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2020 Calgary Awards recipients

Congratulations to the 2020 Calgary Awards recipients! In an extraordinary year, these Calgarians made a difference.

The Community Achievement Awards

Shelley Youngblut


Shelley Youngblut is a collaborator, an innovator, a wrangler and a tireless visionary to the benefit of Calgary’s arts and culture community. Shelley has a unique talent of connecting and empowering artists, writers, musicians, actors and ‘ordinary’ Calgarians to be extraordinary. Her commitment to the local arts scene and unwavering belief in others to create magic led Shelley to her current role as CEO and Creative Ringleader of Calgary’s Wordfest. She assumed the leadership of Wordfest in 2015, after a successful career as an award-winning magazine editor, a pop-culture correspondent, and a published author of three sports books. Since joining Wordfest, Shelley has transformed it from a limited fall festival into a sustainable, growing year-round event producer. This achievement earned her the 2018 Rozsa Award for Arts Leadership. In 2020, Shelley and her team met the pandemic head-on, quickly shifting Wordfest’s 25th anniversary celebrations to the highly successful 25@25 online series, featuring weekly conversations with Canada’s top fiction writers. Always creating, Shelley Youngblut makes conversations and ideas come alive while inspiring, entertaining and illuminating audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

Marichu Antonio

Citizen of the Year

Marichu Antonio is a pioneering leader with 50 years of experience in community development and advocacy. As Executive Director of ActionDignity (formerly Ethno-Cultural Council of Calgary) for 12 years, Marichu raises the collective voice of culturally diverse communities in our city.  ActionDignity serves as a platform for over 100 ethnocultural organizations that promotes collaboration towards more equitable policies and accessible and culturally relevant services. Marichu has grown ActionDignity to become an important advocate for racial equity and social change. Passionate about communities, Marichu meets crisis head on, instigating innovative approaches to community-led action. During the pandemic, Marichu quickly shifted ActionDignity’s focus to emergency support to Calgarians including essential workers in Cargill and JBS meat plants. She co-founded the Multilingual Hotline in response to COVID-19 and sits as a key player in the Calgary East Zone Newcomers Collaborative (CENC). Offering support in 24 languages, CENC served 12,400 COVID-impacted Calgarians with food, financial and mental health supports as they healed with dignity. Marichu’s leadership is felt in many city initiatives including Calgary’s Cultural Plan, Calgary Local Immigration Partnership, Calgary Arts Development’s Aisinna'kiiks Initiative, and Advocacy for Workers’ Rights.  Retiring from ActionDignity in June 2021, Marichu has helped elevate the work for communities and equity-seeking organizations towards social justice, human rights and equality for all citizens.

Breanne Everett


Dr. Breanne Everett is the President, CEO and Co-Founder of Orpyx® Medical Technologies Inc. Orpyx® manufactures a thin shoe insole with sensors that relay pressure, temperature and movement information to a smart device worn by diabetic patients, allowing them to self-monitor their foot health and adjust their behavior to prevent injury. Breanne developed the product after seeing the burden that diabetic foot complications place on patients and the healthcare system. The success of this product prompted Breanne to extend the Orpyx® technology to non-medical applications including athletic performance optimization and injury prevention with the formation of Kinetyx Sciences Inc.. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Breanne co-founded, a group of volunteers working with community and industry partners to source critical personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line workers. The initiative quickly collected 350,000 pieces of PPE for the health field and raised almost $90,000 in direct donations to health-care facilities. Orpyx® increased its manufacturing capacity to produce medical masks, with a commitment to provide over 40 million masks to Alberta Health Services over the next two years. Breanne is a medical visionary, with the unique foresight to merge medicine, business and technology, earning her international recognition.  Dr. Breanne Everett’s work ethic and desire to make life better for people on a global scale is evident in her continuous shift to address issues and innovate, create, influence and impact the community.

Aneela Azeem

Community Advocate - Individual

Aneela Azeem is the founder and president of the Canadian Pakistani Support Group (CPSG). In 2016, Aneela established CPSG to provide diversified programs and services to vulnerable sectors, including immigrants, refugees and female victims of family violence. Aneela has built a strong network of volunteers from the Pakistani community with a common mission to build resilience and eradicate barriers to attain equitable social conditions. CPSG serves the community through support drives, awareness events, workshops and community engagement. Aneela established the CPSG Youth Leadership Group, mentoring a younger generation of leaders to focus on community welfare and challenges facing their fellow youth. In 2019, Aneela launched Maskan, a transitional home for women and children fleeing domestic violence. The word ‘Maskan’ is inspired by the Urdu word for ‘peaceful place’. When a family arrives at Maskan, essential needs like food, clothing and shelter are taken care of until sustained and safe living arrangements can be found. Aneela and her team are continuously researching the core needs of the community, developing sustainable community partnerships, sponsorships and funding streams, and engaging youth and community volunteers for collective action. Aneela Azeem’s selfless dedication to serving her fellow Calgarians is rooted in her deep passion for gender equality, empowerment and fostering healthy relationships.

Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society

Community Advocate -

For over 25 years, Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society (Calgary Seniors) has been providing services and programs that help seniors who lack financial resources and social/family supports to live independently in their own homes. The non-profit organization offers a caring and innovative approach to serving seniors, filling gaps and unmet needs through three pillar programs: Outreach, SeniorConnect, and Seniors Social Supports. These programs are delivered by a dedicated team of registered social workers, program coordinators and over 2,000 volunteers. The Outreach and SeniorConnect programs involve needs assessment and navigation of the complex social services, housing, community support agencies, and urgent needs response by social workers. The Seniors Social Supports program is entirely volunteer driven and includes services like transportation, home delivery, home visits/calls and pet care. Calgary Seniors reaches over 5,000 older adults annually and maintains a philosophy that emphasizes innovation and adaptability, and fosters transformational change as our older adult population grows. Seniors want to age in place with dignity, in their communities, and in their homes where they feel comfortable and safe. Calgary Seniors’ Resource Society helps meet that need.

Dr. Rahat Zaidi


Dr. Rahat Zaidi’s roles as Professor and Chair of Language and Literacy at the University of Calgary’s Werklund School of Education has given her the opportunity to be an international mentor and visionary among her professional colleagues and her students. Many have witnessed and shared in her passion for social justice, equity and inclusion in her teaching and research.  Dr. Zaidi educates by example, promoting a classroom environment of trust and equity, emphasizing the importance of linguistic diversity and inclusive education. She prepares future teachers to become confident educators in their own multi-ethnic, multicultural and multilingual classrooms. Dr. Zaidi’s research carries impact both locally and globally.  Her most recent project examined how schools and refugee parents can optimize engagement to best meet children’s learning needs. Through interviews and focus groups localized within an Alberta school, she revealed the challenges refugee families face including language barriers, literacy limitations, access to technology and a general lack of understanding of how the (Canadian) school system works. The impact of her research has inspired change among educational stakeholders and helps to inform best practices within our education system. Dr. Zaidi’s academic investment in tomorrow’s education is transforming the way educators view their classrooms and she is making a substantial commitment to advancing multilingual literacy, social awareness, safety and inclusion.

Dr. John R. Lacey, C.M.

Grant MacEwan Lifetime Achievement

Dr. John Lacey is globally recognized as a champion of innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurial spirit in the field of science and energy sustainability. A petroleum engineer by trade, John enjoyed a successful career in the energy industry, including four decades as an international consultant. While consulting to countries starting out in energy exploration and development, John established global recognition of Canada as a nation with broad competence and expertise in the petroleum industry. His breadth of knowledge spans energy, science, business and technology, making him a sought after consultant for the likes of international governments, major industry, global financial institutions and commercial investors. In his retirement, John continues to devote his skills, finances, time and love of science and the arts to initiatives at home and abroad. John has been a passionate supporter of the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra (CPO) for nearly 30 years, serving as Chair of many fundraising initiatives and providing business expertise to restore financial stability after near-bankruptcy in the early 2000’s.  In 2008, John and his wife established the Naomi and John Lacey Virtuoso Programme, bringing in the world’s greatest musicians to perform with the CPO and teach master classes at the Mount Royal University Music Conservatory and the University of Calgary’s music program. In November, 2020, John received the Order of Canada for his dedication to international business leadership, mentorship of the next generation, and philanthropy in support of the arts. Dr. John Lacey is known for his honesty, integrity, hard work and above all, a commitment to community and the common good.


The Heritage Award was not presented.

Curtis Ruttle
Youth - Sponsored by University of Calgary

Curtis Ruttle is committed to ensuring youth with sight loss can live their best life alongside their sighted peers. Legally blind himself, Curtis has first-hand experience with the accessibility challenges that come with sight loss. He volunteers his time as an advocate, mentor and leader to support the sight loss community. In 2020, Curtis founded Alt Route, an accessible skate park project in collaboration with other existing skate parks to create affordable accessibility. Through his involvement with the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) National Youth Council, Curtis secured a grant and sponsorships to research, develop and launch Alt Route. To ensure the project was truly a safe, fun and accessible experience, Curtis recruited five youth participants with sight loss to test the accessible design and features and provide feedback. Curtis is a role model and impactful leader in his community, encouraging youth to take an active role in making spaces accessible. His volunteer work extends to the CNIB’s monthly Buddy Group and Children’s Summer Camps, and the Young Leaders Program where he is an active speaker and mentor. Through his efforts, Curtis Ruttle is bringing to the forefront conversations about inclusion, changing the perception of sight loss, and inspiring a new generation of changemakers within the sight loss community. In his own words, “you don’t need sight to have a vision”.

