When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping’… Because if you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.
One Good Turn Deserves Another
Some people put others first, no matter what. Sometimes even when they are hurting themselves. At a time when caring for one another has never been more important, we’re looking to recognize difference makers who have made a tremendous sacrifice to better the lives of others this last year.
It’s often during times like these that we hear some of the most amazing stories of human kindness and sacrifice. We wanted to provide an opportunity to honor the helpers who have quietly gone above and beyond to make a difference and spread hope – it’s our way of saying “thanks”.
The contest is now closed, but we wanted to thank everyone who helped us ‘Cast It Forward’ by nominating a difference maker in their community. We initially planned to select two very deserving recipients (one from the US and one from Canada) to receive a trip for four to Kississing Lake Lodge, but we were so moved by all of the nominations that came in, that we decided to add two second place prizes of a trip for two to Kississing Lake Lodge. Please see the winners below, along with their stories, as well as a couple of business honorable mentions, and the complete list of all the nominees.
ANNOUNCING OUR 2020 COMMUNITY DIFFERENCE MAKERS
There were so many submissions that were worthy of the trip of a lifetime, ranging from a dad who has continued to regularly visit the local homeless shelter to share a meal and a smile with patrons, to a single mom who through a very tough 2020 has gone above and beyond to help others this holiday season.
It was almost an impossible task to select the winners. By the contest deadline we were so moved by all of the stories that we found a way to add two “runner up” prizes (one in Canada and one in the US): a trip for two to Kississing Lake Lodge, all-inclusive from Winnipeg.
We hope you will be touched and inspired by our top “Cast It Forward” stories as much as we were.
ROBYN TROTT from Barrie, Ontario
Nominated by: Sousie Weston
Nominating a true community helper, Robyn Trott, not Trout :).
Our good friend and neighbour, Robyn Trott, embodies the essence of the idea of a true “helper.” Having lived across the street for more than a decade, I have grown to learn about her forever quiet and understated giving character. I have come to understand she gives in the purest form - not for self-congratulatory purposes, not to increase her social clout, but strictly and always to bring joy to those who may be otherwise suffering, and ultimately to help ease their pain, even for a moment.
A long-time volunteer of the Look Good, Feel Better program, Robyn has become a regular face at Princess Margaret Hospital where she has donated hundreds of hours of her time to help women going through cancer treatment to learn how to perk themselves up through make up, wig/hair and fun fashion tips. Her years of experience in the Fashion industry coupled by her fine artistic eye has lent itself well to turning an extremely difficult time for women of all ages, including teens, into an opportunity for self-love and motivation. For years, Robyn took on this volunteer position and rarely mentioned it. Only on occasion would she ask us for our opinion on an idea she would think of for the coming sessions or rally us to undertake a social media challenge to help raise awareness. She takes her role seriously, as if in a paid position, and never let these women down. During Covid, her charitable heart grew and began to touch women across the country.
As Covid loomed over this year, Look Good, Feel Better sessions went onto Zoom, and she took on an increased number of tutorials where women from across the country could now log onto. She didn’t get lazy with her time, nor has she become lazy with her enthusiasm to bring new ideas and fresh approaches. Even as the toll of Covid restrictions began taking a toll on her, she never gave excuses, and always showed up. She often appears in our backyard, face full of makeup or wig still on, to show my young daughters what she had done that day - a true inspiration and the best role model for my girls I could ever ask for. The Helper, I would tell them to seek out when they needed a hand.
Her efforts are not isolated to Look Good, Feel Better alone. Seeing how Covid began taking a toll on the people around her, she organized weekly, fun zoom sessions for me and my daughters, and the other neighbourhood friends to join and get creative. She’d buy supplies, invite special guests and put her heart and soul into each week to bring some renewed happiness into our homes. As we all sat stir crazy as the days went on, I found myself in constant awe of her energy and selfless efforts.
With school back in session this September, she put her creative skills to use again, and began making personalized fun mask chains for the kids on our street to ease the blow of having to wear a mask all day. She asked for nothing in exchange, and as they grew to become popular, she began supplying them for zero profit to the local store, to help the small business along.
