YWCA Cambridge Names Six Recipients of the 2024 Women of Distinction Awards

Six recipients will be honoured at the 30th annual YWCA Cambridge Women of Distinction awards this year:

Ruth Cameron is the Executive Director of the Aids Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and Area, she is a trailblazer, and a community champion and leads through a commitment to justice, anti-oppressive practices, and the importance of lived expertise in social services. Through her leadership, both the agency she leads and the community at large have been positively impacted. Ruth’s commitment to the community that she serves has been instrumental in ensuring that public policy, and social service program implementation are created through recognizing lived expertise.

Headshot of Kim Fowler

Kim’s career and volunteer work have always involved children, youth, and the community.

Her career has spanned almost four decades. For the last 20 years, she has held the role of Executive Director of the Fiddlesticks Community Centre where her work focuses on community development, early years, and youth leadership development.

As a volunteer, Kim is a uniformed Scouter who has spent countless hours in program, outdoors at Scout Camps and working with parent committees.  She has volunteered since 1993 with both Scouts Canada and the Baden Powell Service Association.  She is also a volunteer community representative on two local parent elementary school councils in her neighbourhood and the Vice President of the Cambridge Gaming Association for the past nine years.

Kim has received two awards for her work in the community – In 2018, she received the Senate of Canada 150+ Commemorative Medal.  This year, she was awarded the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce Lifetime Achievement Award recognizing more than 15 years of significant contributions she has made to the community.

Headshot of Cheryl MacInnes

Cheryl was a dedicated healthcare professional for over 40 years at Cambridge Memorial Hospital and has continued that dedication in service to her community and others. She is the President of CFUW Cambridge, a Volunteer and Management Committee member at Trinity Community Table, a Member and Past President of Probus, the Past President and member of the Executive Committee for a local political party and tireless in her donation of time to fundraise for Cambridge Memorial Hospital.

Headshot of Lee Ann Hundt

Lee Ann Hundt is an extraordinary leader who has worked endlessly her entire life to help improve the lives of Indigenous community members throughout the Region of Waterloo. 

She is a very proud Anishinaabe from Sagamok Anishnawbek First Nation. Mother of four and Nokomis of four. She is from Great Blue Heron Clan, 60s Scoop survivor, and a generational residential school survivor. The legacy that Lee Ann carries with her as a result of her experiences is one of personal empowerment, reclamation of culture, strength and perseverance. She is an inspiration to a generation of survivors and their families here in Waterloo Region. 

Lee Ann is the Executive Director of KW Urban Native Wigwam, a non-profit transition housing organization that offers housing and supports and is soon to be opening a 30-unit building in Cambridge, all under her leadership. She is also the President of Healing of the 7 Generations and has been building partnerships and community in Cambridge for many years. 

Special award categories:

Marjorie has a lot of lived experience when it comes to the challenges and consequences of poverty. She has struggled as a member of the working poor, experiencing precarious work while raising a family. She is passionate about advocating for those who struggle due to inadequate income and services. In 2018, Marjorie took her first step into politics and remains active in the Riding of Cambridge for the NDP. She continues to be engaged in her community, a founding member of Rhythm and Blues Cambridge, working with community partners to create opportunities for our Black, Indigenous and racialized communities. She may be found working as Community Faculty with the Lyle Hallman School of Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University where she engages with the upcoming social workers in our community. Marjorie currently serves on the boards of The Cambridge Shelter Corp, and the Aids Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and Area (ACCKWA). She is presently employed as a Family Outreach Worker with the House of Friendship in Cambridge.

Jill Summerhayes is a pillar of the Cambridge arts community, with a remarkable 30-year legacy of dedication and creativity. She is a founding member of the Waterloo Arts Foundation and the Mayors’ Celebration of the Arts.

Jill’s involvement in the Cambridge Symphony Orchestra is profound, having been a founding member and chair of the Board of Directors. 

Throughout her life, Jill Summerhayes has been hit with some staggering surprises, but she has always found a way to conquer adversity. Chronic arthritis forced her to forfeit her hard-earned career and depend on a cane to walk. Undeterred, she created a fashion cane business and attained international recognition as “The Cane Lady.”  For this, she was awarded a YWCA Woman of Distinction award in business in the first year of their awards.

In 1990 after being approached by a publisher to tell her story, her small paperback Supporting Myself in Style, Confessions of the Cane Lady was published. She also became an award-winning author for her short stories and a community activist for the arts.

For 20 years Jill wrote a weekly column entitled Piece of Mind for the local newspapers  which has recently made its return to Cambridge Today online. 

Jill is also responsible for having established The Centre for the Arts, taking it from a concept to establishing a committee to raise funds, to a fully realized project. The Summerhayes Studio and workshop space at the Centre is named after her. The first prize for juried artwork has been renamed the Jill Summerhayes Award in her honour.

In retirement, Jill has gained new recognition as a watercolour artist and member of Studio 30. In 2020, she secured a grant and worked with Rick Murphy of D3 Arts to print a calendar of artists’ bios and their work.

She has been recognized by a Bernice Adams award for communications and a Special Trustees award, in addition to receiving Canada’s 125 medal, and the Queen’s Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals for outstanding community contributions. In 2006 she was inducted into the Cambridge Hall of Fame. In 2012 she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement award from the Region of Waterloo Arts Foundation.

Jill continues to promote the arts in her beloved community of Cambridge. She has been and continues to be a sought-after guest speaker on a variety of topics.

2024 marks a milestone for the YWCA Cambridge Women of Distinction awards which celebrate 30 years of recognizing women and young trailblazers for excelling in their respective fields, advancing positive change and contributing to the fabric of our community through either work or volunteerism. 

“Since 1994, we have honoured more than 320 women,” said Kim Decker, YWCA Cambridge’s CEO who first brought the nationally-celebrated event to Cambridge alongside current YWCA Cambridge board chair, Norma McDonald Ewing. 

“I often get asked whether I think we’ll ever run out of women to celebrate. Given the number of truly remarkable individuals nominated every year, I think it’s fair to say we’ll never stop seeing women and gender diverse individuals standing out for their leadership, community-mindedness and innovation,” said Decker. 

“This year is no different. The six individuals selected by the external selection committee are each outstanding and I look forward to celebrating each of them and their remarkable work at the awards gala in June. 

The 30th Anniversary Women of Distinction Awards gala will take place June 12, 2024, at Whistle Bear Golf Club. For tickets, visit ywcacambridge.crowdchange.ca/69966

All proceeds from ticket sales and sponsorship support YWCA Cambridge’s free, community-based programming for women, girls and gender diverse individuals.


For more information: Roz Gunn, Director of Communications and Advocacy at r.gunn@ywcacambridge.ca.

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