for more than 30 years; and June Raymond, who’s helped out at the Golden Age Society for more than 25 years, are listed as recipients of the volunteer medal.
“You never look for recognition, but it’s nice to get,” Hewitt said in a July 2 interview.
Hewitt first became involved with the inaugural Arctic Winter Games as an 18-year-old living in Yellowknife in 1970 both as an athlete in curling, with his team taking gold, and as a volunteer driving officials and others with the game’s organization around. In those days, he said, you could be involved as both.
Hewitt never looked back, continuing to compete in future AWGs as well as the Canada Winter Games, going on to serve in a variety of volunteer roles as a curling coach, official and in a variety of capacities for sports events like AWG and the Canada Games as his career brought him to Whitehorse in 1974 where he remained.
He’s also been involved with the Elks Lodge since he was 18 and in Whitehorse he’s served in each position on the executive more than once over the years as well as positions on a regional and national level.
Even as the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted gatherings and events organizations like the Elks might hold, Hewitt has used the time to work with others in the organization on some upgrades to the local Elks’ hall.
He’s also played roles in other organizations through the years like Squash Yukon, Volunteer Bénévoles Yukon and others.
As for what’s kept him involved over the years, he said he’s just “always been a volunteer.”
Hewitt’s work was recognized earlier this year when he was among the first to be awarded the new Order of the Yukon in January. It was at that time he learned those who had nominated him for the Yukon award had also submitted his name for the Governor General’s volunteer award. He said he was pleased to learn he would be among those awarded when he got the call last month.
For Kitching, the nomination came as a surprise when she got the call informing her of the award in June.
“I was quite surprised and very pleased,” she said in a July 2 interview.
It was after her father died that Kitching began volunteering with the Legion. As she explained, she got involved after the Legion paid for her father’s (who was a veteran) burial and helped the family out.
“I always said I’d give back to the Legion,” she said.
Kitching enjoyed working with those involved with the organization and the work it does and has remained involved in a variety of capacities over the years wherever she was needed. Those roles have ranged from serving on the local executive to cooking for events to organizing the annual garage sale and overseeing memberships.
While Kitching has enjoyed the variety of roles she’s volunteered for over the years, she said she’s especially enjoyed working in membership which allowed her to be available to help others.
Raymond could not be reached for comment, but it was noted she has offered her skills to the Golden Age Society for more than 25 years as “an active board member, president, cook, organizer, fundraiser and host.”
Contact Stephanie Waddell at firstname.lastname@example.org