2012 Ontario Junior Citizens: Final Recipients

The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow and they are dedicating their time and energy to making a difference within their communities and around the world. The 12 final recipients of the 2012 Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year Awards are truly an inspiring group of individuals whose stories illustrate leadership, creativity, determination and generosity evident in youth today. These finalists represent a diverse group ranging in age, interests and backgrounds - but one thing they all share is their passion to give to others.


The final recipients and their families will be invited to a special presentation, officiated by the Honourable David C. Onley, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, on March 8 in Toronto.


This year there were 150 worthy nominees from across Ontario, all of whom are being recognized with certificates of recognition by their local community newspapers. Each and every one of the nominees submitted go above and beyond what is expected of someone their age.


The Ontario Junior Citizen of the Year Awards are promoted through the 300+ member newspapers of the Ontario Community Newspapers Association (OCNA) with the support of corporate sponsors TD Bank Group and Direct Energy. Nominations of eligible youth aged six to 17, are received through member community newspapers committed to recognizing the outstanding leaders who are making a difference in their communities. Nominees may be involved in community service; young people who are contributing to their community while living with a physical or psychological limitation; or individuals who have performed acts of heroism or bravery. Candidates are also recognized for being ‘good kids' who show a commitment to making life better for others. A panel of judges unanimously agreed on the final award recipients.


Below is a synopsis of the 12 final recipients listed in alphabetical order.


Annaleise Carr, 14, Simcoe

In 2012, Annaleise became the youngest person to swim across Lake Ontario - a 27-hour effort in which she travelled 52 kilometres, crossing at Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto. By doing so she managed to raise more than $230,000 for Camp Trillium, a camp for children with cancer and their families. This amount continues to grow as she makes public appearances and attends speaking engagements. Her success will allow more than 200 kids to attend camp this summer. In addition, the same year she completed a 100km bike ride in support of Canadian Tire's Jumpstart Foundation which allows under privileged kids to compete in sports.


Ugonna Chigbo, 17, Mississauga

When Ugonna was just 10 years old, he contracted malaria while living in Nigeria. As a result, he lost the ability to walk, talk and perform many daily activities. After moving to Canada at the age of 12 and receiving help to regain these skills, he has made a tremendous comeback and is dedicated to bettering the lives of others. Ugonna is a MiWay Ambassador, promoting the use of public transit as an environmental means of transportation. He started a group within his school called Saints in Disguise which strives to motivate students in need.


Julie Dranitsaris, 17, Caledon

Julie is dedicated to helping find a cure for Multiple Sclerosis. Since she began participating in the MS Niagara Bike Tour at the age of 14, she has raised more than $41,000 for the cause. In 2011 she was the youngest participant in Ontario to raise more than $10,000 and has been named ‘Rookie of the Year' by raising the most of any first-time participant. For the past two years she has been chosen to be a Tour Leader for the Niagara Bike Tour, helping riders and encouraging them to reach the finish line.


Luis-Eduardo Grijalva, 7, Orleans

Since moving to Canada five years ago, Luis-Eduardo has been active in raising funds for Canadian Athletes and Canadian Paralympic Athletes by running in marathons. At the age of 3, he became the youngest runner to ever participate in the Kids Ottawa Marathon. After participating in four Ottawa Marathons, he has raised more than $15,000. He is now training for his fifth marathon in 2013 and is fundraising to meet his goal of $20,000.


Arielle Grondin, 16, Tecumseh

Arielle has Cystic Fibrosis but she doesn't let it stop her from making a difference within her community. In 2011 she spearheaded an event called ‘Music for Life', through which five local and well-known bands performed and more than $4,400 was raised. In 2012 the same event raised more than $6,300. Arielle is already planning the third annual ‘Music for Life' and has set a goal of $10,000 for Cystic Fibrosis.  Arielle has also volunteered at a local Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, she has helped with a local Hockey for Hospice fundraiser and sits on student parliament at her school.


Autumn Hagyard, 12, Simcoe

Autumn is founder and president of a non-profit organization she created called ‘Pennies for Patriotism'. Through this effort she has collected $10,000 in pennies to help buy prosthetic limbs and wheelchairs for returning Canadians soldiers who may have been wounded overseas. In addition, she has started campaigns including Letters From Home, Christmas Cards for Soldiers, and Teddys for Troops. Autumn is very passionate about her cause and speaks at various rallies to let others know that they too can make a difference.


