Close-up picture of Jill smiling

Women of Distinction Spotlight: Jill Summerhayes

A long-time supporter of YWCA Cambridge, we’re privileged to feature Jill Summerhayes this week! Her passion and commitment to the community is broad-reaching and has been consistently impactful over the last 35 years. Read on for inspiration if you dare!

1. What was your reaction or thoughts when you were nominated?
It was 25 years ago and at the time those nominated did not have to be informed so it came as a total shock especially since I had nominated a woman in business who I thought was a wonderful role model, Barb Donaldson of Donaldson Travel. When Kim Decker phoned me and told me I had won Women in Business for the innovation of founding Cane & Able, a lifestyle business based on my own experience to help people select and adjust to the use of a cane in a positive way I felt very proud, yet amazed. 

2. What have you been up to since?
As an active volunteer in the arts who understands the importance of self-esteem and believes in helping citizens reach their full potential in their selected creative field I worked for 35 years to bring about opportunities for the community. Founding the Cambridge Writer’s Collective in 1990 after publication of my modest paperback “Supporting Myself in Style, Confessions of the Cane Lady” to encourage other writers. Being the lead from conception to completion of the Cambridge Centre for the Arts and instrumental in helping found and fund the Cambridge Community Orchestra now the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra. In 2006 I was inducted into the Cambridge Hall of Fame and in 2012. I was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arts Awards of Waterloo Region.

3. What does the world need more of?
Kindness and understanding of other cultures and beliefs, particularly among those whose lifestyles and customs are very different than our own.

4. Name the biggest overall lesson you’ve learned about leadership.
Ask, clearly state what you want and why. Just do it, if you feel passionate about a cause work to make a difference. Never give up, find a way to solve the problem and if you don’t know the answer find someone who does. Be honest, respect others opinions and always, always send follow up thank you notes for help received.

5. Unasked question: How did you move forward once your late husband had died?
By taking the courses at the Coping Centre and working hard at their motto, “Honor the past so you can live in the present and dance into the future” which is exactly what I did.

We’ll be so proud to welcome a new batch of recipients to join our alumni group on March 27. If you haven’t seen this year’s slate, check them out now: and then, get your tickets

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