Now Reading
YWCA Women of Distinction winners announced

YWCA Women of Distinction winners announced

YWCA Hamilton held its 46th annual Women of Distinction Awards, Thursday and honored more than a dozen individuals from Hamilton and Halton.

The Women of Distinction Awards celebrate women and girls who empower others, who are leaders in their respective fields, and who work to make the community a more equitable place. This year, 73 women and girls from Hamilton and Halton were nominated in nine categories.

Charaya Thatch

YWCA Hamilton named Charaya Thach as the 2022 Honourary Woman of Distinction. Born in South Vietnam, Charaya and her family were part of a wave of refugees who left Vietnam in the 1970s and 1980s. After enduring a harrowing journey with her family to escape Vietnam, Charaya spent years in a refugee camp in Thailand before immigrating to Canada at age 10. Today, she makes her home in Hamilton, has a successful career in the finance industry, and volunteers her time as the Chair of our YWCA Hamilton Board of Directors.

The 2022 Women of Distinction Gala also saw the unveiling of YWCA Hamilton’s largest ever fundraising effort: the #WomenBuildHamilton campaign. After years of consultation with the Ottawa Street community and collaboration with all levels of government, YWCA Hamilton developed the new Putman Family YWCA – a 50-unit affordable housing building for women and women-led families. YWCA Hamilton has prioritized those who are Indigenous, who have experienced domestic violence, women with developmental disabilities, mental health issues, mobility challenges and those who have experienced homelessness for residency at the Putman Family YWCA.

Putnam Family YWCA

The goal of the #WomenBuildHamilton campaign is to raise the remaining $5 million required to finish the build. More information can be found at

The Women of Distinction Awards are held annually in alignment with International Women’s Day, which takes place on Monday, March 8, 2020.

The distinguished list of 2022 Women of Distinction Awards winners are:


Hamilton: Laurel Trainor

Dr. Laurel Trainor’s pioneering and ground-breaking research demonstrates the importance of music for children’s development, mental health, and for sustaining vibrant and thriving communities. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, she works with scientists and clinicians on applying music to promote wellness; enhancing hearing aids for music listening; and using music-based interventions to improve outcomes in children with developmental disorders. She is the Founding and current Director of

the McMaster Institute for Music and the Mind, and the internationally renowned LIVELab research-concert hall, referred to as a national treasure. The LIVELab supports innovative research, musicians and musical performances, training and workshops for many community groups, and exceptional opportunities for McMaster students.

Halton: Elaine Delsnyder

Elaine Delsnyder is a Recreation Programmer for the City of Burlington and is the Associate Manager for Burlington Student Theatre. Elaine began her journey with Student Theatre in 1979 as a student herself. She soon became a student leader and a volunteer until 1986 when she joined the team as a part-time staff member and she has been bringing joy and inspiring a love for the performing arts in Halton-area youth ever since. Elaine is also an accredited Montessori educator and founder and co-owner of Clanmore Montessori school in Oakville, investing in developing young minds while championing the Maria Montessori philosophy.


Hamilton: Renata Hall

Renata lives all things social justice! With an educational background in Psychology and Biology from Dalhousie University and Social Work from McMaster University, Renata looks to shake the room through her love of building community connections, challenging the status quo, and amplifying the voices of the margins. Renata is experienced in racialized peer support, counseling, and teaching through McMaster University, housing and homelessness support with YWCA Hamilton, and food equity and community network building through her grassroots initiative StreetEatzHamOnt, Renata brings passion and a sharp Black Feminist and Critical Race lens to every table. She is presently situated in the mental health sector within St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. Renata is a liberating, empowering, and critical force across the Hamilton community.

No Halton Nominees/Winner


Hamilton: Kristine Leadbetter-Gold

Kristine Leadbetter-Gold is Founder of the Women’s Network, TV Producer and Host of “Lead Better with Kristine”, and is the Business Development Manager for Gowling WLG Hamilton.

Kristine is passionate about connecting people to things that matter, lifelong learning, and supporting the advancement of women. Known as a rainmaker with an entrepreneurial spirit, Kristine has a keen ability to execute and curate mutually beneficial opportunities. She is an accomplished strategist with 15+ years of experience in reputation management, business development, and community stewardship. Kristine is a speaker, consultant, and published author recognized for her expertise in social capital, leadership, and women’s networks. Kristine has a

Masters in Communications Management, was listed as a 2021 Top 40 Under 40 winner, and is a 3x nominee for WXN’s Canada’s Top 100 Most Powerful Women awards.

Halton: Julie Cole

Julie Cole is a recovered lawyer, mom of six and co-founder of Mabel’s Labels. She has helped her company bring their product to a worldwide market, gain media recognition and win countless awards. Cole is a passionate entrepreneur, published author, and sought-after speaker. Julie is no stranger to the media, having appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, HLN’s Raising America, Breakfast Television, The Marilyn Denis Show, CP24, among many others. As a blogger and writer, her articles have appeared in The Huffington Post, Today’s Parent, The Globe and Mail, Profit Magazine, Working Mother Magazine, Chicken Soup For the Soul – Power Moms and numerous websites. When she’s not juggling her busy family and professional life, Julie is an engaged community member serving on boards and volunteering. She is passionate about women’s issues, mentoring young entrepreneurs, and social justice.

