January 25, 2023

Congratulations to St. Joe’s Spirit of Hope Nominees!

Every year, St. Joe’s has the distinct honour of presenting the annual Spirit of Hope Awards to acknowledge and celebrate those who have overcome mental health or addiction challenges, or made impactful contributions to the mental health care or addiction field.

Awards for 2022 will be announced during A Mental Health Morning on Thursday, February 2, 2023, featuring keynote speaker Jesse Thistle, a Métis-Cree author, poet and scholar. Tickets for the much-anticipated breakfast event can be purchased here.

Below are brief summaries from each individual and group’s nomination package for the Spirit of Hope Awards. Their contributions are so vast and varied it’s difficult to summarize their accomplishments in this manner, but each is deserving of being recognized for their nomination for a Spirit of Hope Award.

Youth/Youth Group Category

Ashley Rankin – From a young age, Ashley battled debilitating nerves that prevented her from doing activities she enjoyed, and made it difficult to navigate transitions to high school and university. It wasn’t until Ashley opened up about her severe nerves to her sister, that she was diagnosed with a Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Social Anxiety and Separation Anxiety. With help from her family and therapy, Ashley has given back to other youth by serving as a Peer Mentor to assist them on their transition to secondary school. She continues to meet challenges and obstacles with dignity and much inner strength, and made the courageous decision to attend University away from home at Guelph.

Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School, Celtic F.R.E.E. – Celtic F.R.E.E. (Fostering Respect, Equality, and Experience) is the student LGBTQ group at Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School. The group began during the 2017/2018 school year by grade 11 students who recognized a need for a safe space for LGBTQ2S+ youth within the school. Since then, it has been the goal of the group to not only provide this safe space, but to also connect students with LGBTQ2S+ resources for youth within the community in order to support their own mental health and well-being.

Giorgia Woolfe – Giorgia played a pivotal role in The Hamilton Me Project initiative, a youth engagement communication campaign that was developed by secondary students in Hamilton. This group was created at the end of 2020 to combat COVID-19 fatigue that many youth were experiencing. Giorgia was one of the inspiring students working to identify issues surrounding COVID-19 messaging for teens. She demonstrated leadership by becoming involved with creating meaningful and encouraging messages through Instagram posts to address peers on the topics of COVID-19 prevention, ways to deal with pandemic fatigue and the importance of mental health during the pandemic.

Individual Category

Bill Baker – Bill is a registered psychotherapist at St. Joe’s who works in the Concurrent Disorders Capacity Building Team, and can often be found helping patients and clients in the Emergency Mental Health Service at the Charlton Campus. Bill’s nominators say that his commitment to helping his at-risk clients to navigate the complex healthcare system is commendable, but it’s the hope he sees in every situation, no matter how dire, that truly inspired them to nominate him for this award.

Carol Jovanovic – A social worker with the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board who is passionate about ensuring teachers, administrators and students alike are aware of and connected to the mental health and addictions services, programs and supports in our community.

April Mansilla – April is a member of the Mood Disorders Program at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. Earlier in her life, she also received care from the program. This gives April the unique ability to offer care and support by sharing both her experience as a client and her expertise as a care provider. April is also a talented artist who has used her craft to promote safety, foster hope and support healing through beautiful murals and permanent art installations across the West 5th Campus.

Shannon MacKinnon – After the sudden loss of her best friend and an addiction-related passing of an ex-boyfriend, Shannon experienced bouts of depression and has dedicated her time to helping others whose lives have been touched by mental illness through poetry, theatre, advocacy and support.

Patrizia McEachren – Pat has been a member of the Peer Advisory Committee for the Mental Health & Addictions Program at St. Joe’s for more than two and a half years. She facilitates peer drop-in support groups at the Hospital, volunteers with numerous patient and family advisory groups and activities, shares her story, her experience and her expertise to selflessly help others.

Henriette Pinto – Henriette was nominated for a Spirit of Hope Award in light of the remarkable service and support she provides to the staff of the Hamilton Wentworth Catholic District School Board. She is the first person employees encounter when seeking help through the Board’s Employee Assistance Program. Henriette makes every staff member feel heard but not judged, supported but not helpless. She is a champion for connecting staff with the supports they need for their mental well-being.

