Dr. Karin Kausky is Whistler's 2021 Citizen of the Year.
The Whistler Medical Clinic physician was one of 10 individuals and organizations who were honoured as Whistler’s business community gathered virtually on Thursday night, Sept. 16, to celebrate its best and brightest at the annual Whistler Excellence Awards.
"It is such an honour to be nominated for this award, let alone selected from such an inspiring group of people," Kausky said in her acceptance speech.
"It's especially meaningful to me in a year that's highlighted the importance of healthcare, and the fact that it really takes an entire community working together to effectively deliver that care. I think many of the successes in Whistler's COVID response had been due to addressing all aspects of our community's health and well being collectively as a community."
Hosted by the Whistler Chamber of Commerce in partnership with Whistler Community Foundation, Arts Whistler and the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE), and presented by BlueShore Financial, the awards ceremony was pre-recorded and broadcast online for the second year in a row. Still, it managed to continually acknowledge the importance of togetherness amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Next year’s ceremony will, ideally, see attendees return to the Fairmont Chateau Whistler ballroom to celebrate in person, noted Chamber CEO Melissa Pace.
But this year, it was the people and businesses that not only adapted to make it through the pandemic themselves, but helped Whistler’s community do the same that earned much of the recognition throughout the evening—from healthcare workers like Kausky, to grocery store owners to those responsible for the outdoor activities that kept Whistlerites going throughout a challenging few months.
In addition to announcing winners, the ceremony included a poignant tribute from Mayor Jack Crompton thanking Whistler’s first responders, frontline workers and service providers.
"I just want to say to everyone how grateful I am for how you took on this pandemic over the last 18 months," he said. "It was not easy, but I have been deeply impressed and inspired by our community. Each of you has done your part and you have brought us through COVID-19."
Keep scrolling for a full list of winners and nominees, and stay tuned for more from the Whistler Excellence Awards in next week's Pique.
Citizen of the Year: Karin Kausky
- Yoann Barelli
- Stella Harvey
Business Person of the Year: Jerry and Sana Marsh - Creekside Market
"The past year has taught us that we have to be quick to make adjustments ... and that we're really proud and very lucky to have such an understanding staff," said Jerry.
"Thank you very much for this great honour. Thank you to the Chamber for nominating us for business persons of the year. Sana and I have been so lucky to have a business and live in such a great, vibrant and beautiful place. We've lived in Whistler for 33 years and have raised our two children here. We can't think of a better place to be," he added, thanking their dedicated staff and the community "for their many years of support and encouragement."
- Kaoru and Hidemi Ono - Senka Florist
- Priyanka Lewis - Brickworks Hospitality Group
Innovative Business of the Year – Bluebird Strategy/WNORTH
"When it comes to togetherness, as an event company, we could have just given up on the word," explained Bluebird Strategy and WNORTH co-founder and CEO Heather Odendaal. "There was a global pandemic, and we were unable to gather. Instead, our team retooled and retrained to become a thriving online event company, fostering togetherness. This past year has taught me that we're more resilient than we think, and that we can do hard things, but we can't do them alone."
She continued, "We couldn't have done it without our vendors and our venues, and all of our partners. We look forward to many years to come and thank you again for this incredible honour."
- Whistler Connection
- Whistler Institute
Rising Star of the Year - Padraic O’Rourke - Fairmont Chateau Whistler
The Fairmont Chateau Whistler's director of golf used his acceptance speech to congratulate his fellow nominees, thank the Chamber and his employer, and underscore how much he learned about the importance of mental health over the last 18 months.
"We say that golf is a five hour vacation, and, you know, especially with 2020 being very difficult for everybody, it was a place for people to get together, bond, see each other, and, unfortunately get ready for the second wave. And it really helped their mental health during, 2020, and for me personally, that was, that was a huge plus for the year," said O'Rourke.
- Michael Barton - Indigenous Life Sport Academy
- Gizem Kaya – Whistler Community Services Society
Sustainability in Action Business - Whistler Community Services Society (WCSS)
WCSS executive director Jackie Dickinson was on hand to express her gratitude for the organization's win, thanking the Chamber, award sponsor Cascade Environmental Resource Group and the category's fellow nominees. But above all, Dickinson thanked WCSS staff, many of whom help run the organization's Re-Use-It and Re-Build-It centres.
"They have a passion for waste diversion and the environment. It was never easy—we're diverting a metric tonne of waste every day—and a pandemic made that even harder," she explained. "I'm so proud of the people I work with. I'm so proud of this community. They raised important revenue so that Whistler Community Services could continue to provide responsive need as the community changed during this pandemic. We are grateful for you."
- Whistler Blackcomb
- Innovation Building Group
Whistler Champion of Arts & Culture - Dave Petko – Black Ohm Tattoo
Following his win, Petko thanked the Chamber of Commerce, Toad Hall Studios—which, he said, provided him with a spot to paint when first landed in Whistler years ago—his girlfriend and his parents for their support and encouragement. "Even when I was three years old and I painted my neighbour's car half yellow, [my mom and dad] were supportive," said Petko. "I guess they saw the artist in me."
- Brandon Barrett – Pique Newsmagazine
- Shauna Hardy – Whistler Film Festival
Resilient Business of the Year - Whistler Blackcomb
Senior manager of mountain safety, Kira Cailes, accepted the award on behalf of the resort, acknowledging just how big of an honour the win is for Whistler Blackcomb.
"But really, this is a collective community win," she said. "Thank you to everyone in the community for pulling together and standing behind us to help make this happen, and thank you to our guests. But mostly, thank you to our employees. All of our teams, everyone here, had to pull together, had to re-imagine how we do things, from uploads in the morning. 8 a.m. starts, season-long programs, our food and beverage—all of us—all of you, together, are the reason that we had a season."
- Fairmont Chateau Whistler
- Whistler Racket Club
Service Excellence - Small Business - Whistler Medical Clinic
"Together for us was shown when the community came together to provide health care for anyone who needed it in new and different ways," said Jocelyn Read of the Whistler Medical Clinic.
"Togetherness at Whistler Medical was teamwork; all of our ideas coming together in the clinic, but also beyond the clinic. We formed a stronger bond with acute care, we formed stronger bonds with divisions of family practice as well, we created a new relationship with the amazing people at Whistler Blackcomb foundation, and also with the incredible people at Whistler Community Services Society, together, we all made a great team.
"This past year has taught our business that anything is possible—together, anything is possible."
- Moguls Coffee House
- Armchair Books
Service Excellence - Large Business - Portobello
Ben Bravington-Sim, manager of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler's cafe and eatery, used his acceptance speech to thank the Chamber, the Portobello team and its mentors within the hotel's food and beverage department.
"I'd also like to thank all of you who came in and supported us when we were quiet, provided smiles and laughter galore," he said, adding, "At heart, Portabello has always been about providing smiles, generous portions and giving back to the community where possible. It's very heartwarming to know that we've been able to achieve this despite all of the challenges that COVID has presented."
- Nesters Market & Pharmacy
- Creekside Market