The 2018 Surrey Community Leader Award winners, who were recognized at a reception at Eaglequest Golf Course on Nov. 14. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Surrey Community Leader Award winners revealed

The 16th CLA awards, presented by the Now-Leader, recognized Surrey’s un-sung heroes

They are unsung heroes no more.

Envelopes have been opened, trophies handed out and distinguished winners were celebrated at the Surrey Now-Leader’s 16th Annual Community Leader Awards on Wednesday night, at the Eaglequest Golf Course clubhouse in Surrey.

The Community Leader Awards recognize “the selfless, dedicated and courageous” among us who don’t always make headlines but are “always out in the community making a difference in other people’s lives.”

Awards were given in 10 categories including Leader of the Year, Above & Beyond, Community Builder of the Year, Coach of the Year, Teacher of the Year, Emergency Services Leader of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, Environmental Leader of the Year, Youth Volunteer of the Year, and Service Organization Volunteer of the Year.

“We’re honoured to be presenting the community awards,” said Dwayne Weidendorf, publisher of the Now-Leader. “This is our 16th year. We take pride in being part of the community and recognizing the unsung heroes in Surrey. I’d also like to thank our sponsors, because without them this keystone event would not happen.”

Surrey Liberal MP Sukh Dhaliwal said a few words on behalf of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

“I want to bring greetings to all the award winners,” Dhaliwal said.

Surrey NDP MLA Jinny Sims also brought greetings from Premier John Horgan.

“Our province would not be the same,” Horgan stated, without the “upstanding leadership” of the CLA awards.

This year’s Leader of the Year award, sponsored by Community Savings Credit Union, is shared by Alannah Atley and Raul Oldhands with honourable mention going to Perminder Chohan.

The recipients of this award rise above the rest by demonstrating leadership in all that he or she does, making a positive contribution to the community and being a role model to look up to.

For Raul Oldhands and his wife Alannah Atley, helping people is just a part of their “very nature.”


(Alannah Atley and Raul Oldhands)

Oldhands and Atley have been volunteering in the community for nearly three decades as Indigenous elders.

“You know some people who go through life and don’t give anything — they’re takers. I’m a giver,” Atley said. “My husband’s a giver… It’s just in our very nature. Our whole makeup is just to give to people who are in need.”

Over the years, Atley has run a sweat lodge for women, creating “a place to feel like they belong, a sense of community” and place to welcome them without judgment while also giving them a chance to stay clean and sober.

For his part, Oldhands works to help Indigenous people who have suffered trauma at residential schools.

As a veteran of the war in Vietnam, Oldhands said he works with first responders on how to deal with traumatic events.

The winner of this year’s Above & Beyond award, sponsored by Sameer and Ankur Kaushal – Century 21 – is Jeff Sandes, with Kiran Toor receiving honourable mention.

Sandes started Challenger Baseball in Cloverdale, a program that provides a chance for children with cognitive or physical disabilities – like Sandes’ youngest son – to get out on the diamond to play some ball.

In the first year, Sandes said, there were just 16 families involved. This year, the division grew to 50 families.

“You’re happy as person because you’re seeing these kids having a chance, but when your hands get dirty with this, you see the difference that it makes in these families,” said Sandes. “When I see the impact it has on families and on our buddies, you don’t need more motivation to try and do this.”

READ: Challenger Baseball gives everyone a chance to play ball (featuring Sandes)

Savannah Scott won the top honour for Community Builder, sponsored by Kwantlen Polytechnic University, and Dr. Charan Gill received honourable mention.

Since her younger sister’s overdose death, Savannah has used her own experiences and her sister’s experience to raise awareness about the struggles of aging out of the foster care system, which they both did.

“When I aged out, it was literally, there you go. There’s life. It’s hard,” Scott told the Now-Leader.

Because of her background, Scott said she tries to help people get out of “their rut” as she puts it.

“I’ve gone through hard times as well, and all I needed was a bit of hope and faith. I think if I continue to do that then I can help others as well.”

READ: Surrey motel being transformed into sanctuary to help heal vulnerable women (featuring Scott)

The 2018 Coach of the Year award, sponsored by Elements Casino, is volunteer wrestling coach Bryan Stretch, with honourable mention going to Chad Clifford.

Stretch has spent more than 20 years helping kids push themselves to reach their goals and achieve things they never thought were possible. Stretch has helped several athletes go on to win provincial and national medals in the sport, and aims to encourage his students that if they dream it, they can achieve it.

