In a global emergency, not all heroes wear capes. On Saturday, September 11, the Scarborough community came together to celebrate the recipients of the inaugural Scarborough Hero Awards. And while there were no capes in sight, the winners’ impacts on their community over the past 18 months has been nothing short of superhuman.
During the pandemic there were numerous stories being shared about individuals, community groups and businesses stepping up to help others in need during this public health crisis. To shine a light on these exemplary community members, the leaders of Centennial College, Scarborough Health Network (SHN), Toronto Zoo and University of Toronto Scarborough (UTSC) launched the Scarborough Hero Awards in February. This new awards initiative aimed to recognize those who have gone above and beyond to serve the local community in very substantive and impactful ways. More than 250 nominations were submitted by colleagues, family members and friends. Leaders of the Anchor Institutions compiled a shortlist, and winners were selected by a jury of Scarborough City Councillors and community organizations.
Winners in the Community Action and Service, education, environment, good neighbour, outstanding organization and health categories were celebrated by Mayor John Tory, Randell Adjei, Poet Laureate of Ontario, leaders of the Scarborough Anchor Institutions, MPPs, and City Councillors for Scarborough.
While all the winners are incredible people, SHN shares particular congratulations to the winners in the Health Hero category. Each of the winners has shown exceptional courage and leadership, and they represent the very essence what health care is about: caring for people when they need help the most.
Dr. Hilda Lim is a family physician who, at the height of the pandemic, worked and volunteered in long-term care homes experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks in order to provide information and care in Chinese to residents and families. She helped break down communications barriers and provided compassion and support for families during a time of crisis.
Dr. Abdel Belhaj has helped to lead Scarborough Health Network’s infection prevention and control response during the pandemic. His expertise and actions helped keep SHN colleagues and patients safe, and saved lives. He has provided expert advice to hospital colleagues – easing anxieties and giving confidence. He has also supported the Muslim community with culturally relevant vaccine facts and information.
Katrina Studeny is an outstanding nurse whose tremendous wealth of knowledge and willingness to lend a helping hand were critical in helping to support her colleagues. Katrina volunteered to be redeployed to the long-term care sector during the peak of the first outbreak in the sector.
Dru Ann Skeates led from the frontlines with her Emergency Department staff as Scarborough Health Network supported partners in the community. Dru worked with the outreach teams into long-term care at the onset of the pandemic and managed the COVID assessment clinic at Centenary Hospital.
Dr. Reena Lovinsky has been instrumental in leading Scarborough Health Network’s COVID-19 response within our hospitals and provided crucial information updates to SHN’s team throughout the pandemic. Her work has kept patients and hospital staff safe through the pandemic, and saved countless lives.
Dr. Lisa Salamon is the physician lead for the Scarborough Vaccine Team, helping to deliver more than half a million doses of COVID-19 vaccine to people in our community. Her efforts on the Vaccine Team and in the SHN Emergency Department have saved thousands of lives.
The full list of Scarborough Hero Award Winners:
- Seema David – Community Action and Service Hero Award
- Theresa Pastore – Education Hero Award
- Lucas Denov – Environmental Hero Award
- KGO Grassroots Leaders – Good Neighbour Hero Award
- TAIBU Community Health Centre – Outstanding Organization Hero Award
- Emily Power – Outstanding Youth Leader Hero Award
- Dr. Hilda Lim (with loving dedication to Emily Lim) – Health Hero Award
- Dr. Reena Lovinsky – Health Hero Award
- Dr. Abdel Belhaj – Health Hero Award
- Dru Ann Skeates – Health Hero Award
- Katrina Studeny – Health Hero Award
- Dr. Lisa Salamon – Health Hero Award
In celebration of the award winners, a community art installation created by students from Centennial College’s School of Communications, Media, Arts and Design was unveiled at the event. The installation will serve as a tribute to the heroes and honour the vibrancy and resilience of the Scarborough community. The installation will be open to the public, and hosted by each of the Anchor Institutions over the following months.
“The Scarborough Hero Awards is a great way to thank and recognize all of the incredible people in our city who have helped us get through this pandemic,” said Mayor John Tory, City of Toronto. “Scarborough is filled with people who care for one another and who want to support each other – these awards are our way to celebrate those moments and those people who have become local heroes. I want to congratulate all of the winners for their tireless work and commitment to helping Scarborough and our entire city,” he added.
“This is such a special occasion and we are here to recognize such an inspiring group of everyday heroes,” says Randell Adjei, Poet Laureate of Ontario. “It is the remarkable people we are celebrating today that have inspired their community, throughout this challenging pandemic, making Scarborough the incredible place it is to live and work in,” he added.
“On behalf of the staff and volunteers at your Toronto Zoo, we are honoured to be hosting today’s celebration and are proud to be part of this community initiative to honour our many everyday heroes who have gone above and beyond to make Scarborough a better place during these challenging times,” says Dolf DeJong, CEO, Toronto Zoo
The Scarborough Hero Award recipients each received gift cards provided by the Scarborough Town Centre. In addition, they have been granted a special honour from the Toronto Zoo. Each of the winners have a Blanding’s turtle, a threatened Canadian species, named in their honour to recognize the award they received. Each year, Toronto Zoo and Parks Canada collaborate in a Blanding’s Head Start Conservation Program, where Blanding’s turtles are raised at the Zoo for two years, before being released into the wild in Rouge National Urban Park.
For more information about the awards and the contributions each Scarborough Hero Award winner has made to their community, please visit www.ScarbTOhero.com.