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On getting a little perspective

Once a recession gets into full swing, it develops its own rhythm, like a good hockey game.
Community Builders 2009
2009 Community Builders

Once a recession gets into full swing, it develops its own rhythm, like a good hockey game. We have the daily stats; from unemployment numbers to housing starts, from GDP estimates to consumer spending trends, from trade deficit numbers to the daily drama of the stock market, from bankruptcies to bailouts. With this detritus comes colour commentary on how people are coping or not coping with their change in circumstance and helpful hints on how to invest the pennies you have left in stocks that are now worth pennies.
We learn monthly how much personal wealth has evaporated into thin air. The cable news channels live off of this stuff and the good news is they don’t have to pay rights' fees to sports teams.

Last month I took a night off. The occasion was our annual Community Builders Awards dinner in Sudbury, which was organized by our Northern Life newspaper in Sudbury. We started it in honour of our 30th anniversary of doing business in Sudbury some years ago. The room was full of people and sponsors who came to honour citizens who had inspired us and in so doing, made Sudbury a better place to live.

There was Steve Daniel one of the most exciting young men I have had the pleasure of meeting. A former member of the 1st Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, and an Afghanistan veteran, he was teaching parachuting when he took a bad fall and fractured his vertebrae. He lost the use of his legs. This happened in June 2005.

In May 2007 Steve joined the adaptive rowing program at the Sudbury Rowing Club and in 2008 won a silver medal at the U.S. national championships and competed at the Beijing Paralympics. An incredible accomplishment! Steve wanted to be an example to his son and a catalyst to others to learn to live with their disabilities.

Ten years ago an industrious group of Sudburians decided to clean up Junction Creek, which runs straight through the city. To be charitable, it was a mess. They have removed 50,000 kilograms of garbage, planted more than 18,000 trees and reintroduced 9,600 brook trout to the creek. It is a breath of fresh air.

Homer Seguin dedicated his life to improving the health and safety of Northern Ontario Miners. Back in an era of decidedly confrontational relationships between workers and employers in the Sudbury Mining community, Homer never gave up. His imprint in part is on the construction of the Superstack in Sudbury, and the stunning improvement and focus on health and safety in the workplace. According to Leo Gerard the international president of the Untied Steelworks “no person in Canada has done more for workers on these issues.”

Jack Smith is a teacher, a great one. In 30 years, he taught 20,000 students and some of them became quite famous. His official métier was the visual arts, but his true art was inspiration. The famous designer and former Sudbury Secondary School pupil Bruce Mau writes “he introduced me to a world of ideas, invention, history, beauty, truth, and a world of human possibilities.”

In 1995, Laura Cotesta a young student at Lockerby Composite School in Sudbury organized a campaign to raise money for the children’s ward of the Northeastern Ontario Regional Cancer Center. She had cancer. Two years later she died of cancer. From that moment forward the students of Lockerby Composite School have raised money every year for the Northeastern Ontario Regional Cancer Care Centre in her name. Last year more than 700 students participated in program and raised $40,000 dollars. Since Laura’s death they have raised more than 325,000 dollars. This is an astonishing accomplishment.

Other winners included Jean-Marc Spencer who has lead the tremendous growth of Desjardins Caisses Populaires in Northern Ontario, the Sudbury Theatre Centre which as provided Sudbury with extraordinary artist leadership for 40 years now, and the Rotary Club of Sudbury, which as been looking after people and projects for more than 86 years.
What is true is that on this night more than 400 people came out to celebrate the spirit of a city and there was no talk of stocks or bonds or commodity prices. There was joy, there was appreciation and a quiet understanding that we are lucky people surrounded by some truly exceptional human beings.

Our task through these trying times is to try to stay focused on what is important as well as what is urgent.

Michael Atkins
Laurentian Media Group