SASSY Awards honour heroic youth at Surrey Arts Centre

SURREY — When I grew up, I idolized Ozzy Osborne. Yes, it’s true. In my defense, he hadn’t beheaded any bats back then and he was the leader of a way-cool, anti-establishment metal band that sounded best when cranked to 11.

Others find their inspiration in the world of high-level sports. Or acting. Maybe they revere an activist or a writer.  

But often, the true heroes in our society do what they do without the bonus of big fame or big money. They do it quietly, selflessly and purely, simply because they’re really, really good people.

Jordynn Denness is really, really good people.

In 2009, Jordynn was tripped, backwards, by a classmate. As far as “trips” go, this one was an avalanche. Jordynn landed on her head, severely fracturing her neck and injuring her brain in the process.

She was all of 12 years old.

Today, Jordynn is 17. She sleeps more than most kids her age and she has trouble concentrating. She experiences moments of memory loss and she’s given up two of her passions – basketball and soccer – because her neck and back are now too fragile for either.

Total bummer? Absolutely. But you can save your pity for someone who needs it. Jordynn, you see, has it seriously together. Indeed, we should all be this together.

First, there’s the Grade 12 grind – a beastly time for anyone. Then there’s her role as a Special Olympics basketball coach at the Newton Recreation Centre. And let’s not forget her main thrust these days: a volunteering position at Peace Arch Hospital, where she regularly works – and plays and makes great inroads – with dementia patients.

How she has time to map out a future that (hopefully) includes the study of Kinesiology at Queen’s University is anyone’s guess.

Did I mention she’s just 17? What were you doing when you were 17? Cranking your stereo to 11 and spinning the latest Black Sabbath album like some people?   

Regardless, Jordynn was front and centre, along with a gaggle of equally impressive, equally heroic kids, Friday night at the Surrey Arts Centre for the fourth edition of the SASSY Awards. Honouring youth achievement in Surrey, the show was fun and bouncy and filled with top-grade entertainers (local songstress Jade and similarly local dance troupe Spiral Dance Co rocked the joint), but the SASSY nominees were clearly the stars of the evening.

And deservedly so.

First up was Community Service Award recipient Karan Grover, an athlete, actor and genuinely engaging guy who’s contributed an incredible 2,000-plus hours as a volunteer, both at school and at the YMCA, since 2009.

Next was the Environmental Leadership Award recipient Soohyun Kim, a charming 15-year-old whose David Suzuki-like work ethic and love for the natural world has extended to a variety of projects that may one day benefit all of us.

Manvir (Monie) Singh Tutt, International Service Award recipient.

Manvir (Monie) Singh Tutt then walked away with the International Service Award. The affable Monie (pronounced “money”) not only physically dwarfs most “grown-up” folk, but is active on so many service levels one can be forgiven for thinking there were two or three Monies walking the halls of St. George’s School.

Our friend Jordynn then took the Overcoming Adversity Award, followed by Performing & Visual Arts recipient Lexi Calbery. You may have seen the energetic Cirque Surrey performer and instructor in the community, juggling or shuffling along on stilts or perhaps doing both simultaneously.

The Sportsmanship Award went to Colby Peters, a multi-discipline athlete (soccer, volleyball, rugby) who not only plays the sports and plays them well, but also plays a leadership role within them.

Rounding out the evening was Youth Leadership Award recipient Jaskirat Sahni, a go-getting, socially conscious community volunteer who’s run campaigns benefitting worthy groups such as Nightshift Ministries and Options.   

Ultimately, 2014 was perhaps the finest SASSY to date. Of note was the new pre-awards ceremony where each and every nominee was called to the front and individually honoured. A great touch and certainly in keeping with the program’s everyone’s-a-winner theme.

No less impactful was the switch in venues, from the cavernous Bell Performing Arts Centre to the smaller Surrey Arts Centre. There was a real sense of intimacy Friday night for both nominees and spectators.

Still, the place wasn’t packed. A bigger crowd next year would make a great early Christmas gift to a whole bunch of caring, deserving kids who typically do what they do with little fanfare.

Are you listening, Surrey?

The audience arrives at the Sassy Awards on Nov. 21 at Surrey Arts Centre.

Gord Goble is a contributing photographer and writer with the Now.

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