NEW CREDIT – Geronimo Henry, Walter Gretzky and Mary Welsh each received a Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Volunteerism at a ceremony on April 24.
The ceremony was held at the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation Community Centre during National Volunteer Week, where the lives and volunteer work of the three award recipients were celebrated by friends, family members, guests, politicians and more.
“The Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Volunteerism recognizes individuals who have made an exceptional contribution to our communities through volunteerism during their lifetime,” reads the Lifetime Achievement Award’s website. “This award will be presented to a maximum of four residents from one or more of our communities — a celebration will be held during National Volunteer Week in April of each year. As a part of the award, a legacy fund will be established in the name of each recipient and will be administered by the Brant Community Foundation.”
Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation Chief R. Stacey Laforme and Six Nations Elected Chief Ava Hill were in attendance and celebrated the three award recipients alongside Mayor Ron Eddy, Councillor David Neumann, and others.
“The ceremony went really well, it was very well received and a lot of people were there to celebrate,” said Co-ordinator Caitlin Laforme.
“Our 2017 recipients have truly enriched the lives of so many, on so many levels, within our communities and beyond,” committee chair Derek Bond told the Brantford Expositor earlier this year. “All three have been recognized for their tireless contributions through volunteering in previously well-received commendations for their ongoing efforts and leadership. Now it’s our turn to honour each of their lifetimes of giving selflessly and directly to our citizens.”
Henry spent several of his formative years at the Mohawk Institute, and was instrumental in the class action lawsuit against Canada for its part in the forced assimilation of native children and the attempted genocide of indigenous culture and language by both the Anglican Church and the federal government. Receiving the award makes Henry the first Six Nations resident to be nominated and chosen to receive the award.
Henry recalls his time at the school by saying “It was like a prison, but we had done nothing wrong. We were just kids.”
Instead of allowing the trauma of his past to ruin his life, Henry is spending a lot of his time as a volunteer to educate the public about the residential school system’s past. He founded the Lost Generations restoring balance program for those who suffer from the intergenerational impacts of the residential school system. Although currently on hold for renovations, Henry often leads tours of the same school he spent 10 years of his life attending.
Henry was nominated by the Six Nations Elected Council and the council said he is: “A genuine treasure reflecting the virtues of courage, strength and honesty, Geronimo Henry has made countless contributions to the community of Six Nations,” reads the nomination by Six Nations Elected Council.
Mary Welsh of Mount Pleasant in the County of Brant received the award for her tireless efforts and more than 40 years of volunteering work supporting her alma mater, Brantford Collegiate Institute (BCI), animal welfare and environmental protection, to name a few.
Walter Gretzky, known as the father of ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, is also recognized for his volunteer work particularly for youth charities and received a Lifetime Achievement Award for the work he does on camera and behind the scenes.