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Second phase of 2020 Community Awards presented

Brent Jackson earns Citizen of the Year honours

INNISFAIL – The town has honoured community leader and prominent businessman Brent Jackson with the 2020 Citizen of the Year Award.

On March 8, the Town of Innisfail hosted its second phase of the 2020 Community Awards during breaks of town council’s regular meeting. Four awards were handed out. The first phase of the awards was presented during council’s regular meeting on Feb. 22.

The awards, usually presented in gala form at the Innisfail Royal Canadian Legion, were modified due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I know a lot of it was online but we see the messages that people put out there, and the amount of shares there were and the number of congratulations that came to people,” said Kane Williams, the town’s recreation program coordinator and a member of the community awards committee. “The good news is more important right now than maybe it has ever been and celebrating our own is really important.”

Williams told council members and assembled guests that Jackson, who was born and raised in Innisfail, has been an asset to the community not just as a business owner but as a long-time volunteer with a variety of organizations, including the Innisfail Ski Hill where he recently spearheaded the new chalet project.

“Brent and his family have been instrumental in the planning, the developing, the construction and the fundraising for this project,” said Williams. “As an individual and as a business owner Brent Jackson has donated to many worthwhile causes in our community. Brent quietly and humbly provides support to those in need.”

Coun. Danny Rieberger also noted Jackson was also the “visionary” and project leader for the local Optimist club’s quest to create the town’s Splash Park.

“Brent took the initiative. It was his vision, and he brought it to fruition. That should be acknowledged. It was a lot of work, and he put a lot of effort into it,” said Rieberger.

In accepting the award, Jackson said it was a great honour but one that was “kind of unexpected.

“I didn’t really expect it,” he said humbly. “It takes a town to raise a child and maybe that’s what happened over time and hopefully for the best, for the better. It has been a great pleasure helping around in the community, and hopefully continue to do so for many years to come.”

The town also honoured its best athletes for 2020, and both winners became the third members of their families to claim Innisfail’s local athlete of the year award.

Sarah Gette won the 2020 Female Athlete of the Year Award. The young superstar, most notably through her accomplishments with hockey and swimming, follows her brother Josh and sister Faith as a local athlete of the year.

Gette is a provincial gold medal swimming champion from the Innisfail Dolphins swim team and an outstanding hockey player, most recently with the Central Alberta Amazons Junior hockey team.

In accepting her award she thanked her coaches and family members, and said her successful experiences have been a “huge part of her life” that have taught her many valuable life lessons and given her many lifelong friends.

Kyle Baumgardt claimed 2020 Male Athlete of the Year honours. A multiple baseball MVP player, who played with the Innisfail Merchants and the Innisfail Trappers, he is now continuing his career in the State of Washington.

Like Gette, he also continues a family tradition. His sisters Taryn and Kirsten are past local athlete of the year award winners.

“I just want to thank everybody, especially coaches, family and friends for helping me through baseball and just sports in general,” said Baumgardt, who was unable to physically attend the presentation but connected through Zoom.

Looking ahead to the future, the town also presented its 2020 Leaders of Tomorrow Award. This year’s winner is Samantha Olson.

“Her impact is felt in Innisfail, particularly by area youth but also more widely as an advocate for mental health,” said Williams, adding the young woman is a vital part of the Youth Action Committee, as well as a dedicated community volunteer. “Samantha is an exemplary leader as an advocate for mental health on a provincial scale and beyond. She is the kind of leader 2020 needed – talented, flexible, strong and brave.”

In accepting her award, Olson said she was grateful to the town and its citizens for the recognition of what she has been able to achieve.

“This means so much to me. I am really glad to have been able to find a spot in the community by volunteering and stuff and sharing my story,” said Olson. “I am just glad to have done something, as it means so much to me to be recognized for it.”