A local youth advocate whose death shocked the community in 2019 will be memorialized at this years Maple Ridge Community Foundation Citizen of the Year awards.
This year the Under 40 award has been renamed for Teesha Sharma, who received the award in 2018 for her work helping youth in the community. Sharma passed away in February 2019 at 27 years.
Her efforts were noted on the foundation’s website. She worked as a youth services program director at the CEED Centre Society where she mentored homeless youth, created barrier-free programs for youth in need and spearheaded the creation of Blue Door Youth Services. Sharma was also recognized provincially, nationally and internationally for her advocacy in youth mental health and domestic human trafficking.
“Even though each of her days was met with overcoming adversity of her own, she is remembered for her infectious laugh, incredible sense of humour and quick wit,” read the foundation’s statement.
“May her light, her impact and her work continue to shine bright in Maple Ridge,” the statement continued, adding that she is deeply missed.
This years annual fundraising dinner, themed Black and White, has been delayed to Oct. 24 and will be hosted virtually because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Finalists for Lifetime Achievement are Karen Wakita, Brian Brewer, and Deddy Geese.
Finalists for the Teesha Sharma Memorial Under 40 award are Peter Short, Jennifer Baillie, and Tia Rodrigue.
In the Youth category finalists are Anna Huber, Emily Barker Voisine, and Quinn Callander.
The foundation will be gradually releasing information about the finalists leading up to the dinner.
Wakita’s history in the community was released by the organization on Tuesday, Sept. 29.
She is described by the foundation as a dedicated, quiet and unassuming person who works tirelessly year after year supporting her community.
Wakita, a dedicated nurse, is also a passionate advocate for seniors with dementia.
She currently serves on the Board for the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Katzie Senior’s Network and also volunteers as the Wellness Clinic coordinator for the Maple Ridge Seniors Centre and as a First Link facilitator for the Alzheimer Society.
Wakita has been instrumental in her support of the Maple Ridge Pitt Meadows Country Fest, helping with administration and volunteer management.
And for 19 years she was a volunteer with the Cythera Thrift Store.
Most recently the Lifetime Achievement finalist began operating the Caregivers Cafe at Golden Ears United Church.
Since 1991 the Maple Ridge Community Foundation has recognized one local volunteer hero each year with the Citizen of the Year Award.
However, beginning in 2018 the foundation expanded the awards and introduced three categories.
The purpose of the awards is to recognize and honour dedicated individuals in the community who have made outstanding volunteer contributions to enhance the quality of life in Maple Ridge or to enhance the image of Maple Ridge. Contributions may be in the areas of arts, culture, athletics, social service or business.
Nominees must reside in Maple Ridge.
The Maple Ridge Community Foundation manages a permanent endowment in order to respond to emerging and changing community needs.
Since its inception in 1976, Maple Ridge Community Foundation has contributed tens of thousands of dollars in grants back to local non-profit organizations.
For more information go to mrcf.ca.