By Chelsea Emode
The City of Ottawa’s eighth annual awards gala for volunteers, dubbed the VOscars, will feature a musical performance by OrKidstra, the Centretown-based volunteer-run program that offers free music lessons to children from low-income families.
The event, organized by Volunteer Ottawa to promote volunteerism in the city, will be held on April 19 at Ottawa City Hall and MCed by Boom 99.7 radio host Dylan Black.
“We’re going to be very proud to be part of the VOscar event,” said Tina Fedeski, the co-founder and executive and artistic director of OrKidstra. “I think it’s very, very, very, important to show our appreciation and how much we value everything they do to make the world a better place.”
OrKidstra, based in the Bronson Centre, has been involved in the VOscars since the inaugural ceremony in 2011, when the group was nominated for an award, but this will be the first time that OrKidstra students will perform at the event. The group currently works with 600 kids from 42 linguistic and cultural backgrounds from ages 5 through 18, and “integrates musical training from professional teaching artists with social development,” which “instills commitment, perseverance, dedication and passion,” said Fedeski.
The gala is “probably the premiere event in Ottawa for recognizing volunteers,” said Marie Eveline, the executive director of Volunteer Ottawa.
Volunteers can be nominated in five different categories, including the Mayor’s Award for Volunteer Spirit, the Outstanding Youth Volunteer award, the Outstanding Senior Volunteer award, and the Outstanding Volunteer Program award. Nominations are open until Feb. 26, and can be made through the Volunteer Ottawa website.
The VOscars will also present a Lifetime Achievement Award. This year’s recipient will be James McCracken, who will be recognized for his work at United Way Ottawa and with the University of Ottawa Heart Institute.
The ceremony also serves as a fundraiser for Volunteer Ottawa, with proceeds from the $90 tickets going toward programming efforts, said Eveline.
“We run a silent auction at it and also have a few items for raffle. Usually Senators tickets or an artist’s painting,” she said.
Organizers are using the Twitter hashtag #VOscars to garner the attention of potential teenage volunteers, Eveline said. Ontario requires secondary students to complete 40 hours of community service before they graduate.
“We’ve also found that once youth get the volunteering bug, a lot of them do much more than the 40 hours and they see volunteering as a lifelong activity,” Eveline said. “The hashtag also encourages them; they may just get interested because of the VOscar trend, but then they go to the website and see opportunities to volunteer.”
“Volunteers are the heart and soul of our organization. We could not do what we do without our board and the help from our volunteers,” said Fedeski, of OrKidstra. “We are so dependent on our volunteers and passionately believe in them and are incredibly appreciative.”