Heroes Among Us
Once again this year, we profile ten exceptional “local heroes,” citizens whose extraordinary commitment and service make these hills a better place to live for all of us. We also offer our annual review of books and CDs by the writers, illustrators and musicians in our midst.
I confess to having had a certain jaded ennui about the Olympics. The sometimes nasty politics, the billion-dollar sponsorship deals, the cost overruns (again!), the judging and drug scandals, even the milliseconds that ludicrously separate “heroes” from “losers.” What was to like? Well, as I have been reminded in the past year or two, it’s the athletes themselves, of course.
When I heard a couple of years ago that my former neighbour Sarah Bonikowsky had made the Olympic rowing team, I felt a rush of emotion. Suddenly, the very sweet, bright, somewhat shy young girl who used to babysit our cats would be out there testing herself in front of millions. Sarah had gone away to university and I hadn’t seen her for years, but like so many others, I set my clock for 4 a.m. to get up to watch the final race.
This summer, I did see Sarah again. She is now a confident and composed young woman and she had come home to attend Mono’s Big Day Out, a community festival that included recognition of the town’s Olympians. As each athlete stepped forward and said simply their name, their sport and the Olympiads in which they had competed, I felt again that curious rush of emotion, this time clearly shared among the whole crowd. On that sunny day, the grand ideals of the Olympics – too often lost amid the hype and sentimental clichés – were made real and personal again in the faces of the athletes who are our friends and neighbours.
As we were assembling the photos of local Olympians to go with this issue’s coverage of Orangeville’s Torch Relay celebrations, Sarah’s father, Gary, also sent along his journal entry from the day after her race – and then generously agreed to let us share his moving, parent’s-eye account of, yes, what truly is the agony and the ecstasy of Olympic competition.
But it’s not just on such celebrated world stages as the Olympics where individuals show their mettle. Once again this year, we profile ten exceptional “local heroes,” citizens whose extraordinary commitment and service – some of them in the public forum, some of them quietly in the background – make these hills a better place to live for all of us.
And along with them, we also offer our annual review of books and CDs by the writers, illustrators and musicians in our midst, many of whom toil long and hard in isolation before they boldly send their efforts out for public judgment.
A grateful year-end toast to all of them!