Emma McCann, 16, Sarnia

Emma's many involvements include raising funds for Suicide Prevention by painting a piece entitled The Ties that Bind and selling prints. By doing so she has raised more than $6,000 for the cause. Recently Emma was accepted as one of 10 youth to be on the youth advisory committee of Ontario for the Canadian Mental Health Organization and spoke at a conference to 600 professionals about teen suicide and its impact on her peers.


Natalie McDonald, 13, Hanover

Natalie has generously given her time and effort raising funds and awareness for children and youth with physical disabilities and Easter Seals Ontario. On her 9th birthday, instead of gifts, she asked her friends to make donations to the cause she holds close to her heart - Natalie lives with spinal muscular atrophy type 2. Over the past four years she has raised more than $25,000 for Easter Seals Ontario. In 2012 she was named one of two Provincial Easter Seals Ambassadors and spent the year travelling across the province representing the organization and all kids with physical disabilities.


McKenna Modler, 12, Lansdown

While fighting brain cancer, this young lady has taught many people lessons about hope, inspiration and generosity. McKenna has received more than 70 chemotherapy and other treatments. After realizing first-hand how stressful cancer can be on a family, she decided to do something to help other families suffering from the disease. As a result, McKenna's Dream Team was created and through various fundraising initiatives, more than $115,000 has been raised for the Children's Cancer Fund at the Kingston General Hospital.


Hannah Morden, 18, Durham

In 2012, Hannah became an unsung hero who arrived at a fatal car accident and rescued the victims from the wreck. One of the three vehicles involved in the crash contained five of her classmates, all of whom were rushed to the hospital. Unfortunately, one of her friends passed away from the tragic event.  Hannah managed to overcome the horrific scene and emotional conditions that day in order to help others. Without hesitation stayed with the victims, providing all the comfort and emotional support she could before police arrived to take charge.


Alexandra Pino, 7, Thornton

At such a young age, Alexandra has displayed the desire to become involved in her community in various ways. For the past few years, Alexandra has collected and donated teddy bears to sick children at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Barrie and her local Women's Shelter. To date she has donated more than 100 teddy bears. In addition, Alexandra has also collected items for the Barrie SPCA in lieu of birthday presents and has raised nearly $300 for this cause.


Wesley Prankard, 14, Niagara Falls

After realizing that First Nations youth didn't have access to a playground in Attawapiskat, Wesley started his own charitable organization called Northern Starfish. He began raising funds by holding campouts in cold temperatures similar to conditions many in Attawapiskat were living in. Wesley managed to raise enough money to build his first playground. Since then he has organized a penny drive, collecting more than 1.3 million pennies to help build a playground in Kashechewan.


Our Sponsors
Our goal to recognize outstanding young people in communities across Ontario would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors. Our gratitude to them all.


Primary Sponsors

TD Community Giving
TD Bank Group invests in communities in order to effect positive change in the places where it operates and where its clients and employees live and work. In 2012, TD donated over $65 million to support community organizations in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. In Canada, TD focuses on education and financial literacy, creating opportunities for young people and the environment. For further information, please visit www.td.com/corporate-responsibility.

About Direct Energy
Direct Energy is North America's largest provider of heating & cooling, plumbing and electrical services and a leading energy and energy-related services provider with over six million residential and commercial customer relationships. Direct Energy provides customers with choice and support in managing their energy costs through a portfolio of innovative products and services. A subsidiary of Centrica plc (LSE: CNA), one of the world's leading integrated energy companies, Direct Energy operates in 46 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia and 10 provinces in Canada. To learn more about Direct Energy, please visit www.directenergy.com.

The Ontario Community Newspapers Association is a non-profit industry association representing 300+ community newspapers. These newspapers and their dedicated staff are leaders in their own communities. The association takes pride in assisting our members to acknowledge the contributions of outstanding young people across the province.

For more information contact:

Anne Lannan, Executive Director, 905-639-8720 ext. 228, a.lannan@ocna.org

Kelly Gorven, Jr. Citizens Coordinator, 905-639-8720 ext. 239, jr.citizen@ocna.org