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Women of Distinction™

A celebration of women who are role models, trailblazers, and outstanding achievers.

Women of Distinction™ celebrates the contribution of women who've worked to improve the quality of life in Guelph, and beyond. It is a nationally recognized prestigious YWCA program, with a long history of shining a light on deserving women.

Initiated at the Guelph YMCA-YWCA in 1994 under the leadership of Pat McCraw (a dedicated and distinguished woman herself), the event has evolved and grown to change with the needs of our community. As our journey of justice, access, inclusion, diversity, and equity progresses we recognize all female identifying individuals through this special event.

The YMCA of Three Rivers is pleased to collaborate with YWCA Canada to continue this special Guelph tradition honouring the people whose talents and efforts make our community stronger and better.

2024 Women of Distinction™ Awards

Congratulations to our 2024 Women of Distinction Honourees:

Women of Distinction 

Dionne Daley 

Dr. Madhur Anand 

Dr. Melissa Perreault 

Patricia Tersigni 

Shakiba Shayani 


Young Trailblazer 

Emma McKendry-Baker 


Lifetime Achievement 

Marie Zimmerman 

Join us on Wednesday, May 15 2024 at the Arboretum in Guelph to celebrate these inspiring women.

Tickets for the 2024 Women of Distinction Awards are available now! Click the link below to purchase your tickets.

Become a Champion of Women, Girls, and Gender-Diverse Youth 

We are grateful to our partners who support Y programs for women, girls, and gender-diverse youth. Proceeds from Women of Distinction are directed to programs such as Safe Sisters, Teenage Parents Program (TAPPs), 2SLBGTQ+, and Power of Being You. If you’d like to show your support for next year, please view the sponsorship package below.

Nomination Eligibility and Process

Who is a Woman of Distinction?

A Woman of Distinction has made a commitment to, and a significant difference in, their community by showing vision, creativity and initiative. They may have:

  • Shown an innovative approach to challenges facing women, girls and gender diverse individuals and the wider community

  • Been a role model and inspired others through their leadership

  • Broken new ground or old barriers, and been an agent for change

  • Participated actively as a volunteer

  • Made an impact in their chosen field or endeavour

  • Assisted others to be successful in their achievements and/or pandemic response

  • Inspired and encouraged women to take part in shaping the future of their own lives and their communities

Still wondering who is a Woman of Distinction? View our past honourees.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible to receive a YMCA of Three Rivers Woman of Distinction Award, nominees must:

  • Support the mission and values of YMCA of Three Rivers;

  • Consent to be nominated;

  • Live and/or work in Guelph-Wellington but may have made their contributions within or beyond these borders;

  • Not have received a past Women of Distinction Award (exception: Nominees for Lifetime Achievement Award may have been previously honoured)

  • Not be a current member of the YMCA of Three Rivers Board of Directors, employee of YMCA of Three Rivers, or member of the Women of Distinction Planning or Selection Committee.

  • For special awards (Lifetime Achievement Award and Young Trailblazer Award) there are some additional eligibility requirements (see details below)

Please note that while we honour the YWCA Women of Distinction title and program legacy, any individual who identifies as a woman or non-binary person is eligible.

One complete copy of the nomination package is required, and must be submitted by the deadline (extended to January 15, 2024) in order to be eligible. Posthumous applications cannot be accepted.

Award Category Update

As an organization, YMCA of Three Rivers strives to be responsive to the changing needs and realities of our communities. We’re committed to reflecting the community as it changes – including how we recognize the fierce women, girls and gender diverse individuals who make a difference in Guelph-Wellington.

That’s why we’re proud to announce that the 2024 Women of Distinction Awards are taking a more holistic and inclusive approach that will ensure nominees are recognized for their own unique strengths, achievements and contributions while celebrating equity, self-determination, inclusion, community and leadership.

Beginning in 2024, the Women of Distinction Awards will have one pool of nominees, rather than specific award categories. This provides the opportunity for nominators to highlight their nominees’ personal journeys and impacts, rather than boxing their lived experiences into categories.

We know the ways individuals contribute to their communities are innumerable and we hope this adoption of open nominations is a way to provide more accessibility and opportunity for nominators to celebrate the extraordinary ways that women are changing lives and communities.

YMCA of Three Rivers will award up to five (5) Women of Distinction awards, in addition to two (2) special award categories. Nominees for the special categories must fall within this age range by December 31, 2023.

Young Trailblazer Award (25 and under)

This award honours a young woman or gender diverse individual age 25 or under who shows leadership at school, in the community and/or in their workplace. A Young Trailblazer is an exceptional leader and inspiration to their generation. They challenge the status quo, understand and address community issues and inspire others to do the same.

Lifetime Achievement Award (55 plus)

This award honours a woman or gender diverse individual age 55 years or older who has made significant and varied contributions to their community. They are a role model who has tirelessly contributed to their community in many ways, for many years, as an advocate, volunteer and/or mentor. They exhibit strength, wisdom and character that serves as an inspiration to those around them. This nominee may have been previously recognized as a Woman of Distinction.

Nomination Requirements

One complete copy of the nomination package is required and must be submitted by the deadline (extended to 11:59 P.M. on January 15, 2024) in order to be eligible.

A nominee can be re-nominated in any future year but cannot be a past recipient of a Women of Distinction award (exception: Lifetime Achievement Award).

Selection Process

All nominations will be reviewed by the Women of Distinction Selection Committee who will choose the award recipients based on the submitted information only. Please be thorough and factual in your submission. All nomination packages will be treated in the strictest of confidence.

Once selection is completed, the YMCA of Three Rivers Selection Committee will inform the nominator and nominees of the results. If you consent to your submission being shared with your nominee, we would be delighted to relay this to them after selection is completed; past honourees have shared that this is a very meaningful part of the experience.

There will be a formal announcement of the honourees on International Women’s Day, March 8, 2024.

What if my nominee is not successful?

We recognize how much effort it takes to compile a strong submission, so the Selection Committee encourages you to retain the package and re-submit in future years. If the Selection Committee has specific feedback about your package that they feel may make it stronger in future years, they may offer that feedback.

You and your nominee are welcome to join the Women of Distinction event on May 15, 2024 to share and celebrate the collective power and strength of the women in our community. There will be an acknowledgement of all nominators and nominees at the event, and we look forward to applauding you.

About Women of Distinction™ Events

There are two types of events associated with Women of Distinction: 

Women of Distinction ceremonies — these events, open to the public and all supporters, are when we honour and celebrate new honourees. These ceremonies are held during the spring in even alternating years.  

Women of Distinction alumnae events — these events are private events for women who have been recognized as honourees in the past. They are held during the spring of odd alternating years, and vary in timing and format with the goal of celebrating the talents and connections of this special group. Click here to see photos of the 2023 event.

Women of Distinction is supported by:

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