A Distinctive Badger: Our Muskoka Women Of Distinction 2014 Nominee

A Distinctive Badger: Our Muskoka Women Of Distinction 2014 Nominee

It has been, as Fiona might say, many moons since our last blog post. It was a busy summer spent catching up on paddle orders, getting our new equipment up and fully running, and fine-tuning the design of our new river paddle. Which by the way, does not have an official name as of yet – and we were kind of hoping you all could help us with that. Right now Fiona is referring to it as the XXXXXR or something. She says there are 5 X’s with each X symbolizing one year for each year we have been in business. The R stands for RIVER because I designed this paddle to be a river paddle. I’m not a big fan of the temporary name but more about that coming soon. Right now, the reason for this posting is to celebrate the work of a certain “Badger” in our sett!

This past October, local business and boat repair genius John Gall (of Johnny’s Boat Shop in Huntsville) and I took it upon ourselves to nominate Fiona for a YWCA Muskoka Women Of Distinction Award in the Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship category. She really deserves this recognition.

A few of Fiona’s keepsakes from the Women Of Distinction Awards Gala
Below text taken from YWCA information as seen on headshot/card in photo above:
Fiona Westner-Ramsay

Business Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Nominators: Mike Ramsay and John Gall

Fiona, co-founder of Badger Paddles, has grown her business in just five years applying her design sense, energy and ingenuity to build a strong brand recognized across North America and throughout the outdoor recreation communities. Through partnerships, effective social media and creative awareness raising campaigns, she has spearheaded initiatives including “Girls Portage Too” Posters, and the “Paddle In The Park Contest” which started with a few hidden paddles in Algonquin Park water trails and shares all the reasons why we need to spend time in nature every day. In addition to her business, Fiona also has created a valuable service for parents of children with Autism with her website www.autismzeitgeist.com sharing her own family’s experience with their son. She is celebrated and cherished for her spirit and courage, her advocacy and commitment to socially [and environmentally] responsible business practices and inspiring a better life.


Fiona described the evening of the Gala as “perfect” and while Fiona was not the recipient of an actual award itself, she was one of twenty-six amazing women who were honoured and celebrated by their families, friends, and peers during a very magical evening in Bracebridge. This event not only celebrates the distinguished work of select women and girls living and working in Muskoka, but also raises funds for the YWCA (and the many programs they offer to women, girls, and their families which help to enrich and change the lives of many). Not enough can be said about the great work that they do.

Fiona on stage, accepting her certificate while being honoured
for her work for Badger Paddles as well as her autism advocacy.
Photo credit: Chloe Ward

Badger Paddles was a donor for the fund raising event with a hand-painted “Raven” paddle and a Cub paddle too. Interestingly enough, I hear there was another Badger paddle there as well! A WaterColours™canoe paddle was also generously donated by Algonquin Outfitters as part of a canoe/kayak rental package. Apparently, as Fiona tells it, the items and services up for auction were fabulous. I would have been rather partial to the Marché portion of the evening, myself….

But I’m not much of a blogger. That’s more Fiona’s forte, so I really should let her tell it. Especially considering I stayed home that night with Makobe so Fiona could have a fun-filled and stress-free evening. (She really deserves stuff like this more often.) Congratulations Fiona! I hope you know that no one “digs” you more than us. So here is her story about her special night………….
~Mike Ramsay

#WODMuskoka 2014 in Fiona’s words:

It was an exciting evening full of jubilant celebration as I was joined by my loving family and two special friends, Chloe Ward (a young university student whose intelligence and passion is already proving to be an incredible gift to the world) and Andrea Wilson (who you may know as the Queen of the Dreaded Portage and also the first ever official female Paddle In The Park Contest paddle-hider, as well as owner and host – along with her husband Hap – of Cabin Falls Eco-Lodge in Temagami).

We all came away with something pretty, including a beautiful pair of hand made earrings from Jibe Jewellery for Beth (who later gifted them to me – just because she is a really nice mother-in-law like that), and some hand made soaps along with a delicious smelling candle for the lovely Andrea. There was even a gorgeous earring and necklace set for the young and gorgeous Chloe.

