Awards Night Spotlights Difference Makers

Annual banquet brings together those who improve Outlook

Last week’s Community Appreciation Awards Night banquet put a proper spotlight on the movers, shakers and difference makers in Outlook.

Held on Thursday night, May 30 at the Outlook Civic Centre, the event was spearheaded by the Outlook & District Chamber of Commerce and featured the official awards being handed down to the newest recipients: Brent Larwood, Jim Kook Citizen of the Year; Kendyl Stephenson, Youth of the Year; Outlook Legion Branch #262, Group of the Year; and AG Foods, Business of the Year.

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Following a catered roast beef meal, the first award of the evening to be handed out was for Group of the Year.  Accepting the honour on behalf of the Outlook Legion Branch #262 was Justin Turton, Branch Secretary.

“On behalf of the executive and the membership of Outlook Branch 262 of the Royal Canadian Legion, we would like to thank you for this honour,” he said.  “It is the mandate of the Royal Canadian Legion to serve veterans, which includes serving military and RCMP members, and their families to promote remembrance and to serve our communities and our country.  All the members of Branch 262 are proud to strive and achieve that mission.”

Turton touched on several initiatives undertaken by the local Legion branch to help highlight the service and sacrifice of Canada’s veterans, including the military service recognition book and the Wall of Honour, and also made note of the Legion’s Friday Night Socials and Bingo nights, events that promote awareness of the Royal Canadian Legion and community togetherness.

In the eyes of many, such an award for the Outlook Legion is very much deserved.  The men and women who make up its membership work tirelessly to promote awareness of what the organization stands for, but perhaps they work just as hard – if not more – in giving back and supporting local projects and initiatives.  In turn, Turton said the Legion wish to thank the people who make up this community.

“All of this is not possible without the tremendous support of our community, and for that, we ourselves would like to say thank you to you,” said Justin.

Up next was the newest Citizen of the Year, Brent Larwood.  Just before he took to the podium to accept his award, a video that highlighted Brent’s achievements and contributions to the community also included greetings and congratulations from people who know him best, including his close friend and co-worker, fellow Outlook High School teacher Keith Theoret.

“Hopefully now, we can spend a little bit more time together because you have been dedicating a ton of time to this community, and I think everybody understands and appreciates all the effort and time you put in to making this place as awesome of a place as it is,” said Keith.

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The Jim Kook Citizen of the Year, Brent Larwood, joined by his son Ellis, who decided to join Dad for a photo op! - Derek Ruttle

In accepting his award, Larwood was quick to thank his partner in life, his wife Sylvie.

“I’d like to thank my wonderful spouse, who understands the passion that I have to help people,” said Brent, visibly emotional.  “If it wasn’t for her, there’s not a chance in the world that I could do very much.  There are a lot of nights where I come home from board meetings or hockey practices, and I have a lot of the world’s problems to figure out, and she’s always there.  I just couldn’t do it without her.”

Larwood described being a “very broke” university student upon his arrival in Outlook in 2008, where he was visiting for a job interview at first.  But things turned out quite well for him in the last 11 years, to the point where Outlook perhaps changed his life.  He met Sylvie in Outlook (“before online dating and ‘swiping right’”, he noted) and began devoting himself to different causes and organizations; anywhere he thought he could contribute and help make a difference.

In Brent’s eyes, there may be countless ‘untapped talents’ in Outlook, with stories waiting to be told and potential waiting to be explored.

“We have a tremendous amount of talent in this community, and I’ve just found that you have to find it,” he said.  “There’s always somebody who has done something amazing, but they never talk about it.  Yet, when you reach out to people, and when they come out of the woodwork, now they’re the head coach of something or the leader of a board, and they just needed to be found.”

To every person that Larwood has worked with and spent time volunteering with, he’s thankful for the experience of learning from others.

“I’d like to thank every person that I work and volunteer with,” he said.  “If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t be able to take any risks and help make other decisions to help programs grow, people grow, and make everything the best that it can possibly be.  Everything that I’ve been a part of in Outlook and still am, I appreciate it and I thank you for it.”

