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Women recognized for dedication to communities in northeast.

Two dynamic and Socially conscious businesswomen in northeastern Ontario were recognized for their achievements, success and dedication to their community at the annual Influential Women (IW) of Northern Ontario awards luncheon.

A capacity crowd of 300 attendees, almost triple the number in attendance last year, gathered at Sudbury's Laurentian University to honour the recipients of this year's awards.

Blind River's Lila Cyr and North Bay's Tracey Vigars were added to the growing honour roll of women who are increasingly making their mark in the region's economic wealth and diversity.

The May 29 ceremony, the second of two such events staged by Northern Ontario Business, delivered inspirational messages from keynote speaker Simone Desjardins, a senior vice-president with the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and from the testimonials offered by the two award winners selected for the northeast region.

Both recipients thanked family, friends, co-workers and mentors who shaped their involvement in civic activities and allowed them the freedom to pursue their projects.

"I'm often asked why I'm so involved, and the only answer I can give is that I'm receiving so much more than I can give," explains Lila Cyr, a well-known Blind River politician and business owner for 25 years. Cyr has been instrumental in spearheading a number of local initiatives.

Cyr has championed a multitude of quality of life efforts such as obtaining grants to open a seniors cultural facility, developing a proposal for a youth drop-in centre and lobbying for 22 additional long-term care beds for the Regional Health Centre.

With Blind River Mayor Bob Gallagher looking on from the crowd, the mother of two and grandmother of five, says she religiously adheres to her mantra of "giving till it makes a difference, and then give some more."

In her 19-year tenure on Blind River town council, she says dealing with people issues represents the best part of the job as well as keeping busy with a full plate of activities.

"If I can say I made a difference in someone's life...then it was all worthwhile," Cyr says.

Tracey Vigars, a community and fundraising event expert with North Bay's Benjamin James Integrated Marketing Communications, explains her road to civic prominence followed a "long and painful path."

The Sudbury native and Marymount Academy graduate admits she grew up with little respect for education and had few aspirations for a career until finding her niche volunteering at the North Bay Psychiatric Hospital. That career tack has spun off over the years into many challenges on 20 community-based initiatives encompassing health care, arts, church restoration, civic leadership and tourism enterprises including North Bay's wildly successful Heritage Festival and Air Show.

Her nominators praised her hard work, entrepreneurial vision and imagination in single-handedly influencing and causing "more positive change in their city than any other person that they are aware of."

Vigars created the board game North Bay in a Box as an innovative fundraiser, and since then the idea has been adopted across Canada as a fundraiser for hospitals hauling in close to $1 million in North Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and the Children's Miracle Network.

She gave credit to mentors like Ted Hargreaves, a partner with BDO Dunwoody, as the "biggest most positive influence or her life today."

"But I do look forward to the day when there no longer has to be the segregation between men and women, and that we can all be looked upon as equals and measured by what we can contribute, because I'm as good as equal to, and have as much to offer as any man," Vigars says.

An inaugural special recognition award was also given to Louise Paquette, director general of FedNor, who has filled many social agency roles in Sudbury as well as championed many economic ventures in the North including a women-led trade mission to the United States.

Event co-host and Northern Ontario Business publisher Patricia Mills says the IW awards are growing in stature every year with attendance doubling at the Thunder Bay ceremony May 24 and tripling in Sudbury.

According to the Sudbury Regional Business Centre, women have roughly 50 per cent of all new business start-ups, compared to the 35 per cent national average and in many communities across the North, it's almost a 3 to 1 women to men ratio.

Kevin Dane, vice president and district manager with the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), says women play a prominent role in his organization, filling many senior banking officer positions. The BDC sponsored the keynote speaker for the event.

"We often focus on business people, but what's nice about this (event) is that if also focuses on the volunteers and the other sectors of the economy that are as important to our community. It's an outstanding event for us."
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Author:Ross, Ian
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1CONT
Date:Jun 1, 2001
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