Kim Ritchie – Kim Ritchie is a person with lived experiences with homelessness, substance use, sexual exploitation, and sex work. She has cultivated a passion and commitment to the work of addressing inequities and injustices within our collective consciousness and social structures. Kim advocates for harm reduction and trauma-informed practice, as these are revolutionary theoretical approaches to navigating the complexities of our humanity. She is a graduate of Mohawk College and McMaster University Social Work programs. Her career has focused on engineering novel harm reduction programs and residential settings for women and gender-diverse folks. She often engages in public speaking on these topics to facilitate change and raise awareness.

Nicole Sczepaniak – A Child and Youth Worker with the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board, Nicole brings energy, kindness, innovation and enthusiasm to her role, which in turn, inspires the schools she supports to embrace her positive contributions to programs that support the mental health of students across the entire Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Board.

Michelle Sanderson – A Community Support Worker in the Concurrent Disorder Outpatient Program and part of the Concurrent Disorders Capacity Building Team at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Michelle has a unique ability to form special connections with her clients. She’s able to help people during their darkest and most vulnerable moments, to support them in addressing their co-existing mental health and addiction-related concerns.

Sarah Simpson – Sarah has been a social worker in the Women’s & Infants’ Program at St. Joe’s for more than 25 years. She provides exemplary care to each and every family she encounters, but her nomination for the Spirit of Hope Awards was inspired by her compassionate and non-judgmental approach to caring for infants and families affected by substance use.

Tom Varley – Tom is the manager of Colours Café, a social enterprise café that sells food, beverages, coffee, clothing and supplies to clients and staff alike inside the Margaret & Charles Juravinski Centre for Integrated Healthcare on St. Joseph’s West 5th Campus. He hires and trains the Café’s staff – 80 per cent of whom are living with mental illness, as is Tom himself. But people are not their diagnosis. And Tom works hard to dispel stigma and instill purpose, trust and confidence in all those who have the pleasure of working with him or meeting him during a visit to Colours Café.

Sadie Wolfe – Originally from Chatham, Ontario, Sadie calls Hamilton her adopted home. It’s where she found help when she was struggling with her own mental health, and it’s where she now helps others to find the help they may need through her advocacy work, her training in mental health first aid, and her PR savvy to start up peer support groups like ALPHABET SOUP and HAPPY PLACE.

Christine Yanke – An author and a trauma-informed senior master yoga trainer with lived experience of mental illness and addiction. In a full-circle story, Christine now offers her yoga training at Womankind – a women’s addiction service run by St. Joe’s which also happens to be the place where Christine eventually sought and received help for her own addiction.

Christopher Yendt – Christopher graduated from Brock University with a Master’s Degree in Adult Education. He was president of the Brock Graduate Students’ Association, a member of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Niagara Branch Board, and was Chair of the Board for Rainbow’s End Hamilton. But while achieving all of this, he was experiencing episodes of mania, paranoia and suicidal ideation. Christopher felt like he was going to lose it all. But instead, he reached out for help. He found recovery. And resilience. Now he helps others who find themselves facing a mental health crisis.

Group/Organization Category

Comeback Snacks – Emily O’Brien founded Comeback Snacks after battling back from addiction and serving a federal prison sentence for drug smuggling. The company, which produces delicious popcorn snacks, supports other people who have made a mistake in the past and who are trying to make a comeback. The growing business not only raises awareness about the benefits of giving people with criminal backgrounds a second chance, a portion of profits also support reintegration programs, prison reform measures, and the reduction of recidivism rates (the rate at which someone reoffends).

Shalem Mental Health Network – Shalem seeks to restore hope. Through individual, couple and family counselling, the organization offers specialized therapy for children and youth who struggle with attachment disorders and their caregivers. Shalem deeply honours those who embark on a journey of healing, and works to support communities to better embrace the needs of people who struggle with emotional distress and/or mental illness.

Wayside House of Hamilton – Wayside House of Hamilton is a community-based not-for-profit organization committed to residential addiction treatment and supportive housing for males and transitional male youth. The organization provides quality, evidence-informed programming through integrated services and partnerships within in Ontario that support recovery from substance dependency.

Womankind Addiction Service – Womankind Addiction Service is offered through St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton. The service provides a range of gender-responsive programming and supports to women seeking change with their substance use. A 26-bed facility located in west Hamilton, Womankind offers a safe, inclusive and caring place where all women and people who identify as women are welcomed and assisted by a specially trained team to assess and define next steps regarding their substance use and recovery with a whole-person approach.


Thank you to our Spirit of Hope Sponsors




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