Having grown up on Lake Simcoe, in Ontario, she spent many days of her childhood fishing and enjoying the endless beauty of Canada’s rich nature. Her city life has not allowed for the same, and I would love nothing more than to surprise her with a beautiful get-away, to Canada’s fishing north and to your gorgeous lodge for an unparalleled and much needed opportunity to give her back a little of what she deserves.
BOB BLUME from Anderson, Indiana
Nominated by: Paulette Jackson
When I learned about the Cast It Forward Difference Maker giveaway, I knew immediately that I needed to tell you Robert (Bob) Blume! You may or may not know his name, but he has been to Kississing Lodge several times. He has LOVED these trips and talks about them all the time. Not just the amazing fishing and the great food (although he talks about that a lot 😊), but he always tells stories about the incredible guides and others who work at the lodge whom he has met. And that is who Bob Blume is. He is a lover of people.
I have learned so much from Bob over the past 35 years about the importance of listening closely to people’s stories and about pouring into others. This is what Bob has done his entire life. Due to Covid-19, he missed his trip this past June. He probably doesn’t have many more opportunities to come as he turned 81 this year (although you would never know it!). I am hoping he will win this trip so he can bring three others with him to enjoy what he has experienced at your amazing lodge!
This past year as most of us hunkered down during the Covid-19 pandemic and worked from home, Bob continued to pour into the men at Man4Man Ministries every day as he has done for the past 20 years. Bob founded the ministry in 2000 to serve men who come out of incarceration and truly desire to turn their lives around. He does not take compensation (in fact he often uses his SS check to keep the ministry going), he does not ask for donations; he trusts the Lord to bring in what is needed and over the years he has learned how to s-t-r-e-t-c-h a dollar!
The men in the program come from a variety of backgrounds, but one of the most common threads running through each life was an absent father growing up. They have never known that particular kind of love and support. Bob has become a father figure to many men over these past two decades. They call him Pops, they bring in their children and grandchildren so they can get to know him; they love him. He shows them respect and undying support, and over time they learn to trust again and give respect to others.
When men come out of incarceration, one of the biggest hurdles is to find work. Bob thinks like an entrepreneur, so through the 501(C)(3) he has started a number of small “businesses” to provide employment, such as lawn and landscaping, moving services, construction/rehab, demolition and maintenance of properties, small engine repair, automotive services, a barber shop, and a thrift store, to name a few. The work standards are high and those who use their services give great reviews about their professionalism. During the pandemic, he continued to think creatively and find ways to provide employment opportunities for these men who have nowhere else to go. Through some contacts, he found a huge gym in Indianapolis that needed to be gutted and rehabbed while it was closed for business. This provided enough work to get them through the worst of the shutdown.
He continually models for these men, as a father would, how to give back to others. When the economy shut down this past spring, many in Bob’s Indiana community were hit very hard. It didn’t take long before food became scarce and they were really struggling. Bob connected with the local food bank and organized some of his men to serve their community by passing out bags of groceries to a line of 700 cars for families in need. At 81 years old when others his age were terrified to be out and about, he just said “they need me,” and he went.
Every August, Bob runs a golf tournament to raise funds to support the ministry. In 2020 it looked a bit different as they couldn’t serve food or shake hands and all the men had to be masked, but one story really stood out to me.
He has one of the men in the program “host” each hole and as the teams come through, his job is to thank them for supporting the ministry and share a 30 second snippet of his life story. Bob had been pouring into a young man named George* (not his real name to protect privacy). George was hosting hole #4 at the tournament. He had on a hat and a mask so the golfers couldn’t really see his face. After one team played through, a shaken George came to Bob and said, “One of those men was my father! I haven’t seen him in over 20 years.” Over the course of a few months, the man was reunited with his parents who welcomed him back home, and they are getting to know one another again. George said, “Pops I could have never experienced this without your love and guidance.”
It’s really impossible to put into words what Bob does. He quietly, without fanfare, loves on and pours into those the rest of us would rather not see; those society has given up on. The program he founded provides the structure within which these men’s lives are changed, which in turn changes the community for the better.
