Four Coasters were honoured with the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee medal Jan. 8: Charlene Smith, Sue Jackel, Donald Hensler and Sarah Doherty. Two more medal winners, Jordan McCourt and Margaret Joe Dixon, could not attend the ceremony Tuesday night at the Sechelt Legion for health reasons, but will be honoured at a future event.
West Vancouver - Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country member of Parliament John Weston was on hand to bestow the medals. Each recipient was honoured for making significant contributions to the community and for inspiring others.
The first recipient to be called to the stage was Hensler.
Weston said Hensler was in the military for 27 years, volunteered for 48 years of his life all over the world in Korea, the Congo and the Middle East and even received a certificate from the Nobel Peace Prize committee.
“After retiring in 1971 you had only just begun,” Weston said. “You started to help people with addictions as an addictions counsellor and in the past 48 years you have personally assisted over 165 persons in their recovery from addictions and attended over 23,000 meetings with groups or individuals committed to offering assistance to people with addictions problems. I want to tell everyone in the room that I confirmed the number, over 23,000.”
Hensler received the Canada 125 medal in 1992, and the Vancouver Society has also presented him a volunteer recognition award in the past.
“Those medals and recognitions are some of the exceptionally long list of awards you’ve received of which you’re very, very justified. And Donald, you’ll now be able to add the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal to this list,” Weston said.
Weston said Jackel had a distinguished career as an academic and is now known as an enthusiastic and energetic volunteer on the Coast for “a number of organizations and groups.”
“You have become a moving force in the areas of housing, community development and planning for senior citizens. You chair the Coast Housing Society and have led the effort to compile a comprehensive index of services and resources both public and commercial for the District of Sechelt,” Weston said. “You are a model volunteer and community booster. You have applied your extensive academic background to the practical matters of improving yourself and your community in so many ways. Thank you.”
Weston relayed the story of how Doherty lost her leg when she was hit by a drunk driver at a young age but overcame the disability to become an inspiration in the world of sport.
She raced for the U.S. disabled ski team and adapted climbing equipment to become the first woman amputee to climb Mt. Rainier without an artificial limb. She also created her own brand of climbing crutches and was the first amputee on crutches to climb Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in North America.
After raising a family, Doherty designed and built the first adaptive forearm crutches with a shock absorbing system, complete with changeable articulating and rotating feet for various terrains, so that other amputees could also enjoy the outdoors.
“Sarah, you’ve been an occupational therapist for 30 years. You’ve inspired so many people, people in this room, on the Sunshine Coast and beyond. Congratulations to you,” Weston said.
Smith was honoured for her contributions on the Coast. The young woman initiated and implemented an ongoing youth drug abuse and sexual exploitation prevention program in Coast schools.
She was the vice president of both the Rotary Interact Club and the high school graduation council, and is the youth liaison for the Sunshine Coast Youth Action and Awareness Committee.
Smith graduated from the RCMP Youth Academy and has received the ACT Rescue Award, the Sunshine Coast Outstanding Volunteerism Youth award and the Elphinstone Secondary Grad of the Year award.
“Thank you, at such a young age, for encouraging us all with the great things that you’re doing and will continue to do,” Weston said.