I teamed up with Jacek Chocolate and Hillberg and Berk for my Women of Strength Giveaway to recognize inspiring women doing amazing work in our community and loving unconditionally. It turned out even better than we’d hoped. It’s been such a journey for me through this process (one that I now get to share with you), reading through all the submissions, getting to know these incredible women through the words written by family and friends. It was a special experience, reading the reactions from our winners and the women they subsequently chose. Like I said in my original post, we always assume others know how we feel about them but how often do we tell them? This was a nice way to get it out on the table.
Thank you to Jacek Chocolate and Hillberg and Berk for being part of this adventure, and thank you so much to everyone who took the time to send in such thoughtful nomination stories. I truly do wish there were gifts for all of you! Without further adieu, here are your chosen 10!
Nominated by: Me!
“There are so many women who inspire me, but the one I’ve chosen to recognize is my friend Amy Antony. Amy and I have known each other since high school, but really became close over the last ten years. She is one of the most selfless people I have ever met. Not only is she always there for the people in her life when they need it, she’s quick to help strangers as well. She’s thoughtful, she invests time in her friendships, and she’s really funny!
Whenever I’m having a tough time she swings by with a tub of her famous homemade salsa. She often watches my son Wyatt while I head to meetings, even though she carries a really full schedule (she’s a former school teacher, now psychologist). We spin together, we sometimes roll perogies and we always laugh.
Chosen by: Amy Antony (winner)
I would like to take this opportunity to recognize one of the sweetest and gentle souls I know, Stephanie Marchinko. Stephanie has experienced many growing pains within her life by the age of 25 that most do not experience in an entire life time. She’s a person who exudes strength while aiming at the motto ‘never giving up’. I know she’s 25 but I still view her like my younger sister (I’m 35). Everybody can appreciate a top 20 or a top 10 list but I want everyone to know the shiniest and most valued qualities so imma gonna keep it to a top 5 list:
1. Steph has old world spirit with modern-day class. She effortlessly connects with older souls, shares stories while courageously puts herself out there to new people. Let’s face it, it’s not always easy meeting new people especially when you move to a new community. (Steph just moved to Edmonton from Red Deer).
2. She’s legitimately the classiest older sister to her younger brother, Matt. Matt has physical and mental disabilities and Steph infinitely has given herself to Matt day in and day out over the past 20 years. Their bond is stronger than the strongest love I know. Her loyalty has undoubtedly helped his road of recovery.
3. She loves hard and she loves strong. She’s not afraid to wear her heart on her sleeve. She does this without regret. Once you start talking to her you’ll be thankful that she shares her loving nature, unguarded. Steph’s learned to embrace life and roll with life and you’ll see her doing this with incredible love and strength!
4. Goal Setting 101. Steph sets goals and gets them done. She has a fiercely competitive fire that constantly tests her inner strength. I’m personally inspired by her, especially with the motivation she applies daily!
5. Steph’s sense of humour softens her strength. Her appetite for cheesy jokes and witty humour is endearing, not to mention, infectious. She’ll have you giggling along with her in no time!
Nominated by: Her husband Michael
“Ashley does an amazing job of balancing her incredibly challenging career with being there as a mother and wife to Camille and me. She has gone through some extremely tough stretches as she’s worked to become a medical doctor and then gone on to achieve specialization training. Stretches where she would come home crying because the job had taxed her beyond her limits with the amount of time it requires, the demands of patients, the challenges of colleagues, and the caring heart she poured into truly giving her very best to not just meet the needs of her patients, but to care for them as people too. But the thing is, she would come home like that in the evening (sometimes late in the evening!) and then go right back to it the next day, prepared to face the same overwhelming stress, armed with personal courage and a conviction that she wanted to genuinely help. Meanwhile, she has somehow been able to prioritize quality time with her family, ensuring that Camille knows she is loved and adored by being there for bedtime even when that meant literally running home from the train station. And that she is always willing to make time for me, even if that means staying up very late to chat despite having to work early the next day.
