Fifty-four local women have been nominated in seven categories for the annual Cold Lake Women of Influence Awards, to be held on International Women’s Day: Friday, March 8.

The awards are meant to celebrate exemplary women and their achievements, and to inspire all women to use their individual strengths and abilities to further themselves, their families, their organizations and our community. 

The categories include Arts and Culture; Business and Professional; Community and Volunteerism; Health and Wellness; Science and technology; Older Woman of Influence; and Overall Woman of Influence.

“This is our 10th event, if you can believe it,” said WOI committee member Stephanie Oleksyk. “We have been very fortunate, we’ve continued to gain ground a little bit each year.”

Attendance at the event has grown from about 100 to nearly 350, Oleksyk said, a sign that the awards are gaining traction in the community.

The guest speaker for this year’s event is Edmonton-born, Cold Lake-raised Trisha Vergo. Vergo leads teams across North America in the deployment of Artificial Intelligence and autonomous robots, but she may be better known for her appearances as a contestant on The Bachelor Canada and her time as an entertainment host for CityTV.

In addition to her professional work, she is a dedicated volunteer and philanthropist.

Attendees will enjoy food catered by Gouda and Brie and wines selected by Amy Pilat of Wine Knows. The first six awards will be presented before Vergo’s speech, which will be followed by the Overall Woman of Influence Award.  

Desserts, catered by Emma’s Convenience, will be offered after the program.

Fame Dance School’s Leanne Picray will entertain, and artist Rachel Browatzke will create a painting during the evening to capture the spirit of the event. That painting
will be sold at auction when it’s finished.

Oleksyn says it’s important for women to celebrate each other, even if it doesn’t always seem to come naturally.

“We’re not always keen to toot our own horn,” she said.  “Rhonda Morin is the one who notifies the winners, and so many times she gets a response from women who say, oh, I’m not worthy. Or women who will turn down the nomination. It’s tragic.

“And so that’s really the goal—to raise awareness and to raise the profile of women in our community.”

2023 Older Woman of Influence Isabel Myshaniuk (left) accepts her award from 2020 recipient Mary Anne Penner.  FILE PHOTO