The annual Commencement ceremonies at St. Marys DCVI can be an emotional time for graduates and their families, particularly when it comes to the two specific awards for which the winners are announced that night. But it will be tough to top the emotion in the school’s large gymnasium on the evening of Friday, Oct. 11, when graduate Maggie Richardson’s name was called by St. Marys Kinette Club member Sandie Vanderschot.
Eighteen years after Maggie’s mom, Wendy Richardson, succumbed to liver cancer at the age of 28, Maggie was announced the winner of the community service-themed award named in her honour, and presented annually by the Kinettes.
“It’s pretty emotional,” admitted Wendy’s sister, and Maggie’s aunt, Wanda Mossey, who attended Friday’s ceremonies.
Wendy died in June, 1997, after a months-long fight against the disease. When she was still alive, the Kinette Club started what has now become a long-running annual fundraiser — its Spring Auction — in support of the Canadian Cancer Society. The following year, the club contacted DCVI and established the Wendy Richardson Memorial Award in her honour.
The award is handed out annually “to a student demonstrating good community spirit through volunteer work in the community and at school and who is pursuing postsecondary studies at college or university.”
Maggie was 27 months old when her mother died.
“It’s hard to believe she has a child that’s old enough to be getting an award like that,” Wanda Mossey confessed. But, she adds, at times when she’s around her niece, it seems like she has travelled back in time.
“It’s like Wendy’s still here. (Maggie)’s exactly like her when she was a kid.”
In making the presentation, Vanderschot explained that the names of applicants for the Wendy Richardson Memorial Award are removed from the applications before they’re handed over to the Kinette selection committee. So the people making the decision don’t necessarily know who has applied.
Vanderschot added, however, that given the level of community involvement displayed by Maggie during her secondary school career, this year’s choice — even without names attached to the applications — was obvious. Among the contributions to school and community causes that were listed on Maggie’s application for the award were her involvement with the Leo service club for youth between ages 12-18 (including being president in 2011-12), two years as vice president of DCVI’s Eco Team, her involvement with the school’s “Non-Prom” committee, and her role as leader of the school’s Gay Straight Alliance.
Maggie was too young when Wendy died for her to have strong memories of her mother. And, as for the impact of having her name announced as the winner on Friday evening, she said she probably was less emotional than some of her extended family members and classmates because she had prepared herself for the moment. Indeed, she told the Journal Argus she set her sights on winning the Wendy Richardson Memorial Award way back in Grade 9, when she realized its link to voluntarism and community service.
She added that her father, Paul, also didn’t seem overly emotional with the announcement — perhaps because he, too, has had time to adjust to the fact his oldest daughter is following so closely in the footsteps of her mother. And not just her mother . . . her father, too. Upon her graduation from DCVI, Maggie was accepted into the Graphic Design program at George Brown College in Toronto — the very same program completed by Paul Richardson after he graduated from DCVI.
The other annual DCVI awards for which the winners are kept secret until the night of Commencement are the Human Synergistics Ring and Cane Awards — presented to graduating students who have excelled academically as well as making contributions to the entire school culture. This year’s winners of the Ring and Cane were Ryan Shaw and Kate-Lin Douglas.