The next award to be handed out was for Business of the Year, AG Foods.  Accepting the honour on behalf of his staff was store owner Royce Taylor.

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Business of the Year, Outlook AG Foods. - Derek Ruttle

Say the words ‘AG Foods’ to anyone who is originally from or currently lives in Outlook, and the first thing that comes to 99% of peoples’ minds is the service that Royce, Lorna, Blake, and the whole staff provide to customers.  Not only that, but the community service that they’ve been known for for decades.  The store has raised more than $20,000 for families in need in the community, and as former Outlook mayor Bob Stephenson put it in a video greeting, Outlook probably wouldn’t have a senior hockey team if it wasn’t for the efforts of Royce through the years as team manager.

“Royce and Lorna and AG Foods are kind of an obvious choice for this award,” said Stephenson.  “I think Royce has a hard time saying ‘no’ to anyone who approaches them.  Congratulations on behalf of the entire community!”

In accepting the award, Royce became emotional when describing what it was like for he and Lorna to basically raise their children inside the walls of the store, and to work side by side with the love of his life, with whom he’ll share a monumental anniversary in just a few weeks.  Taylor noted that the award truly belongs to the staff that help make AG Foods the success that it is.

“Thank you for all the kind words to everyone on the video,” said Royce.  “We’d like to thank the Chamber of Commerce for hosting this event, as well as the hard work that they do for our community throughout the year.  They do a lot, and nobody really recognizes that sometimes, but they do a lot.  It’s an honour for us to receive this award, and it’s very much appreciated.  One month from today, Lorna and I will be married 40 years.  For 38 of those years, we’ve worked hand in hand, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.  We were able to work with all three of our children, and we were able to teach them about working in the store.  We’re very proud of what they’ve accomplished and the people that they’ve each become.  Last but not least, this award is not for Lorna and I, this award is for our staff.  Without them, we wouldn’t have received this award.  Thank you for looking after things when we’re away, and you’re all very dedicated to our store, and I really appreciate it.”

The final award of the evening to be handed out was for the newest Youth of the Year, Kendyl Stephenson.  The young woman, who’ll graduate from Outlook High School in just a matter of weeks and is set to enter nursing school out in Alberta, is a well-known leader to those who know her best.  This includes former teachers, as well as her hockey coach.

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Youth of the Year, Kendyl Stephenson. - Derek Ruttle

“For as long as I’ve known Kendyl, she has been a humble student who has always worked hard to achieve her goals,” said Rosemarie Tam, in a video greeting.  “Over these past few years, Kendyl has helped coach the junior girls’ volleyball team as well as peer mentor track athletes.  She is a positive role model, and her dedication and commitment has made a difference in our school community.”

“I can just see Kendyl right now putting her hands over her face and going, ‘Good Lord, what’s he going to say’,” said Kurt Jones, Kendyl’s hockey coach for the Diefenbaker Thunder.  “I’ve coached ‘Big Kenny’ since before she was ‘Big Kenny’; before her hands were bigger than mine.  Every year, she was always a leader of our team and never wanted any attention.  When she rushes the puck, she literally giggles because she knows people are watching, and that’s just the type of kid she is.  She’s very much a leader and a quality athlete all around.”

Accepting her award, Stephenson said she will always carry with her the desire to help others where she can, and she’ll never forget her roots that have helped shape her into the young woman she is becoming.

“Thank you to the Outlook & District Chamber of Commerce, I feel honoured to receive this award,” she said.  “So many of the high school and community teams I’ve been involved with benefit from the support of local businesses and volunteers, so I’ve seen firsthand the importance of giving back to your community.  Because of others who have helped and influenced me, I will always try to give back to others.”

With another group of recipients in the local history books, it remains to be seen who will be given the honour of receiving the next set of Community Appreciation Awards in 2020.

© The Outlook

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