INNISFAIL – Since Heather Taylor’s arrival to Innisfail from British Columbia in 1977 there has never been a community service or essential project too big for her to handle.
The town’s iconic CF-104 Starfighter that has stood majestically upright outside the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion since 2006 is proof of that.
Taylor was instrumental through her tireless fundraising and leadership in bringing the famed military plane to town from Germany.
“No small task to bring a jet across multiple continents and an ocean to become a feature in Innisfail,” said Kane Williams, the town’s recreation program coordinator, noting Taylor was awarded a life-time legion membership for long-term commitment and service, which included 10 years on the executive.
On March 28, the Town of Innisfail formally recognized Taylor at town council for the many contributions she’s made to the community over more than four decades.
She was awarded Citizen of the Year during the town’s unveiling of the 2021 Community Awards.
“None of the things I have done could have been done alone,” said Taylor, who received a standing ovation from town council, staff and members of the public. “I formed great friendships and comradeship through all those efforts, and I enjoyed every minute. For anybody who has ever worked with me I say, ‘thank you for pushing me and making me a better person'.”
Williams noted Taylor’s dedication to the community also served in many other ways. She was instrumental in the fundraising of $450,000 for the Community Bus.
She’s been part of the literary and poster contest held annually by the legion to connect younger generations to the significance of Remembrance Day.
She tirelessly volunteered for many years at the Innisfail and District Food Bank, and has always been available to help and support numerous sports teams and other local organizations.
And from 2010 to 2017 Taylor served two terms on town council, a period that included the Downtown Revitalization Project, the modernization of Town Hall and the opening of the Innisfail Library/Learning Centre.
“Heather Taylor has an incredible track record of helping Innisfail. Her impact is wide-ranging,” said Williams.
Taylor’s award followed four others given to three local citizens and one team.
Local businessman and council member Dale Dunham won the 2021 Community Arts and Culture Award.
“Dale is someone who embodies the term community builder,” said Williams. “Dale works tirelessly to create, build and innovate community initiatives.”
Williams noted Dunham’s leadership behind the Innisfail Pride Festival, the Lantern Festival, and the Festival of Trees – all inaugural events in 2021.
“His work with the Welcoming and Inclusive Community Committee, anti-bullying initiatives and town council all work to make life easier for people who need it and add to the culture in Innisfail,” he said.
Athena Pare is the recipient of the 2021 Leaders of Tomorrow Award.
“She is an example of a young Innisfailian who goes out and makes a difference in our community. She is an active leader and volunteer,” said Williams, noting her Search for Hope creation at the start of the pandemic; a scavenger hunt throughout town that inspired the community when citizens needed it most.
“The Search for Hope was inspiring, inclusive and something that anyone could participate in. It made a positive difference, locally at a difficult time.”
Mabel Weddell was recognized as Innisfail’s 2021 Athlete of the Year.
The 12-year-old Grade 7 student at St. Marguerite Bourgeoys Catholic School excelled last year at hockey, volleyball and cross-country.
She was one of four Grade 7 girls to make the senior volleyball team in 2021, a silver medalist at the Chinook's Edge North Athletic Association cross-country finals, and centre with the U13 A Red Deer Sutter Fund Chiefs girls' hockey team.
“Her love and passion for sports drive her to not only be successful at them but to ensure that others around her are succeeding,” said Williams. “Mabel has an exciting and long athletic career ahead of her but she has laid a solid foundation of integrity, work ethic, and skill.”
And the Innisfail Dolphins Swim Club is the recipient of the 2021 Team of the Year Award.
The award, which was accepted by head coach Josh Gette, was especially earned this year due to a sensational 2021 season that saw the Dolphins ranked 1st provincially (provincial champions).
“An amazing achievement as the club was able to best Edmonton, Calgary and all other Alberta clubs despite being allowed less registered swimmers due to restrictions,” said Williams, noting the club also shattered 10 club records and had 24 of the registered 50 swimmers ranked in the top five in the province.
“They are an incredible example of a team that has been built up year-after-year and have persevered through an especially difficult time with the COVID-19 pandemic making training and competing difficult."