Written by Riley Witiw
FOR THE HERALD – May 27 2016
A long-time mental health advocate who hails from Lethbridge is one of the recipients of the newly established Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers.
On April 12, Governor General David Johnston presented the medal to Austin Mardon, who grew up in Lethbridge. The presentation took place during an inaugural ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa commemorating 55 individuals receiving the award.
The Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers is a national honour presented by the Governor General recognizing Canadians who have distinguished themselves by improving their communities with sustained, unpaid contributions.
“Awards like the Sovereign’s Medal are important because volunteers give something of themselves,” said Mardon. “A lot of people expect the government to do everything, but when people get together and contribute, we are able to do a lot more and reach more people than the government alone.”
Mardon received the award for multiple factors that met the award’s criteria, such as his longstanding advocacy for individuals with schizophrenia and his position as co-chairman of a psychosocial self-support group for people with schizophrenia called Unsung Heroes. Additionally, Mardon was recognized for his status as chairperson of the Clubhouse Society of Edmonton and Area – an organization that runs a clubhouse where those who are isolated and living with mental disabilities can receive support and express themselves through various forms of media.
“The Sovereign’s Medal means a lot because it represents something that I’ve dedicated my life to. I like to say I’m a professional volunteer and I look at it as an honour to serve. I tell people you get a lot more out of volunteering than the person that you’re helping gets. You benefit a lot more, you feel better about yourself, and you feel like you’re making a difference,” said Mardon.
Former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson originally presented Mardon with the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award (CCA) for his contributions in 1999. The CCA was the predecessor to the Sovereign’s Medal and was created over 20 years ago to acknowledge those who volunteered their time and efforts for the benefit of others; however, this award was incorporated into and replaced by the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers in 2015, which continues to grow the legacy of the Caring award.
“Existing CCA recipients, such as Mr. Mardon, are eligible to receive the medal to complement their award,” said Marie-Pierre BŽlanger, a Media Relations Officer at the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General.
Nominees for the Sovereign’s Medal are reviewed and assessed by the Medal for Volunteers Advisory Committee. Qualified representatives across the country who have experience in volunteering form the committee; however, candidates can be nominated by anyone through the online submission process that can be found on the Governor General’s website at https://caring.gg.ca/en/.