The Award for Accessibility

Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge, YMCA Calgary

The Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge has set new standards for universal access in Calgary recreation facilities, serving its community through the application of universal design concepts in the provision of wellness, physical activity spaces, child care, sport and arts services. The facility’s design includes adaptable and open-ended spaces around a connective hub of informal gathering areas for easy and independent access. Outside, accessible public walkways and trails ensure an optimal experience for all users. The building exceeds the 2014 Alberta Building Code in many areas. Entry to the building from the parking area is entirely accessible with subtle sloping ramps, the reception counter includes an Assistive Listening Device, and signage and wayfinding is provided in Braille and English. Universal dressing rooms offer a variety of private change areas, including lifts and adult change tables, to meet the needs of culturally, demographically and ability-diverse individuals, caregivers and families. Pool access is via the zero-entry wave pool or accessible pool lift, and the strength and conditioning area has accessible equipment. The Shane Homes YMCA at Rocky Ridge fosters an inclusive community open to people of all ages and abilities, and provides all Calgarians the opportunity to achieve a life of physical, mental and social well-being in one place.

The Environmental Achievement Award

WILD Outside Program, Canadian Wildlife Federation

WILD Outside is a program initiated by the Canadian Wildlife Federation (CWF), with a mission to engage youth aged 15 to 18 in nature, providing opportunities to learn leadership and teamwork skills, gain exposure to potential career paths in environmental conservation and give back to their community. The WILD Outside Program offers engaging programming such as service projects (invasive plant removal, tree wrapping and shoreline cleanup), outdoor activities (kayaking, paddle boarding and geo-caching), a speaker series offering relevant topics (job skills workshops, land acknowledgement and citizen science projects), and virtual programming (virtual bird feeder build along and home conservation projects). In its inaugural year, and despite pandemic restrictions, the Calgary WILD Outside Program accomplished over 800 hours of activities including 350 hours of environmental webinars and 140 hours of service projects with green industry organizations. The WILD Outside Program is free to participants, reducing barriers to access by offering subsidies as needed. Examples of support include childcare costs, bus fare, and purchase of suitable outdoor clothing. The program actively recruits youth from underrepresented communities such as racialized youth, Indigenous youth, youth with disabilities, LGBTQ2S+ youth and newcomers. The Calgary WILD Outside Program is inspiring the next generation of conservationists to continue the work of those who came before them.

The International Achievement Award

Dr. Aamir Jamal

Dr. Aamir Jamal is an established international scholar, researcher and activist at the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Social Work. A transformational leader and global expert in gender justice, girls’ education and human rights, Aamir has produced a significant body of research that has informed policy and practice for national governments and international agencies, most notably inspiring a movement for gender justice and girls’ education across Northwest Pakistan. Born and raised in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan, Aamir truly understands the complexities and dynamics of Pashtun society. His book, “Gate Keepers: Engaging Pashtun Men in Gender Justice and Girls’ Education” initiated critical dialogue surrounding the need for men’s involvement and activism in gender justice issues in the region. In Calgary and across Alberta, Aamir is involved in several action research projects with Calgary’s ethno-cultural communities, engaging men and boys in violence prevention, healthy relationships and building stronger communities. He is the founding president of the Canadian Association for Children’s Education in Pakistan, an active Board member of the Calgary Pakhtun Association and committee member for the Alberta Men’s Network for Violence Prevention. A regular keynote speaker for academic institutions and community groups, Aamir’s perspectives are often sought by national and international media outlets. Dr. Aamir Jamal’s work has contributed to a shift in local attitudes and cultural perspectives by involving communities directly in addressing gender-based violence, and promoting social justice and transformation via formal government and societal approaches.

The City of Calgary W.O. Mitchell Book Prize

Alexandra Latos

Under Shifting Stars

Under Shifting Stars, written by Alexandra Latos, is a book of beautifully crafted prose, finely drawn characters, and an intricate weaving of conflicts. This story follows twins Audrey and Clare as they grapple with their brother’s death and their changing relationships, with each other and themselves. Best friends as youngsters, they grew apart as they grew older. Told in the alternating voices of both sisters, each struggles alone with the complicated confusion of their world, the growing gap between them and their profound grief at the death of their brother. Under Shifting Stars is a story of our time. It covers the wide ground of friendships, crushes, bullying, and gender and sexual diversity with compassion, respect and clarity. The sisters are beautifully rendered and their journeys toward self-discovery are authentic and tenderly drawn.

Alexandra Latos has been writing all her life. After a brief career in Finance, she decided to return to school to study English and turn her passion into her career. A skillful storyteller, Alexandra has published Young Adult and New Adult fiction. Her Young Adult novel Under Shifting Stars is a Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection.