Stand Tall: Jim Waddington
Meet one of the driving forces behind Orangeville’s annual Celebrate Your Awesome event, a salute to pride and diversity in Dufferin County.
Don’t be surprised if Jim Waddington can’t fit you into his Day-Timer.
A tireless community advocate and one of the driving forces behind Orangeville’s annual Celebrate Your Awesome event, a salute to pride and diversity in Dufferin County, Jim is also a working photographer. For years, his mission has been to turn up at all sorts of community events to take photos, which he shares on social media. From festivals to fashion shows and hundreds of other things in-between, Jim is on it.
Born in Montreal in 1960, Jim’s early life was challenging. His mother died when he was eight and his father when he was 18. Still, he earned a diploma in social sciences from Dawson College and later graduated with honours from the recreation leadership program at Humber College. For the next decade or so, he worked with at-risk youth at Charlestown school in Caledon.
In 1994, life threw Jim another curveball when he suffered a brain hemorrhage. “I had to learn to do everything over again,” he says. “That experience changed my direction and made me re-evaluate things.” No longer able to carry out his duties at Charlestown, he eventually started a photography business, work he enjoys immensely.
Outside of work and his involvement in Celebrate Your Awesome, Jim is a member of MENtors, a group of local men who help with the work of Family Transition Place. He has also served on various boards and committees, including the Dufferin County Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. And before Covid, he and Teena Avery cohosted a Rogers Cable show called Dufferin Life.
About five years ago, the seed of Celebrate Your Awesome took root in Jim’s mind, and he approached a few people about creating an event to celebrate 2SLGBTQ+, an initialism that refers to people who identify as two-spirited, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer. The plus sign is intended to include those who prefer other identity terms, such as intersex. Regular meetings at various Orangeville restaurants ensued.
Jim credits that group, which currently includes Wayne Townsend, Lisa Post, Ricky Schaede, Shannon Leighton, Greg Glasman and Julie Elsdon-Height, with turning the vision into a popular reality. “The team members are brilliant,” he says. “They all bring something to the table.”
Of the event they created, Jim says, “We looked at demographics and asked, ‘How do we introduce pride and diversity to our changing population?’” The result is an all-day, family-friendly celebration of everything that makes everyone unique, regardless of what that is. Though the pandemic forced the festivities to take place virtually for the past two years, plans are afoot for another live gathering on Mill Street in Orangeville next June.
Jim’s contributions to the community were recognized when he was awarded the 125th Anniversary of Confederation Medal. And this year, he won the Orangeville Arts and Culture Award for Community Arts Volunteer. In addition, Celebrate Your Awesome won the Creative Cultural Event Award.
Whether it’s a misunderstood minority or the community as a whole, Jim says, “David or Goliath, everyone needs to be recognized, because everyone plays an important part in our society. And we all have a need to be treated equally – and to stand tall.”
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