On Sunday (Jan. 6), nine individuals were recognized for their contributions to the community as part of the annual Mayor’s New Year’s Levee.
The honourees were recognized for their efforts in a variety of areas, including race relations, housing, sports, the arts and heritage. Despite their varied backgrounds, however, many of the honourees shared the same sentiment around being recognized — thank you, but it really should be someone else.
“I feel it isn’t necessarily myself personally being recognized, but rather the work being done by the organizations I am part of,” said Suzanne Huot, who was recognized in the area of humanitarianism. “You start thinking about the other people you work with . . . and how so many others could have been nominated. That is why I try to put the focus on the work we are trying to do.”
Huot was certainly not alone in that perception. Carmen Sprovieri, recognized for her work with persons with disabilities, summed up the sentiment when she said, “It is an honour to be recognized, but I really don’t need it. The honour is just working and doing the things I enjoy.”
Joseph O’Neil Jr., honoured for his work in the area of heritage, was another who said he felt there were others deserving of recognition before he was. However, after being reminded by both his mother and wife about his participation in various heritage initiatives over the past year, O’Neil said he had to accept he indeed had made an impact in 2012.
The tradition of the New Years’ Levee began in 1976 and each year the names of deserving London residents are brought forward by friends and colleagues. The city’s advisory committees receive the nominations with each of the nine areas of distinction having criteria in place to assist with the review process.
In addition to Huot, Sprovieri and O’Neil, others being honoured during the levee included Meredith Fraser (diversity and race relations), David Nelms (housing), Bruce Huff (sports), Bramwell Gregson (arts), Lou Rivard (safety and crime prevention) and Shane O’Neill (environmental).
Mayor Joe Fontana said the difficulty in narrowing down the list of honourees to just nine is that “there are so many worthy people.” However, mayor said the honourees are not just being recognized for the work they do, but for the efforts they inspire from others.
There are so many worthy people, and these groups who have to submit these names are challenged the way we are, it is difficult because there are so many exceptional people in our city. It is through these contributions and motivations of these people that not only do they do certain things, but they inspire others to do so as well.
“These are exceptional people who do exceptional work, each and every day of the year, on behalf of London residents,” Fontana said. “The levee is our way of being able to say thank you for that incredible contribution.”
The mayor said the individuals on the 2013 list are certainly unique, but they do share common characteristics, chiefly, the fact they are “ordinary” London residents who have “exceptional” amounts of commitment and dedication they are looking to share with the wider community.
That assessment seems to work well in the minds of many of the honourees. O’Neil summed up well the shared opinion of several of those in attendance for the levee that recognition of volunteer efforts is important — even if somewhat embracing.
“There are some days you wonder why you do this stuff, you wonder if anyone even notices. If nothing else, it gives you a reason to carry on,” O’Neil said. “And the other people I have met on this list, they aren’t resting on their laurels, they will use this to push their individual causes more.”
Sprovieri added the recognition is important because many of those who dedicate themselves to improving the greater community do so with no expectation of being honoured. In fact, they would likely rather do without any spotlight be pointed their way at all.
“Everyone who is being recognized today, they are all so wonderful. They have done great work; they are doing great things,” Sprovieri said. “Most people who do this kind of work are doing it because they like it. For me, I am grateful I can do it, that I am healthy and well and able to contribute to it.”
For more information on the honourees, visit www.london.ca/d.aspx?s=/Mayors_Office/honours_list_recipients.htm.
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