For years, Marlene Forman has given of her time and expertise to honour the legacies left to her as a daughter by her father upon his passing, and as a downtown St. Marys businessperson by the man who formerly ran the business.
More recently, however, she was challenged by a much more personal reason — being diagnosed with breast cancer — to contribute to a local cause. And she persevered to become one of the organizers of the annual Taking Steps Against Cancer fundraising and awareness event, taking place next month in St. Marys.
In recognition for all of her dedication to community-based causes and initiatives, the operator of Cascade Cleaners on Water Street has been named this year’s Citizen of the Year by the Town of St. Marys. The award — which comes with a basket full of gifts from supporting sponsors — was officially handed out Tuesday, Aug. 27.
Forman has carried on the much-loved tradition of the Teddy Bear’s Reunion, having taken over the organization of the annual event from her father, Cliff Elliott. “If you think about something enough that you leave it in your will that a person should take care of it, then it’s obviously pretty important,” Forman told the Journal Argus earlier this week, regarding her continued dedication to the annual August kids’ extravaganza.
The event features a walking parade for which dozens of children decorate their bicycles and tricycles, as well as a full afternoon of music, games and other Teddy Bear-themed entertainment at East Ward Park. This year’s Reunion was held Aug. 18, and Forman expressed that “it was fabulous! It’s a lot of preparation, but when it comes together like it did this year, it’s so great.”
When she took over operation of Cascade Cleaners, meanwhile, Forman also inherited the legacy of former owner Stan Culbert. Impressed by what she described as the “courtesy things” Culbert did for community-based causes, she remained committed to carrying on those traditions.
Among the most high-profile is the annual free cleaning of all jerseys for the St. Marys Minor Hockey Association.
Two years ago, however, Forman was forced to stop thinking about others in the community for a while, and start thinking about herself. That’s because she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Now, having prevailed through the treatments, she’s set to be one of the lead organizers for this year’s Taking Steps walk in St. Marys.
According to Councillor Don Van Galen, a member of the committee that chose this year’s Citizen of the Year based on submitted nominations, Forman expressed her reluctance with being named the recipient, stressing there are many other people who deserve recognition. But the committee was quick to declare Forman most deserving.
“After all her years of service to St. Marys, I’m very pleased to have Marlene honoured,” Van Galen noted.
The veteran councillor described the award, previously called Volunteer of the Year, as “an important and long-standing tradition recognizing how one person can make an impact in the community.” That’s why, when it appeared earlier this year that Recreation Department staff was considering letting the program go, Van Galen led a plea for reversal of that decision.
“Although the town continues to honour the volunteers in municipal programs each year (through different means), this award goes beyond that,” he commented. “It recognizes individual efforts in charities, service clubs, sports and community betterment beyond what local government is responsible for. It demonstrates that there is no limit to an individual with a willing heart to make a difference wherever they can.
Forman, reiterating her assertion that others are just as deserving, added, “It’s certainly an honour and a privilege. It kind of blows me away.”