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Inspiring Stories Came out of Soroptimist International Women’s Day Event

This year’s Soroptimist International Club of Edmonton (SIE) International Women’s Day celebration took place on March 11, 2018, at the Chateau Louis Convention Centre in Edmonton.

It started with a beautiful rendition of the Canadian National Anthem by Susan Whalen Janzen. Four awards worth $11,000, were handed out; three “Live Your Dream Awards” and a “JOY Award” winner were honoured as outstanding women from the Edmonton region.

Before the presentation of the awards, two resilient ladies graced the stage to share their experiences. Susan Janzen returned to the stage to share her touching tale of searching for her dad for 63 years and when she finally found out who he was and other members of her extended family, she told the audience, “I’m in heaven and I just want to share that with you today…”.

Another extremely emotional speech came from newly appointed Edmonton Police Service Staff Sergeant, Tracy Ward, who is married, a mom of two, and a member of the Edmonton Police Service for 27 years. She has worked in patrol, surveillance, special projects, and spent several years as an undercover operator targeting organized crime; during which time she was attacked which she says makes her a better policewoman. Tracy is a breast cancer survivor and strives to empower other women by demonstrating strength and character professionally and personally. She moved the audience as she went through her top 10 ways to become empowered, interwoven with her enduring, endearing, inspiring, and resilient tales.

Carrie Ellinger, Rebecca Stawarek, and Allyssa Boxall, were the three 2018 “Live Your Dream Awards” recipients. Carrie is a fulltime student of the University of Manitoba, while working full time. She came on stage with her 3 year old foster child, a girl whom she has been able to adopt. She says the Award will give them a more balanced life. Carrie also brought her 12 year old “Little Sister” from Big Brothers Big Sisters to help her accept the award.

Lethbridge College student, Rebecca Stawarek was proud to receive the award with her two children on the stage with her. “The award gives me peace of mind to pay my next tuition…,” Stawarek shared.

A Single mother of four, Alyssa Boxall has run out of student loans with one semester left, to receive her Education degree from the University of Alberta. She was very pleased to receive the award, in front of her children, to set her example of what tenacity can do. “Live Your Dream Awards” are given to female adult students who are head of their household and who are attending post-secondary school or trade school, while at the same time supporting a family with children.

The Soroptimist International Club of Edmonton’s “JOY Award” is given to an outstanding woman who leads the community in the reduction of harm from trafficking and prostitution. The award is named after the Soroptimist Pledge including the “Joy of Achievement” and to honour Joy Smith, a past MLA and MP from Kildonan near Winnipeg who spearheaded and carried legislation through a number of successful initiatives in Canadian Parliament to combat human trafficking. The 2018 winner is Federal Crown Prosecutor, Michelle Ferguson, based in Edmonton, who has prosecuted and help solve numerous cases on trafficking. Michelle brought her family to help her celebrate her JOY Award, which she will donate to CEASE; the Centre to End All Exploitation, a local non-profit working to combat trafficking.

The main mission of Soroptimist is to improve the lives of women and girls through programs leading to social and economic empowerment. The next Soroptimist event is the “Dream It Be It“ to recognize youth’s power and to help them be their best. To Join the Soroptimist Club and for more information contact Soroptimist Edmonton at 780 710-7951 or the website,