Community Leadership

Hamilton: Sarah Jama

Sarah Jama is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario (DJNO). She’s a community organizer from Hamilton with Cerebral Palsy who does work around combating anti-Black racism, policing, and housing insecurity. Through DJNO, she tackles systemic ableism by building up capacity in disabled organizers to challenge structures locally, provincially, and nationally. In her past role as Senior Program Co-ordinator at the Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion (HCCI), she ran a Civic Leadership Program to help Black and racialized youth better understand how to work inside and outside institutions to affect structural change. She also led an initiative to form HESN (Hamilton Encampment Support Network) and CareMongering (now called Roots to Justice).

Halton: Nancy Romic

Nancy Romic is the Executive Director of Shifra Homes, a not-for-profit maternity residence for young, homeless, pregnant women and babies. Her background as the owner of an Oakville nursing agency has given her the business and social service background to change lives. Nancy has been with Shifra since 2012, and under her guidance, Shifra’s programs have expanded to provide complete wraparound services to ensure the success of these young women. What makes Shifra and Nancy special is that they fight for the protection of the most vulnerable members of our community and Nancy works tirelessly, always putting others first. Nancy often acts as a matriarchal figure to the young women in her care, providing them with love and support.


Hamilton: Dawn Bowdish

Dawn Bowdish is committed to protecting older adults and helping them stay safe. A Professor at McMaster University, Canada Research Chair in Aging & Immunity, and Executive Director, Firestone Institute of Respiratory Health, she leads pivotal studies that are uncovering how the aging immune system and the microbiota interact to prevent infections and give older adults more years of healthy, independent living. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she has focused her studies on the impact of the pandemic on long-term care facilities, guiding future planning to protect this vulnerable population. An ambassador of science, she engages extensively in public outreach to disseminate reliable, evidence-based information to build and enhance health within our communities today and for future generations.

No Halton Nominees/Winner


Hamilton: Dr. Zobia Jawed

Dr. Zobia Jawed, Ph.D., M.Eng., is a researcher, Faculty lead for Engineering design and policy projects, and Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Engineering, McMaster University. She is an expert in water & wastewater systems, climate change, environmental sustainability, and

decision-support tools. Zobia is passionate about youth and women’s empowerment by providing them with opportunities in the field of STEM. During the pandemic, she supported many businesses in efforts to pivot and remain profitable during times of crisis. She also advanced research and development in a novel wastewater-based testing approach to assess the spread of COVID-19 at the community level. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Pakistani Business Association, Healthy Youth Network, and Conservation Halton.

Halton: Navita Dyal

Navita is an opportunity architect; at 17, she founded a non-profit organization, GLITR, which provides access to healthcare to vulnerable populations both locally and abroad. GLITR has served refugee, and homeless individuals in the Hamilton Area, as well as financially marginalized individuals in Guyana. As an undergraduate student, she founded her first start-up, Era Diabetes, to help kids self-manage their type 1 diabetes. As a graduate student, she founded WADE (Walking Analyzing Device), the first device to predict the onset of Autism when kids start to walk. Navita has held influential roles at the World Health Organization and the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care and is now a Product Manager at Google, within the wearable health devices section.

Young Trailblazer

Hamilton: Lianna Genovese

Lianna Genovese is a 22-year-old biomedical and mechanical engineering student at McMaster University and CEO/Founder of ImaginAble Solutions. Lianna invented Guided Hands, an international award-winning assistive device that enables people with limited hand mobility to write, paint, draw and access technology. At 19, Lianna was inspired to create the first Guided Hands prototype for a fellow McMaster student living with Cerebral Palsy. Produced in Hamilton, Guided Hands is used by health professionals across North America, and won the Canadian National James Dyson Award, improving the quality of life for people within the Hamilton community and beyond. Lianna is a proud woman in engineering, a solo female founder, engineering ambassador and volunteer public speaker for women in STEM and entrepreneurship.

Halton: Lauren Cutaia

Lauren is a strong 10-year-old leader who has created a small bracelet fundraiser. She has raised funds for the Compassion Society of Halton, the local food bank, and Halton Catholic Children’s Foundation. Lauren is a role model for other kids and is continuing to raise awareness of how young people can make a difference.

Lifetime Achievement

Susan Denburg

Susan Denburg has led a prolific and impactful career as a visionary leader, passionate and inspirational community volunteer and sought-after mentor and role model. A Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Neurosciences and Executive Vice-Dean and Associate Vice-President Academic in the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University, she oversees the Labarge Optimal Aging Initiative and champions the University’s commitment to research in aging. She was instrumental in launching the Faculty’s Indigenous Health Initiative and has supported the advancement of professionalism, diversity and inclusivity at McMaster and beyond. Her extensive community efforts have addressed challenges of innovative and compassionate care for the elderly. Susan leaves a legacy of mentorship and leadership, and her impact will endure for years to come.


What's Your Reaction?
Don't Agree
In Love
Not Sure
View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

© 2022 The Bay Observer. All Rights Reserved.

Scroll To Top
WordPress Ads