Mayor Guthrie honours Guelph’s difference makers

Guelph, ON, June 26, 2015 – Mayor Cam Guthrie presented four outstanding citizens with Mayor’s Awards last night at the Guelph Chamber of Commerce’s annual Awards of Excellence gala.

This year’s winners are Stephen Cuevas, the founder of a basketball training program for underprivileged youth; Marissa Teeter, a local philanthropist, fundraiser, and volunteer; Kathy Prentice, a volunteer who helps stroke survivors and their families; and Bang Ly, who began an initiative that has raised thousands of dollars for food programs at Brant Avenue Public School.

I am thrilled to have this opportunity to shine a spotlight on some exceptional people who are making a difference in Guelph,” said Mayor Guthrie. “They don’t do it for money, fame, or glory – they do it simply to make Guelph a better place.”

Mayor Guthrie presented each honouree with a plaque that features a photograph of Market Square by Dan Gillis.

Guelph’s Mayor has presented Mayor’s Awards each year since 1997. The awards are presented at the Awards of Excellence gala, Guelph’s premier appreciation event where the community’s exceptional individuals and businesses are celebrated.

A description of each honouree’s achievement is below.

Stephen (Shaker) Cuevas
In 2007, Stephen (Shaker) Cuevas founded Ball 4 All – a basketball-themed outreach program that provides underprivileged youth in Guelph with free weekly access to skill building, fitness, teamwork, sports competition and training, nutrition seminars, and guest speakers. As its mission statement notes, Ball 4 All aims to “assist each individual to grow physically, cognitively, and spiritually while learning to realize their full potential through exercise, skill development and game analysis.”

Stephen is well-known locally for having trained hundreds of basketball players over the past 25 years. With Ball 4 All, he has provided access to those who might not otherwise be able to participate because of barriers of transportation and cost. Participants are school kids primarily from the St. Patrick’s Ward, Brant Avenue, and Willow Road neighbourhoods. The program includes basketball training followed by a nutrition seminar and guest speaker each week. Thanks to partnerships Stephen has built with a number of sponsors, businesses, organizations and volunteers, the coaching, transportation, and even fresh fruit and pizza are all provided free to participants.  Stephen has even been known to have the kids picked up in a stretch SUV limousine so that they can arrive at Ball 4 All in style!

The kids in the program learn lessons that extend well beyond the basketball court. They gain a sense of belonging, a yearning to participate, and the confidence to overcome obstacles and make good choices. They gain life skills that will help them succeed in the future. Stephen also helps older students develop into volunteer coaches and mentors. Through Ball 4 All, Stephen is building a healthier, safer, and more connected community.

Marissa Teeter
Marissa Teeter is a Guelph businesswoman, volunteer, and philanthropist who has turned heads in the local community for her enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit. As the Vice-President of Skyline Wealth Management Inc., a division of the Guelph-based Skyline Group of Companies, Marissa is also a lifelong philanthropist who is willing to invest personal time and effort to make great charities even better.

Marissa is a founding member of Guelph’s “100 Women Who Care” organization, which donates tens of thousands of dollars to local charities. She also serves as the Vice President of the Board of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Guelph and helps organize and chair events for the charity, such as the Have a Heart for Kids’ Sake Gala, the Bowl for Kids’ Sake fundraiser, and an annual Guelph Storm hockey game for kids and mentors.

Over the years, Marissa has strengthened Skyline’s relationships with local organizations such as the Children’s Foundation of Guelph & Wellington and Onward Willow: Better Beginnings, Better Futures. She initiated a Warm Winter Clothing Drive at Skyline that brought in more than 5,000 clothing items, and spearheads Skyline’s annual Investor Charity Golf Classic – which raised more than $75,000 last year alone.

Inside and outside the office, Marissa engages hundreds of people in volunteer efforts and helps raise tens of thousands of dollars for local organizations. More than this, she serves as a role model to others, showing that giving back is not only good for business – it’s an obligation as a community member.

Kathy Prentice
Kathy Prentice has helped hundreds of people cope in the aftermath of a stroke, as a dedicated volunteer with the Guelph Wellington Stroke Recovery Chapter and its Linking Survivors with Survivors project.

As a volunteer with the project since 2012, Kathy visits recent stroke survivors and their families in hospital to provide support, information, and encouragement. The project connects new stroke survivors with people like Kathy, who have already made successful recoveries from stroke. During the year 2014-2015, the project assisted 440 stroke patients in Waterloo Wellington. 280 of those were in Guelph, and Kathy touched every single one.

Her nominator says, “Every single week for the past three years, Kathy has made a point to visit with local stroke survivors and encourage them to get involved in various activities including recreational, games and social activities. She overcomes her own physical obstacles so that others can see her smiling face and receive encouragement, guidance and support while in therapy or waiting for diagnosis.”

The organization that leads the project reports more overall progress in community awareness of stroke recovery since Kathy started working with stroke survivors and caregivers. Her nominator says, “I have seen many volunteers come and go over the years, but I have never seen one have the positive impact on so many members of the community as Kathy has had with the Linking Survivors with Survivors project.”

Thank you, Kathy, for making a difference for stroke survivors and their families in our community through your dedicated efforts.

Bang Ly
Bang Ly is the founder of Secret Santa Guelph, a fundraising gift exchange that unleashes the power of social media to raise funds for the Food and Friends program at Brant Avenue Public School.

In 2014, Secret Santa raised an astonishing $13,000, making it possible to feed more than 150 children in the Brant Avenue neighbourhood for six months of weekdays, and supplement a lunch program as well. It also had an incredible reach on Twitter, as #secretsantaguelph became the 5th highest trending topic nationally and reached millions of people with its message. The event has grown from just 20 participants in 2010, its first year, to 220 participants last year.

With Secret Santa, Bang has pioneered a new way of fundraising and connecting people in our community. Participants sign up through Twitter, are secretly matched with another Twitter user, and bring a small gift for that person to the Secret Santa event. Participants also bring a minimum donation of $25 for Brant Avenue’s food program. People connect over social media – scouring their match’s Twitter feed for gift clues and ideas – and then in person, as gifts are exchanged at the final event.

A product manager and consultant by profession, Bang grew up in the Brant Avenue neighbourhood in Guelph’s north end, which is an identified high-needs area. Bang started Secret Santa Guelph as a way to give back to the families who live there. Thank you @superbang for helping make sure kids are well-fed and ready to learn – and for revolutionizing fundraising in the city of Guelph.

For more information:
Kate Sullivan
Communications Assistant
Office of the Mayor
519-822-1260  extension 2558
kate.sullivan@guelph.ca