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This afternoon, a small group of women representing big change in Greater Sudbury, were named YWCA’s 2019 Women of Distinction.

The Women of Distinction Gala is an annual event hosted across Ontario by the YWCA of that particular city, to honour women who have inspired others as a role model, mentor, or through accomplishments in their field.

Sudbury’s thirteenth annual Women of Distinction Gala will be held 6 p.m. April 27 at the United Steelworkers Hall, where these and many other community leaders will gather for a night of music, dinner and live entertainment.

The evening will include performances by Sarah Craig Jazz Duo, and DarlenYa, previously referred to as Darlene during her time with the Road Dog Dives and Sweetwater Women.

Proceeds from the gala will go towards The Power of Being a Girl conference, an annual event focusing on the developmental needs of young women and girls in grades seven and eight.

Among recipients is local health and wellness advocate Lisa Lounsbury, who said it is wonderful to be recognized for something she is so passionate about. “My work is very rewarding, which is why i do what i do”, said Lounsbury.

“I’m honoured to be receiving this award alongside several other inspiring women.”

YWCA 2019 Women of Distinction (Keira Ferguson/
2019 Women of Distinction

Mira El-Darazi 

Considered a major community asset, Mira El-Darazi has more than 3,000 hours of volunteer and community involvement, collected through her work with refugees and organizations such as the Elizabeth Centre Long Term Care Home, Health Sciences North and Elgin St. Mission. Currently a fourth-year student of Laurentian University’s radiation therapy program, El-Darazi is in the process of completing a thesis about meditation and breast cancer patients in the hopes of helping women regain their self-confidence. In recognition for her advocacy and volunteer efforts, El-Darazi has been received the GenNext Volunteer Excellence Award from the United Way Centraide North East Ontario, Action Sudbury bursary and NOSM’s inter-professional committee for outstanding work in community service.

Community activist with the Louis Street Association Elizabeth June Davis, one of the YWCA 2019 Women of Distinction (Keira Ferguson/

Elizabeth June Davis

Responsible for leading several programs for the Louis Street Association, Elizabeth June Davis is known for improving the quality of life and safety of those within the Louis Street community. Working in partnership with the Greater Sudbury Police Service, Davis has managed to reduce police calls in her community by 75 per cent during her time with the Association. For her years of community involvement, Davis has been awarded the Police Services Community Volunteer Award, the Health Community of Excellence Award, the City of Greater Sudbury Civic Award and the Our Children Our Future Volunteer Recognition Award.

Former primary school teacher and founder of ‘Angels with Attitude’ Liz Herd, one of the YWCA 2019 Women of Distinction (Keira Ferguson/

Liz Herd

During her time as a primary school teacher, Liz Herd was known to go above-and-beyond in her responsibilities as an educator, making sure all students under her care had the food, care and a sense of belonging. Following the loss of her son Josh Herd to suicide in 2015, Herd began ‘Angels with Attitude’ as a support for friends, family and neighbours facing the challenges of mental illness. In Dec. 2018, the group donated 260 care packages to four centres at Health Sciences North and to the Sudbury Mental Health and Addictions Centre.

President and founder of New Day Wellness Inc. Lisa Lounsbury, one of the YWCA 2019 Women of Distinction (Keira Ferguson/

Lisa Lounsbury 

Lisa Lounsbury discovered her passion for fitness in 1990, competing in the Pre-Olympic Triathlon in Albertville, France. Since that time, the certified fitness instructor has dedicated her career to improving the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health and well-being of others. In 2012, Lounsbury launched wellness corporation New Day Wellness Inc., later including the Eastlink television broadcast ‘Your Wellness’ to its list of programming. This month, Lounsbury will be adding the ‘New Day Wellness Academy’ to her list of services, an online learning platform for wellness education.

Patricia Mardero

Patricia Mardero began her teaching career in Renfrew Country, before moving to the Sudbury Catholic District School Board, where she would become the first female principal of St. Charles College (SCC) in 2004. During her time at SCC, Mardero has introduced the Open Doors program to improve the attendance of at-risk youth as well as a full breakfast program, where bins of food are delivered to every class, every day. Mardero is also credited for having launched the SCC Canned Food Drive in support of the Sudbury Food Bank, as well as the school’s annual Relay for Life fundraiser for the Canadian Cancer Society and Northeastern Ontario Cancer Foundation. In recognition of her work within the school community, Mardero was awarded the 2015 Catholic Principals Council of Ontario – Principal of the Year Award.

Shastri Ramnath

Shastri Ramnath is a leader within the mining industry and an advocate for gender balance, with over 19 years of global experience in the exploration and mining industry. During her time as President and CEO of Bridgport Ventures Inc., Ramnath raised over $17 million in the capital markets before merging the company. In 2012, Ramnath co-founded Orix Geoscience Inc. consulting firm, which partners with exploration and mining companies to provide front-end geologically support. Inspiring future generations, Ramnath is also the CEO and President of junior exploration company, Exiro Minerals.

Owner of Zen Fitness and coordinator of the Sudbury Five Dance Squad Jenn Ricker, one of the YWCA 2019 Women of Distinction (Keira Ferguson/

Jenn Ricker

Previous owner of vintage clothing store One Love and martial arts school Sudbury BJJ, community advocate Jenn Ricker describes herself as a serial entrepreneur, dedicated to empowering Sudbury women. Ricker took ownership of Zen Fitness in 2017, to provide a space where women can explore and empower themselves through dance, yoga and fitness. In addition to offering accessible classes, Ricker launched a program that allows clients to work at the studio in exchange for a fitness membership. As the coordinator for the Sudbury Five Dance Squad, Ricker also donates her fitness studio for any training or practice needed by members of the squad.

(From the left) Chantal Makela, Louise Bergeron, Tracy De Vos, Danielle Audet, Lisa Condo and (in front) Giulia Carpenter from the Sudbury Women’s Centre, one of the YWCA 2019 Women of Distinction (Keira Ferguson/

Sudbury Women’s Centre

The Sudbury Women’s Centre is a non-profit organization, dedicated to providing information, referrals and support services to women who have been impacted by violence and/or difficult life circumstances. The centre is managed by three staff and 10 volunteers, who service the average 9,000 women who access the centre each year, 150-250 per week. The Centre’s programs include sewing circle, LGBTQ support groups and My Sister’s Closet – an affordable store which brought in over $1000 for the Centre this year.

Tickets for the April 27 gala can be purchased online.