Beth and Alan Ramsay happily pose with their
daughter-in-law, Fiona, during the Marché-style event.
Photo credit: Chloe Ward

There were just so many incredible items to bid on and fun surprise bags too!  From handcrafted pottery, jewellery and metal work to a lunch with local MP Tony Clement. There were items to bid on like a week at a youth camp or a weekend stay at a lodge, plus handcrafted kid’s clothes, art, furniture and more… The list goes on and on. And then there was the food, wine, and spirits!

The community support for this fundraising gala was a true testament to the importance of the YWCA and the work that they do for women, girls and their families.  And while the bidding was generous, there is no doubt that many of the items were a great bargain for the winning bidders.

But it was more than great winnings and fabulous food…. By the end of the evening, besides our mementos and keepsakes, we also came away with something else; a renewed sense of energy, an inspired sense of self, and a reminder that while we may stand alone in this world, we are still one universal forest deeply connected by our shared roots as well as our branches that intertwine as we grow, individually and together.

My view of the audience (from the stage) as a WOD nominee.
(Taken during the live auction portion of the event)

We learned about the lives and deeds of the distinguished nominees like the work of a very young lady who started a teddy bear drive before she was ten years old; an award winning psychologist who works with people who have brain injuries; doctors and nurses who excel at their field, and who are strong advocates for breastfeeding and other women’s issues; an addiction specialist who is helping to change people’s lives;  the revered counsellors for those in need of aid due to sexual assault or support due to domestic violence or abuse; a freestyle skier, and Olympic gold medal winner, who started a “Women Into Sports” fund; the artists, actors and musicians who mentor and inspire our community; a farmer who puts real food on the tables of many families throughout Muskoka and beyond; another special and beautiful woman who manages the local foodbank and soup kitichen; a young and thoughtful clothing business shop owner who started a clothing drive for those in need; and an amazing woman who made it her life’s mission to create a better quality of life for those living with various disabilities (after surviving and recovering from extensive injuries that resulted from a tragic vehicle accident, herself).

We learned that there are some absolutely incredible women in this community who help to make Muskoka an even more beautiful place than it is already known to be. Yet we also came away with the knowledge that there is more work to be done.

All the 2014 Muskoka Women Of Distinction Nominees
Photo credit: MuskokaRegion.com

I cannot say enough what an amazing honour this has been for me… To be counted amongst the incredible women who are not only the roots that help to ground our community, but who are also the hopeful winds of change rustling the branches and leaves of Muskoka; there truly are no words to describe how grateful and spiritually exalted I feel to have been included as a part of it.

In all honesty, I am humbled by the extraordinary pursuits and successes of the other twenty six beautiful and passionate nominees. Their dedication to helping others, changing our society for the better, and the strength of character I witnessed on that stage and all around the theatre that night, created such a strong exuberant energy that the total effect transcended the evening and the event itself. I am truly inspired, by all of my Muskoka sisters, to do more and to do better.

Congratulations to all the ladies who were nominated, as well as a heartfelt congratulations to all the award recipients. I will never forget the evening we shared together and I will never forget any of you. Thank you for all that you do.

Andrea, Fiona, and Chloe at WOD Muskoka 2014

I would also like to thank the two gentlemen who nominated me, my husband Mike and John Gall, including all those who supported me with your kind words, your comments and messages. Please know that your love and friendship have meant the world to me and I will never forget any of you for it.

Thanks also to my family, the wonderfully supportive Beth and Allan, for making the long trip to Muskoka to be there to celebrate, as well as the beautiful Chloe who also travelled quite the distance to be by my side and share this special evening with me. Plus thanks to Andrea, the one with the lovely dark chocolate hair, for taking time out of her extremely busy work and family schedule to be my date! It really meant everything to me to share this special night with you all.

I am also very grateful to Sherry of SP Creates who helped design my outfit after being given a very sudden and last minute request to help create an original little black dress. She even made me a “scrunchie”hair accessory to match! Sherry is truly a talented artist and designer and I am in awe of her creativity. Thank you, Sherry, for making me feel so pretty!!

I would also like to thank the YWCA for hosting such an inspirational event that celebrates the passionate work and spirit of Muskoka women. Our community is a much better place because the YWCA exists within it, and I am truly grateful for all the women (and men) who dedicate their time and wonderful talents to ensuring the important programs and advocacy work continues.

But now, it is time for me to go and roll up my own sleeves… Because, as we all know, there is more work to do.

~Fiona Westner-Ramsay

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