The 2023 VOscars Volunteer Awards

The VOscars Volunteer Awards is the highlight of the year for the city’s volunteers and nonprofits. The event celebrates Ottawa’s vibrant volunteer spirit and gives special recognition to those individuals, organizations, and businesses who have made a difference in the community. 

The 2023 VOscars Awards Gala took place on Thursday, October 26 at the Sala San Marco, 215 Preston Street, Ottawa. 

Nominations for the 2024 VOscars Awards will open in Spring 2024.

Watch the 2023 VOscars Awards

Watch the 2023 VOscars Volunteer Awards Ceremony on YouTube courtesy of Rogers TV!

“Year after year, day in and day out, Ottawa depends on volunteers to improve lives, break down barriers and create opportunities for people across our city. […] Volunteers represent the kind of quiet determination and heroism that inspires others to act.”

Geoff Simpson, CFO Hydro Ottawa, speaking at the 2022 VOscars

2023 Lifetime Achievement Award

Every year Volunteer Ottawa presents its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award to an outstanding Ottawa citizen who has devoted their life to giving back to the community.  We are excited to announce this year’s winner: Sarah Onyango!

Sarah Onyango

Our 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is Sarah Onyango, an outstanding community builder and media personality recognized for her extensive volunteer work and leadership, especially in Ottawa’s African and Caribbean communities. Sarah has been an active local volunteer since 1993 with organizations such as Black History Ottawa, United Way East Ontario, the Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership, The Legacy Voices Institute, and CHUO. Her volunteer work as a broadcaster, emcee, leader, translator, and communications specialist has been recognized with many awards, including the United Way/Centraide Ottawa Community Builder Award in both 2008 and 2011. 

Previous recipients include:

  • 2022 – Marc Jolicoeur 
  • 2020/1 – Jacquelin Holzman 
  • 2019 – Dennis Jackson 
  • 2018 – James McCracken 
  • 2017 – Dave Smith 
  • 2016 – Coralie Lalonde 
  • 2015 – Jim Durrell 
  • 2014 – Barbara McInnes 
  • 2013 – Grete Hale 
  • 2012 – Lawrence Greenspon 
  • 2011 – Max Keeping 

Watch MP Yasir Naqvi's welcome video for 2023!

“It is absolutely thrilling that Sarah Onyango is the recipient of the 2023 Lifetime Achievement Award. Sarah is a staunch advocate for racial equity, and has done tremendous work within the arts, culture, and youth spaces of Ottawa’s Black community. Through her various roles within Black History Ottawa, Black Ottawa Scene, her weekly radio show and more, Sarah has made significant contributions to our community through her advocacy, advancing education, and providing opportunities for dialogue. We are incredibly grateful to Sarah and how she has helped shape and create a more understanding and inclusive community. Congratulations!”

— Yasir Naqvi, Member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre

2023 Sponsors

Thank you to our 2023 sponsors for making the VOscars Awards Gala possible!

Interested in being a sponsor in 2024? Contact [email protected] to talk.

Overall Event Sponsor

Lifetime Achievement Award sponsor

Entertainment sponsor

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Welcome Reception sponsor

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Media sponsor

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Community Award Sponsors

Mayor’s Award for Volunteer Spirit
Outstanding Youth Volunteer Award
Outstanding Senior Volunteer Award
Leadership in Skilled Volunteering Award
Leadership in Corporate Volunteerism Award
Pathways to Possibilities Award
Outstanding Volunteer Program Award

Table Sponsors

2023 Winners and Finalists

Winners of the 2023 VOscars Volunteer Awards were announced live at the VOscars Gala on October 26, 2023 at Sala San Marco. Thank you to all the amazing nominees, finalists, and winners!


Mayor’s Award for Volunteer Spirit

Sponsored by United Way East Ontario.

This prestigious Award is given to an individual or group of individuals who exemplify the spirit of volunteering in Ottawa through their significant community impact. This keystone award celebrates a commitment to volunteering that goes above and beyond the other categories. Nominations in this category must demonstrate significant time and/or impact to the nominee’s community through volunteering. 


