Sparkes gets nod as Paradise’s Citizen of the year

By Mark Squibb/May 5, 2022

For the first time since 2019, the Town of Paradise was able to roll out the red carpet to recognize and honour individuals, businesses, and not-for-profits that make Paradise shine.

In 2021, the town held a virtual red carpet to honour award winners and nominees; in 2020, the event was cancelled outright due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But with public health guidelines relaxed in recent months, the Town was finally able to host an in-person event at the Double Ice Complex last Thursday night, handing out awards which fell into one of three categories: Athletic, Citizenship and Volunteer, and Business.

Under the Athletic umbrella were male and female athletes of the year, both junior and adult.

The Junior Male Athlete of the Year Award went to Liam Fowler who, despite playing hockey, ball hockey, running, and ultimate frisbee, still finds time to volunteer and maintain an academic average of 96 percent.

Hannah Neville, a Grade 9 Mount Pearl Intermediate honours student who also excels on the soccer field, was named Junior Female Athlete of the Year. At 14, she was a starter on the U17 team, was the youngest player on the provincial Canada Games team, captained the U15 provincial team, and participated in the Vancouver Whitecaps NL prospects training team.  When not playing, she also coaches and referees.

The Male Athlete of the Year Award went to Sam Follett, a MUN student, volunteer, and curler. Follett represented the province at the World Junior Curling Qualifiers earning a silver medal and represented the province at the Tim Horton’s Brier and the Canadian Junior Curling Nationals. He has received national trophies and was named to Team Canada as an alternate.

The Female Athlete of the Year was awarded to dedicated runner Connie Gullage, who has completed five marathons, 20 half marathons, seven Tely 10 races and six Cape to Cabot races. When not out pounding the pavement, Gullage finds time to work, volunteer, and lead a busy family life.

Four awards were handed out under the Business category.

The Business Excellence Award for companies with 15 employees or more went to Catalyst Health Solutions, which started as a home-based business in 2016 but has since grown into an enterprise of over 50 health professionals. During the pandemic, the company offered testing, assisted with the vaccination process, and also started the accreditation process to operate their own private laboratory.

The award for Business Excellence  for companies with fewer than 15 employees went to R&M Self Storage. The company ranks first in provincial U-Haul sales and third in Atlantic Canada. At the start of the pandemic, the company committed to a price freeze. The company has also donated to and supported a number of local organizations.

Ace WetClean, with its clean and well-organized storefront and 24/7 exterior lockers, won the Property Pride award.

The Innovation and Resiliency Award went to Get MessyNL. When the pandemic shut their doors, Get MessyNL offered birthday parties, including the delivery of party items to homes, and art classes virtually. The company has also hosted fundraising events in support of Candlelighters, the Janeway Foundation, Ronald McDonald House and others.

In the Citizenship and Volunteer category, five awards were handed out.

Coach of the Year went to Steve Nolan, a trampoline coach with Campia Gymnastics. Nolan coached an athlete who placed first at the 2021 Elite Canada Competition and was named Trampoline Coach of the Year with Campia.

Volunteer Group of the Year went to the Paradise Kin Club. The seven-member club helped with several community events and delivered over 45 hampers to help those in need this past year.

The Volunteer of the Year Award went to Mary Anne Dillon, a volunteer of over 40 years.  Dillion volunteers with the Kin Club, Girl Guides, Heart and Stroke Foundation, Kidney Foundation, and the Avalon Dragons. In Guides, Dillion has served at both district and provincial levels.

Keira Gullage was named Youth of the Year. Gullage is a Grade 12 honours student who plays on both the male and female high school rugby teams, participates in cheer, has her junior lifeguard certificate, is a Guider, Miss Achievement Newfoundland and Labrador Leadership Program participant, and one of 30 EF Canadian Youth Ambassadors, selected from over 1,500 applicants across Canada. She has also volunteered teaching English in the Dominican Republic.

The final award of the night, Citizen of the Year, went to Judy Sparkes. Sparkes served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 35 years, but now spends much of her time volunteering. She is a charter member of the Paradise Centennial Lions Club and has been the club secretary since day one. This past year she also volunteered with the Gathering Place and Team Broken Earth, helped collect food and donations for the food bank, served on the Paradise 50th Anniversary Committee, and more.

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