49 people (and a horse) who made Toronto a better place this year.
For sticking up for the little guys—kids, that is.
It’s been a big year for Hannah Alper. Besides sharing the stage with former governor general Michaëlle Jean and Martin Luther King III on a cross-country We Day tour to promote youth empowerment, she also helped launch Free the Children’s “We Create Change” campaign and was the official “eco-blogger” for the Juno Awards. Oh, and she celebrated her 10th birthday with a cake covered in Skittles. Now that the tour’s over, the pint-sized activist will continue to update her popular environmentalist blog, “Call Me Hannah” (thanks Carly Rae), explore her passions for reading and karate, and face her most daunting challenge yet: the fifth grade.
For giving cyclists everywhere a hilarious sense of justice.
There’s no worse scenario for a cyclist than having a bike stolen, and there’s no more futile exercise than trying to find it. Luckily for Quentin Matheson, his bike-mechanic buddy Gordon Robb spotted Matheson’s missing bike, just three days after it was pilfered, chained up on Bloor Street near Spadina. Robb slapped a spare lock on the 13-year-old Raleigh hybrid, and the next day, he, Matheson, and a group of friends came back with tools and cut it free. They left a cardboard cutout of the bike in its place, along with a message for the thief.
For bringing the tainted-blood story to the stage.
It’s been called the largest preventable health disaster in Canada’s history: After improperly screened blood entered the Red Cross’s national supply in the 1970s, more than 20,000 Canadians were infected with Hepatitis C and HIV. This year, playwright and actress Kat Lanteigne (at left, with director Vikki Anderson) dramatized the devastation in Tainted—a searing look at the blood crisis’ impact on a single blue-collar family, based on interviews she’d conducted with survivors and victims. The play, which had a successful stage run this fall at Daniels Spectrum’s Aki Studio Theatre, was a longtime passion project for Lanteigne, who funded the effort personally and through an IndieGogo initiative.
Jonathan Hock and Michel Mersereau
For helping their fallen comrade on two wheels.
Ghost bikes, those white-painted bicycles locked to bike posts and adorned with placards and flowers, commemorate cyclists who’ve died on city streets. In late September, Damien Waddell (at centre in the photo above) almost received a ghost bike of his own when he cycled home on Wellesley Street. While trying to navigate around a car parked in the bike lane, Waddell hopped onto the curb, but when he dropped back onto the road, his handlebars fell apart, puncturing his left leg when he crashed down on top of them. Cyclist Jonathon Hock (at left) and motorcyclist Michel Mersereau (at right) jumped in to help. They tied and propped up Waddell’s leg and kept him warm until ambulances arrived. Waddell needed surgery and a blood transfusion, but Hock and Mersereau possibly saved his life.
For making the Jays’ mediocre season worth watching.
The Toronto Blue Jays spent something like a bazillion dollars stacking its 2013 roster with all kinds of high-profile talent. But when the team lagged well below our (perhaps irrationally high) expectations, it was unknown Munenori Kawasaki, up from the minor leagues, who lifted fans’ spirits. The 32-year-old outfielder’s dance moves, loopy enthusiasm, and endearing way of introducing himself (“My name is Munenori Kawasaki. I am Japanese!”) made him a perpetual source of joy. It’s a damn shame that the Jays cheaped out on bringing him back next year.
For helping companies boost their eco-consciousness.
When companies talk about going “green,” you might assume they’re talking about their bottom lines. Not anymore, thanks to Ryerson Sustainability grad Lindsey Goodchild, CEO of Greengage. The Toronto-based enviro web and app initiative operates on a points-based system, allowing corporations to give kudos to their employees for earth-friendly behaviours (like double-sided printing) or making sustainable contributions to the community at large. Oh, and the start-up just scored $1 million in funding to meet customer demand. Suck on that, global warming.
Allan Slaight and Emmanuelle Gattuso
For donating like no one’s ever donated before.
Since 40 to 45 per cent of Ontarians will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetimes, early detection is an issue that affect most, if not all, of us. In January, Allan Slaight and Emmanuelle Gattuso helped Princess Margaret Hospital take a giant leap forward in its efforts to more effectively combat the disease, donating $50 million, the largest private gift for cancer research in Canadian history. Gattuso, a breast-cancer survivor, and Slaight, a media magnate, have directed their contribution into a “superfund” designed to attract the world’s best scientists in genetically personalized cancer medicine, an emerging treatment that aids in the early detection of tumors. In October, the Slaight Family Foundation donated another $50 million to five other T.O. hospitals.
For giving away all those cookies.
At first, it seemed too good to be true: Some random dude on Instagram would bake a bunch of cookies, post a photo of them, and then deliver the treats to the first five or so people who commented on his photo. But Milos P. (a.k.a. @madvillan on Instagram) has kept up the confectionary kindness all year, “sweetening up people’s day” across the city. He also occasionally sells cookies…to raise money for charity. We have no idea what his endgame might be, but we’re also not about to look a gift cookie in the mouth—or, wait…what?
For finding Toronto’s furry friends a forever home.
As the Animal Care and Control Officer for Toronto Animal Services, James McLean has his paws in a lot of projects—namely, connecting the shelter’s menagerie of dogs, cats, and even members of the fowl family (chickens and ducks) with loving owners. For his efforts—in particular, his skilled home-finding for mill dogs and barn cats—McLean was bestowed with the National Summit Award for Homing in October. Think of him as the city’s foremost expert in mammalian matchmaking.
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