With upwards of 500 hours spent volunteering each season, Bryan’s commitment to keeping kids engaged in the sport and on the right track has had a positive influence on countless youth in the community.

Top honour for Teacher of the Year, sponsored by Simon Fraser University, was received by Alexis Biggar, and Louay El Halabi received honourable mention.

For nearly two decades, Guildford Park Secondary school teacher Biggar has coached, inspired and mentored hundreds of students with her hands-on approach to education.

As a physical education teacher, Biggar was instrumental in developing a special PE program aimed at students whose mental or physical health made traditional PE class extremely difficult. As a volleyball and ultimate frisbee coach, she has taught countless kids the importance of commitment and teamwork.

The Emergency Services Leader of the Year, sponsored by Papa Plumbing and Heating, was won by firefighter Kalum Iverson and Rubina Mudhar received honourable mention.

Iverson participates in many initiatives with the Surrey Fire Service, but there’s one that remains closest to his heart.

“Five years ago, one of the guys I worked with passed away and he suffered from PTSD,” Iverson said. “I looked up to him, and it hit me hard when it happened.”

Since 2015, Iverson has helped organize the SFFCS’s annual ‘Break the Ice’ hockey tournament. The tournament raises awareness for mental health and education in light of firefighters suffering from PTSD.

Iverson also volunteers for many other causes with the fire department.

“A little effort can make a world of difference,” he says.

Steve Sapers won Volunteer of the Year, sponsored by IHOP Restaurant, with Jerry Gunadasa receiving honourable mention.

Before Sapers reached retirement, he says he discovered that there are many children in Surrey who go to school hungry. It was then that he decided what he wanted to do with his free time during his retirement – volunteer at a food bank.

Staying true to his word, Sapers has been a major contributor at the Surrey Food Bank for the past four years.

He volunteers with the organization three days per week, and he’s been a mainstay for two of the Food Bank’s largest initiatives. Sapers is heavily involved with the Surrey Food Bank’s senior distribution day and he’s a delivery driver for the ‘Hamper to your Home’ program.

What’s one of the best things about volunteering at the Food Bank?

That’s easy, Sapers says – “the smiles on the kids’ faces.”

The 2018 Environmental Leader award winners are Baljit Singh Sabharwal and Sarbjit Singh Sabharwal, with Paul Deol receiving honourable mention. This award is sponsored by Surrey Firefighters.

After seeing heaps of styrofoam pile up after Surrey’s annual Vaisakhi celebration, the brothers were inspired to reduce the event’s carbon footprint.

With the Vaisakhi parade in Newton drawing about 500,000 people every year, the brothers noticed that millions of styrofoam products were ending up in landfills.

See also: Surrey brothers work toward a ‘Foam-Free Vaisakhi’ featuring the Sabharwals

Their goal was to get businesses who participate in Vaisakhi to reduce the number of styrofoam products used during the event, by getting vendors to switch to ‘sugarcane bagasse’ products instead.

In the first year of implementing this initiative, an estimated 250,000 styrofoam products were swapped for sugarcane bagasse.

The brothers have set a five-year goal to get the use of styrofoam products during Vaisakhi down to zero.

Hebah Hussaina is this year’s Youth Volunteer of the Year, sponsored by the Surrey School District, and Gurjevan Dhaliwal received honourable mention.

Even at a young age, Hussaina says she always knew she wanted to give back to the community.

As founder of Youth for CARE, Hussaina has inspired and empowered students across Surrey to realize their potential while supporting Surrey Memorial Hospital.

Youth for CARE works to support the hospital, and the patients there through hospital visits, hosting doctor talks and fundraising events.

One of the initiatives closest to her heart is the ‘Care Kits’ for patients that include hygienic and artistic materials to help make their hospital stay as comfortable as possible.

Dan and Sharon Dobin share top honours in the Service Organization Volunteer category, sponsored by Gold Key Insurance & BC Equipment Finance, with Team Keian receiving honourable mention.

The pair have dedicated their lives to helping women facing addiction, homelessness and mental illness through the Agape Street Ministry.

For the past 18 years, they have ventured to the roughest parts of Surrey, connecting with women on the streets and offering love, compassion and a hope for a better life.

The couple, who help run a recovery house, consider this work “their calling” and have long-term goals to create a recovery centre where women with children can heal from their trauma and addictions without the added pain of being separated.

Nominations for the 2019 Surrey Community Leader Awards. Click here to nominate someone.

Read more about the 2018 award winners, and those who received honourable mention, in the Friday, Nov. 16 print edition of the Now-Leader.

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