She is almost at the end of her residency and she is the same beautiful soul as when she went in, only now she can juggle the very intricate needs of more than 30 patients, work through head-scratching science to get to the complex medical solution, provide leadership to her colleagues and other hospital staff, and do all that while planning a special little girl’s birthday party and finding time to cheer on the Oilers alongside her number one fan (me!).
I’m sure you’ll get so many well-deserving nominations with novella-sized explanations of why they are the best, but I hope this gives a good enough glimpse of why Ashley is so incredible, persevering and strong. Whether she gets selected or not, this was a good reminder to tell her how proud I am of her and all that she’s accomplished during these ten years of medical school, Internal Medicine residency, Respirology specialization fellowship AND becoming a mother.”
Chosen by: Ashley Whidden (winner)
“For my nomination, I have chosen my dear friend Sarah Roadhouse.When I think of what ‘strength is her sparkle’ means, she embodies it. Amongst many other roles in her life, she is a supportive wife and incredible mom to 4 young children and she leads her family with great intention, thoughtfulness, wisdom, and love. She is an amazing friend and although she doesn’t often get time for herself, she spends time making those around her feel very special. The way she meets life’s challenges with gentleness, strength, perseverance, and a great sense of humour is truly inspiring and I feel incredibly grateful to call her my friend.”
Nominated by: Her friend Leanne Stroh
“Krysta is the most intuitive, thoughtful friend. As the co-MC at my wedding, she spent hours rehearsing a song she performed with her husband during our wedding reception. She changed the lyrics to my husband and my song (Journey, Don’t Stop Believing) and belted it out in front of a crowd of 120 people, even though performing is not her forte. This is but one example of the time, effort, and selfishness she puts into all of those who are lucky enough to have her in their lives.
Shortly after our wedding, Krysta and her husband were relocated to Mexico City for a year for his work. My husband and I were blessed with our first baby while they were gone, and Krysta ordered a ton of delicious food to be delivered to our house along with a gift certificate for a baby bouncer to make my life better. She hadn’t yet had kids of her own, but she knew just the perfect thing that I needed in that moment. While she was in Mexico, she also used her time and skills to help strengthen impoverished communities to become more sustainable and self-reliant.
Krysta has been my workout and running buddy, my confidant, and my biggest cheerleader. When I feel my own confidence zapped (in running, and in life), she always picks me up and encourages me to dig a little deeper. She is a chemist and has been working in male-dominated labs and plants to limit the potential harmful effect of operations on the environment. I am inspired by her intelligence, her strength, and the calm, persuasive way that she ensures her very important voice is heard. Women like Krysta are an inspiration to young girls to take up careers in STEM.
We gave birth (my second baby, her first) within four days of each other, and she was still the most helpful, thoughtful friend I can imagine. We’ve been through so much together as friends, as mothers, and as full-time professionals. She went back to school (when her baby was brand new) to complete her masters, which she’s still working on while she also works full time to make the world a better place, and she’s the most patient, engaged mama you can imagine. I am so incredibly proud of her. Even though she has so much going on in her own life, she would drop it all to do anything for anyone who needed her help (even if they didn’t yet know that they needed it).
Krysta inspires me to be a better friend, a better mom, and to be a strong, confident professional. I know I’m not the only woman in her life who feels like she’s unable to repay all the kindness, light, and thoughtfulness Krysta has shown. She’s a woman of strength, a woman of sparkle, and if my own daughter grows up to be anything like her, I would be the most proud mom on Earth.”
Chosen by: Krysta Gledhill (winner)
“I am nominating Leanne Stroh for the Woman of Strength giveaway, not because she nominated me, but because of the continuous, unyielding support and encouragement she has given me.
Leanne and I became friends when we were young professionals starting our careers. We have since co-navigated our way through the joys and challenges of life as young professionals, women working towards higher education, and mothers trying to “have it all”. She has always been one step ahead of me, showing me what success looks like, and proving to me that your dreams are achievable, no matter how elaborate or extravagant they may be.
