COLD LAKE – There was laughter, there were tears, there was style and good vibes, but most of all there were women cheering on other women Friday night at the Cold Lake Exhibition Park Hall.
Dressed to the nines were some 320 guests, and among them were most of the 62 women nominated for one of seven awards being presented at the 2023 Women of Influences Awards.
The event was a public recognition of the accomplishments of Bonnyville and Cold Lake area women who are breaking down barriers, achieving excellence and in many cases are the unsung heroes and silent workhorses in their respective fields.
Prior to the award presentations, each woman nominated for a 2023 award was announced and called forward for a group photo to mark their shared achievements.
Emceeing the event was Cold Lake lawyer and Women of Influence committee member Stephanie Oleksyn.
Oleksyn introduced Abrianna Hoof, the local artist selected to design and create this year's Women of Influence awards. Hoof created intricate beaded portraits that made up the band of bracelets that were presented to the award winners in a glass case.
The first award recipient to be honoured with one of Hoof’s creations was award winning photographer Susie O’Connor, owner of Images Studios in Cold Lake and member of the Professional Photographers of Canada.
O’Connor was presented with the Arts & Culture Award and has a photography series, the RED Series, touring nationally that will be featured at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights.
Receiving the Business & Professional Award was Kristy Isert.
Isert is the general manager of corporate services for the City of Cold Lake, she was also appointed to the Government of Alberta’s Métis Women’s Economic Security Council and serves on the Law Society of Alberta’s Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.
The Community & Volunteerism Award was presented to Candace Sutterfield.
Sutterfield works with the Lakeland Centre for FASD, is a committee member with Women of Influence, and she volunteers her time with several organizations such as FCSS, Cold Lake Ag Society, the Cold Lake Grant Committee, and most recently the John Howard Society.
Alisha Bramwell, a Licenced Practical Nurse who works for CFB Cold Lake at the Care Delivery Unit, was the recipient of the Health & Wellness Award. Bramwell told audience members she brought her daughters to the event so that they could see a crowd full of inspiring women.
Whitney Desjarlais, who was unable to attend the event, was the recipient of the Science & Technology Award. Desjarlais is the first and only Indigenous woman working as a service rig operator and driller in Canada.
The Older Woman Award, which is presented to a woman who has started something new or achieved a significant accomplishment in their later years, was awarded to retired nurse Isabel Myshaniuk.
In 2014, Myshaniuk opened the Waterfront Harbour Bed and Breakfast in Cold Lake and since then has been recognized as the Most Promising New Business of the Year and has been rated as Canada’s Best Boutique Bed and Breakfast.
Before the final award was presented, Oleksyn welcomed a special guest and keynote speaker who also happens to be a close neighbour of Cold Lake, Beckie Scott.
The Vermilion native shared her experiences of growing up with a family of outdoor enthusiasts, her passion for the sport of cross-country skiing, and what it was like to be the first Canadian and North American female to reach the top of the Olympic podium for cross-country skiing.
Scott received her gold medal at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games and became an advocate for fair sports and an elected member of the International Olympic Committee and World Anti-doping Agency’s Athletes Commission.
Most recently, Scott returned to Alberta where she started a non-profit that provides opportunities in sports for Indigenous youth. The program started with just a few communities, including Kikino, Saddle Lake and Calling Lake and about 30 youth.
Now the non-profit, Spirit North, runs programming in seven provinces and territories, getting more than 6,000 youth involved in sports and games annually.
Following, Scott’s address, the recipient for the prestigious Overall Woman of Influence Award was presented to Cold Lake High School teacher and athletic director Kelly Eagles.
Eagles also volunteers for the Terry Fox Run, Hearts for Healthcare, Challenger Baseball, Royals Time Out, and the Unified Sports program.