The “mission statement” pictured here has been and continues to be seen over and over again through this ministry. There are too many stories to share, but another quick one happened this past Saturday. Bob was out with his wife (who the men call Momma Blume) and while he was waiting on her he went to put money in a Salvation Army Red Kettle. The man ringing the bell said, “Thank you, Pops!” Under that Santa beard was one of the men who had come through the program and is doing well. They were able to reconnect and Bob heard all about his new life. Change a man…
I don’t feel like my words have adequately conveyed how deserving Bob is. I could write pages and pages and share story after story of just what a difference maker he is, but I’m sure you don’t have time to read all of that. I hope I have conveyed enough of a glimpse into who Bob is that you will choose him for this trip for four to the beautiful Kississing Lodge!
CHRIS PIASTA from Brandon, Manitoba
Nominated by: Tom Piasta
Once in a while you connect with a special friend who never lets you down and lucky for me, I call him son. Chris Piasta originally is from Dauphin and now lives with his wife in Brandon. He is the guy you want on your side; Chris is a trustworthy, reliable, kind, fun, giving and doesn’t hesitate to help at a moment’s notice!
He has done many things to help make a difference in his community this past year. He is the co-chairman on the Ducks Unlimited Committee that puts on events in Brandon including the annual 400-person fund raiser with live entertainment.
He is a youth mentor for fishing on and off the ice. He has his own boat and would rather see you catch than himself. He is a mentor for the Brandon Gun club where he teaches young marksmen to safely shoot and respect shotguns and rifles. He is also an official scorer for all antlers that come into the Brandon Big Game Night. This includes Deer, Elk, Moose, Bear and Caribou.
The most impressive story was on June 28, 2020, when Brandon was blessed with 16 inches of rain in two days. Chris was home and was asked by all six households in his neighborhood to be in charge of insuring that the homes did not get any water in their basements. Most of the homeowners were away for the weekend.
The torrential rain was just too much for the land to absorb. Ditches overflowed. Highways washed out; basements were flooding all around! Chris continued to monitor everyone’s basements and septic pumps. All was going well; then the power went out! Chris had access to a big portable generator he knew how to hook it up to all the houses at the same time so sump pumps could continue to run! All was good again. Time to relax…
NOT! Someone’s sump pump quit but the rain kept coming down harder now than before. Chris had a spare pump and fired it up, but it wasn’t fast enough to catch back up to the water coming into that basement. So, he used a big cooler to manually haul water from the basement and dump it outside. When the homeowner arrived the next morning to see Chris bailing the basement with a 20-gallon cooler; he was speechless and oh so grateful.
MARION VON ROHR from Billings, Montana
Nominated by: John von Rohr
In 2012, my wife and I decided to take our own dream vacation. She went to Indonesia ion and it was Kississing Lodge for me. I have a nice scrapbook that I go through often. I met such nice people, Dakota, Christine and my guide and friend Ernest among others. I just couldn't afford to return, but if I did, Ernest would have to be my guide. I hope he is well.
My hero is my wife of 60 years, Marion. For over 20 years, she has personally made over 400 Christmas stockings each year for needy children. From October until December, she is searching for toys for kids of all ages. The day after Halloween, we leave the house at 7 a.m. and purchase candy anywhere we can. For the stocking material (netting) toys and candy, she uses her own money. Yarn is used to sew up the top of each stocking.
In past years she used the church basement to stuff the stockings with volunteer help from her church lady friends. This year due to Covid19, she did it in the house with a few friends. She divides everything into groups such as "girls 1 to 5 years, “boys 8-12,” etc. It is very hard work and she smiles every minute she is doing it. The kids look forward to what they call "the best stockings ever.” Today, one of the women told me something I never thought of. This year, some of these stockings might go to the children of the children she made happy over 20 years ago.
I asked her when she would quit and relax. Her answer was "never, because it is so fulfilling."
Besides all that work, she also makes Christmas very special for our children and grandchildren.
She is indeed my hero!
In times of uncertainty, communities need leaders to inspire them. As such, we were also struck by some of the business and corporate community members that we felt were worth honoring as well; so we decided to share a couple of honorable mentions. Here they are:
JIM (JAMES) YUEL of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan,
founder of PIC Investment Group Inc.