Leanne completed her Masters while working as a full-time professional in a senior role. She was my biggest support when I chose to go back to school to complete my Masters, and is still there to lift me up when I start to doubt that I can make it through.
She has shown me what it means to love a tiny human unconditionally, and that you can be the best mom on the planet without having to give up who you are and what you love to do. She has been a shining example of the mom I want to be, and her patience and kindness are something I aspire to.
She has shown me that you can learn to run after having your first baby, and then run a half-marathon after your second! This is something I have yet to tackle but I know that if I do, she will be beside me the whole way.
Leanne is a leader. She is an amazing mother, and a woman who sets goals and achieves them. She inspires me every day, and motivates me to be the best I can be. I am a woman of strength because she’s modelled the way for me.”
Nominated by: Her sister Lauren Willms
“Jaime is really an amazing sister, daughter but most inspiring mother. And it wasn’t truly until tonight that I completely understood and appreciated this. It’s been a difficult year for my sister as her 2.5 year old daughter Emma was recently diagnosed with autism which has really been difficult not only on her, but her family as well. That being said, it has been so inspiring to see my sister not miss a beat; she pulled herself together and has done everything she has needed to in order to support her daughter and her needs. She has done this without complaint, or self pity, and with amazing patience and grace – while also ensuring her older son Ben hasn’t been over shadowed by his sister’s diagnosis. It has been a major adjustment for her but she has been so selfless for the greater good of her children. She deserves to be recognized and to know what an amazing job she has done and continues to do. She is truly my best friend and a supermom… honestly I’m not sure I could ever really articulate how amazing she is and how blessed I feel to call her my sister.”
Sarah Jane Lakusta
Chosen by: Jaime Willms (winner)
“I picked Sarah-Jane because last month she was in a car accident. Thankfully everyone was ok but she suffered what they think was whiplash. Since the accident had had 24/7 migraines. She has 3 kids, her youngest is just over a year. She’s been having to deal with all her kids with migraines and now on top of this, all her doctor appointments and specialist she is seeing to get these migraines under control. She is one strong lady and deserves to have a little something special.”
Nominated by: Her sister Lindsey Leonard
“I am nominating my sister Erin for the Women of Strength Giveaway because of how she inspires me! Erin and I are 15 months apart and from a young age she has always been my biggest supporter. She was the one who always invited me to join her and her friends for sleepovers and games. She encouraged me to always do my best and work hard in sports and school. Any question I needed an answer to, or any homework I had from school she would so willingly help me with. She’s the person who was always the nicest to me. We are best friends to this day. She is sweet and lovely and selfless. At the age of 18 she donated a portion of her liver to a family member to give them another 10 years with us. This gave her a scar on her stomach resembling a Mercedes benz logo that she proudly sports. She is married and has 3 kids and totally eliminates any excuses that any mothers might have. She is strong and a great example. She works hard to stay in peak physical condition and is the woman who does 2 bootcamps a day while carrying twins. She is beautiful and independent and absolutely caring. She is the friend that everyone goes to for counsel because of the kind of example that she sets in her life. She is courageous and totally inspires me!”
Chosen by: Erin Strohschein (winner)
“Lindsey is the most kind and generous woman I know. She is a fantastic chef and uses her talents to bless everyone in her life. She is always up for an adventure and makes sure everyone is thought of and included. Anything I ever do is way more fun when Linz is there. She is completely hilarious and had the most infectious laugh. Lindsey is tender hearted and a great listener. She is always there to help and loves with her whole heart. She is so friendly and makes everyone comfortable around her. She is the kind of person you meet and instantly become friends with. Lindsey is an amazing friend and I am so lucky that she is my sister as well!
Thank you so much for the opportunity to tell you about my sweet and beautiful sister Lindsey and for encouraging women to love on and build up other woman.”
We really want to spread the love and prove that women support and build each other up! Please give recognition to the women in your life who inspire you, who are doing great things in their community and who love unconditionally. In doing so, we would love if you used the hashtag #strengthisyoursparkle. You can also tag @kariskelton @jacekchocolate @hillbergandberk in your posts.