Elizabeth Heatherington

Elizabeth Heatherington was nominated for her years as a community builder in Rideau-Rockcliffe Ward and beyond. She has touched the lives of countless people through her work with ELTOC, The Ottawa Mission, Beechwood Cemetery, Cornerstone Shelters for Women, and many more.


Foodsharing Ottawa

Foodsharing Ottawa was nominated for their agile and entirely volunteer-run food rescue program spending 100+ hours a month rescuing and delivering food in Ottawa. Their volunteer pool has grown in the last three years from 12 to over 80.


OMRA Shelter Corporation

OMRA Shelter Corporation was nominated for their essential work supporting small refugee families in Ottawa. This all-volunteer organization raises funds and provides rent subsidies as well as vital services like English tutoring and furniture moving.


Outstanding Youth Volunteer Award

Sponsored by Algonquin College

The Outstanding Youth Volunteer Award celebrates an Ottawa youth who has made a significant contribution to their community through volunteering.


Rae Landriau


Rae Landriau was nominated for their outstanding volunteer work with over 15 organizations in the last 6 years, including work as co-founder of Create Change Collective. Rae is a graduate student at Carleton University pursuing a MSc. in physical geography and is passionate about sharing their love of science and nature with others through environmental education and art.


Sara Acharya

Sara Acharya was nominated by Ausome Ottawa for her incredible dedication to volunteering with over 200 hours logged at the age of 15 (over 400 by Fall 2023). Along with her positive impact on the autism community in Ottawa, Sara volunteers with local food banks and environmental groups.


Adil Amarsi

Adil Amarsi was nominated for his many volunteering activities, including Junior Volunteer Lead at the Ismaili Community Centre, as Flight Sergeant at the RCAC, and leadership in local food drives and community park clean ups. Adil is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Health Sciences at McMaster University this fall.


Outstanding Senior Volunteer Award

Sponsored by The Council on Aging of Ottawa

The Outstanding Senior Volunteer Award is given to an older adult volunteer who has made a meaningful impact in the community through their volunteering.


Shirley Whitford

Shirley Whitford was nominated for her incredible dedication to Rideau-Rockcliffe Community Resource Centre programs. A finalist in 2022 as well, Shirley is described as “like family” at the Centre and donates 40 hours a week to a huge variety of programs.


Ann Lambert

Ann Lambert was nominated for her integral role in supporting individuals struggling with mental health and/or physical challenges through over 20 years of volunteering with Ottawa Therapy Dogs. Ann’s ongoing support for OTD’s mission includes both public and behind-the-scenes work. Ann is pictured here with therapy dogs Bracken, Lark, and Milly.


Howard A. Lithwick

Howard A. Lithwick is described in his nomination as an “unsung hero”. This Ottawa native was nominated for extensive work with groups like The Kiwanis Club of Ottawa, Heart of the City, and Hillel Lodge and for his ongoing mentorship of youth.


Leadership in Skilled Volunteering Award

Sponsored by Perley-Robertson, Hill & McDougall LLP

The Leadership in Skilled Volunteering Award is given to someone who regularly volunteers in a position that uses their professional skills. For example, an accountant who assists with yearly tax clinics, a carpenter who helps increase accessibility in Ottawa by building and installing ramps, or a communications consultant who designs outreach campaigns.


John Peters

John Peters was nominated for his long-time commitment to the Shepherds of Good Hope, including a central role in the founding of the SGH Foundation and ongoing pro bono legal advice. As of May 2023, SGH now has more people in community housing than in the shelter — a pivotal achievement of the Foundation.


Aidan Fritz-Millett

Aidan Fritz-Millett was nominated for his ongoing work with Christie Lake KidsLeaders in Training program. Using experience from his career in social work, Aidan connects with youth and helps them discover their strengths. Aidan says, “It is my vision for my life to make a powerful, positive, lasting impact on the lives of others.”


Sylvia Renaud

Sylvia Renaud was nominated for over 20 years of work with Kids on the Block Ottawa as a puppeteer, trainer, and Board Member, and coordinator. Her nomination notes “she does it from her heart with no desire for recognition”, but we are glad to recognize her.