Nominated by: Joe Moore
STEVE CHENEY owner of McKee Floor Covering Group
Nominated by: Matthew Oie
We also wanted to honor all of those who took the time to nominate a difference maker, and of course, the nominees themselves. Here they are:
Nominee: Helena Lopez of San Bernardino County, California
Nominated by: Brenda Roper
Nominee: Don Klein of Grand Rapids, Michigan
Nominated by: Dan Klein
Nominee: Karen Bugg Mitchell of Minnedosa, Manitoba
Nominated by: Shelley Nicol
Nominee: Phil Nelson of Rockford, Illinois
Nominated by: Glen S.
Nominee: Joan Van der Linde of Morris, Manitoba
Nominated by: Pat Anderson
Nominee: Wendy of Nova Scotia
Nominated by: Melissa Martell
Nominee: Brenda Jones of Winnipeg, Manitoba
Nominated by: Caroline Thomas
Nominee: Terry Swidnicki and Andy Swidnicki of Portage la Prairie, Manitoba
Nominated by: Ryan Swidnicki
Nominee: Jeffrey Carlson of Saskatchewan
Nominated by: Sharren Carlson
Nominee: Allison Dallas Funk and Mike Funk of Flin Flon, Manitoba
Nominated by: Bill Jackson
Nominee: Frank Dopkiss
Nominated by: Mike Laskus
Nominee: Jaimee Adams of Winnipeg, Manitoba
Nominated by: Joanne Debenham
Nominee: Randy Rye of Drayton Valley, Alberta
Nominated by: Eric Moland
Nominee: Christine Venice of Staten Island, New York
Nominated by: Ralph Venice
Nominee: Christian Kennedy of Winnipeg, Manitoba
Nominated by: Colin Jones
Nominee: Jon Bachman of Oconee County, South Carolina
Nominated by: Philip Walkenshaw
Nominee: Cory Szczepanski of Saskatchewan
Nominated by: David Szczepanski
Nominee: Dan Hanley of Hickory Hills, Illinois
Nominated by: Stan Sobol
Nominee: Zoe Martens of Grunthal, Manitoba
Nominated by: Jade Penner
Nominee: Heidi Saarinen of Fargo, North Dakota
Nominated by: Seth Saarinen
Nominee: Bill Temple of Winnipeg, Manitoba
Nominated by: Paul & Kathleen Morris
Nominee: Chris Cundiff
Nominee: Stephen Davenport
Nominated by: Robert Drover
Nominee: Stephanie Hemlow of Winnipeg, Manitoba
Nominated by: Derek Russell
Nominee: Ryan and Trevor Storey of Winnipeg, Manitoba
Nominated by: Scott Storey
Nominee: Ben and Selanie Hubbert
Nominated by: Adam Rotert
Nominee: William (Rick) Thomas of Tulsa, Oklahoma
Nominated by: Timm Crone
Nominee: Darcy Jones of Winnipeg, Manitoba
Nominated by: Colin Jones
Nominee: Luis Magno of Chicago, Illinois
Nominated by: Paul Fisher
Nominee: Jason Woolf of Blue Springs, Missouri
Nominated by: Fred Woolf
Nominee: Anita Gagne of St. Pierre, Manitoba
Nominated by: Wilma Arnold-Hebert
Nominee: Daniel Boone Vuletich of Cody, Wyoming
Nominated by: John Garland and Patrick Barenberg
Nominee: Wilma Arnold-Hebert of St. Pierre, Manitoba
Nominated by: Dan Drouin
Nominee: Irene Kroeker, Jackie Goertzen and Gerry Funk of Steinbach, Manitoba
Nominated by: Trinity Funk & Tavia Funk
Nominee: Charles “Jim” Crouse
Nominated by: Dennis Praedin
Nominee: Tracy Abraham of Pinawa, Manitoba
Nominated by: Dale Smyrski
Nominee: Valerie of Winnipeg, Manitoba
Nominated by: Maureen Morrish
Nominee: Howard Lackey of Trinidad, Colorado
Nominated by: Susan Rainguet
Nominee: Donald Froese of Winnipeg, Manitoba
Nominated by: Steve Paulson
Nominee: Bill Schreyer of Austin, Texas
Nominated by: Sharon Ofczarzak
Nominee: Derek Russell of Winnipeg, Manitoba
Nominated by: Jaga Russell
Nominee: Ryan Liebaert
Nominated by: Michelle Schwartz