Thunder Bay – Twenty of the brightest young stars from across the region were celebrated at the 4th bi-annual Northwestern Ontario Visionary Awards (NOVAs), a gala hosted by SHIFT Thunder Bay’s Young Professionals Network and held in Thunder Bay at the Victoria Inn to recognize young professionals in the region for their leadership, community engagement, business, and professional achievement, volunteerism, civic pride, and mentorship.
“The quality of the nominees was extremely high this year,” tells SHIFT President Samantha Mihalus. “The top 20 were selected from a total of 79 nominees. It’s amazing and so inspiring to hear about how Northwestern Ontario young professionals are making a difference in their communities.”
The gala was a circus-influenced affair, complete with an aerialist, a magician, and tarot card readers on site. The 350-person audience enjoyed musical performances by theatre group, Applauze Productions and local band, Tin Pan Alley. A special appearance from a local flow artist group, Mew Crew, kicked off the after-party while the gala portion of the evening was, by popular demand, emceed by duo Spencer Hari and Amanda Mihalus.
Award categories were introduced to the 2018 NOVAs for the first time, which recognized a very diverse group of winners. NHLer Matt Murray was deemed SuperNOVA, the award that honours a young professional who has achieved international recognition for their work. He was unable to attend but his mother, Fenny Seinen, accepted the award on his behalf.
Samantha Mihalus continues, “The idea of awarding an athlete this time seemed fitting, given that all nominees and winners exemplify these exact qualities; self-discipline, dedication, focus, positive attitude, and raw hunger for what they are passionate about, just to name a few.“
“This was definitely the biggest production the NOVAs has ever been in its eight-year history. The winners are an impressive group of careerists, game changers, leaders, and champions of their communities who mentor and inspire others. There is remarkable talent in our young professionals, locally and regionally, and the NOVAs recognize their contributions and tells them that their work matters and that they are valued.”
2018 NOVA Recipients
Business and Professional Achievement Category
1. James Nigro – Owner, mars. clothing
2. Aleska Shermack – Program Manager – Social Enterprise for Northern Ontario Program, PARO Centre for Women’s Enterprise
3. Nick Purich – Vice President Finance & Chief Financial Officer, Wasaya Group Inc.
4. Andrew Calderon – Chief Operations Officer, Intrideo by Socy Inc.
5. Jay Barnard – CEO/Corporate Chef, Freshwater Cuisine
SHIFT Disturber NOVA
6. Sean Murray – CEO/Owner, Nor’Wester Maple Co. and Staff Scientist – Informal Education Programs, Science North
Community Champion Category
7. Matthew Villella – Employment Counselor, YES Employment, and Instructor, Confederation College
8. Farhan Yousaf – Vice President, Operations & Finance, Lakehead University Student Union (LUSU)
9. Elizabeth Ward – Administrative Coordinator, Fresh Market Foods
10. Ayoub Ansari – Barrister & Solicitor, Ayoub Ansari Law
11. Matt Dupuis – Proprietor, Uncle Matt’s
Civic Pride NOVA
12. Damien Gilbert – Owner-Operator, Epica Pictures
13. Michael Dick – Executive Producer, CBC Thunder Bay
14. Dan Bevilacqua – Executive Director, Superior Country
15. Nathan Lawrence – Mortgage Broker, Dominion Lending Centres Lakehead Financial
16. Anu Baldner – Human Resources Manager, AV Terrace Bay
17. Rosa Carlino – Associate Lawyer, Cheadles LLP
Rising Star NOVA
18. Ashlyn Ransome – Owner, The Pasta Shoppe and Superior Olive Oil Co.
People’s Choice NOVA
19. Patricia Del Paggio – Teacher, Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board
20. Matt Murray – Goalie – Pittsburgh Penguins, National Hockey League
The official auditor of the 2018 NOVAs was MNP, with a panel of judges from across Northwestern Ontario selecting the winners. The NOVAs have recognized over 316 nominees in the last eight years with 80 award-winning young professionals from across Northwestern Ontario.