Leadership in Corporate Volunteerism Award

Sponsored by Export Development Canada

The Leadership in Corporate Volunteerism Award celebrates Ottawa businesses or employers who demonstrate social responsibility practices that support employee volunteering. The winner will have a comprehensive, successful employee engagement program to encourage employees to volunteer and give back to the community.


Engineers Canada

Engineers Canada was nominated for their excellent culture of volunteering and community support including donations, Employer Supported Volunteering, and teambuilding group volunteer activities.


The Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association (OGHA)

The Ottawa Gatineau Hotel Association (OGHA) was nominated for their ongoing support for the Shepherds of Good Hope. They have regularly donated much-needed supplies and volunteer hours since 2021 and coordinate to respond to emergency needs.


Royal Bank of Canada

Royal Bank of Canada was nominated for their dedicated support of Christie Lake Kids’ Canoe for Kids program. This year alone, 50 RBC volunteers donated nearly 300 hours to supporting low-income children and youth at this annual event.


Pathways to Possibilities Award

Sponsored by the Ottawa Board of Trade

The Pathways to Possibilities Award celebrates an organization or individual who empowers those in our community who face barriers, using volunteering to create new opportunities and expand horizons. The award highlights the capacity of volunteering to enhance skills, gain experience and increase social cohesion by recognizing an individual or organization whose leadership has helped newcomers, youth in need, and other marginalized groups find a pathway to opportunity. 


Nerio Guerrero and Jennifer Hughes Doucet

CCI Ottawa Conversation Circles volunteers
CCI Ottawa Conversation Circles volunteers Nerio Guerrero and Jennifer Hughes Doucet are co-finalists. Without their support and leadership, this important volunteer-run program for newcomers to Ottawa would not be possible.


Dancia Kendra Susilo

Dancia Kendra Susilo was nominated for her dedicated work with a number of organizations, including volunteer recruitment and advocacy for groups like The Missing Link Project and the Centretown Community Health Centre. She donates an astonishing 25 to 60 hours a week.


The Tenant Volunteers of Ottawa Community Housing Corporation Communities

The Tenant Volunteers of Ottawa Community Housing Corporation Communities are finalists for the 2023 Pathways to Possibilities Award for their collective contributions to building healthier, safer, more vibrant and inclusive communities every day. While individuals have been recognized before, this nomination includes all OCH tenant volunteers.


Outstanding Volunteer Program Award

Sponsored by YellowTree Grant Services Inc.

The Outstanding Volunteer Program Award is given to a not-for-profit organization in the Ottawa region that has built a successful, thriving volunteer program based on excellence in volunteer management principles and practices. Though this award has been reserved for VO members in the past, in 2023 the nomination is open for all Ottawa-region nonprofits and charities. 


Hospice Care Ottawa

Hospice Care Ottawa is a finalist for the 2023 Outstanding Volunteer Program Award, nominated for their highly successful bilingual volunteer program. Over 450 volunteers support a broad range of free services for hospice residents, from gardening and caregiver support through fundraising and administrative work. These highly engaged volunteers are kept in the loop with monthly newsletters and celebrated annually.


Active Newcomer Youth Ottawa

Active Newcomer Youth Ottawa is a returning finalist from 2022 nominated again this year for their volunteer program which helps provide a culturally safe space where immigrant and newcomer youth and children in Ottawa participate in social programs to increase their social inclusion and promote mental wellness.


The Door Youth Centre

The Door Youth Centre was nominated for its ongoing strong volunteer program which ensures that The Door is a facility both by, and for, young people. In the words of one volunteer, “The Door Youth Center has given me plentiful opportunity to learn and develop skills, providing words of encouragement and motivation.”

How Are Finalists and Winners Selected? 

During the nomination period, members of the public are invited to submit nominations for the seven award categories. Nominations will be reviewed by a committee of the VO Board of Directors and local leaders in the nonprofit space. All finalists will receive a complimentary ticket to the Awards Gala on October 26. Winners will be announced live during the Gala and presented with their award.