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Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta

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Women of Inspiration Series

Presented by Syncrude

Since the beginning of time women have been making huge contributions within their families, their workplaces, their communities and the world. Locally, there has been a real need to recognize Wood Buffalo’s hard working, critical thinking, intelligent and inspirational women. Women who challenge gender roles in the workplace and at home, women who break boundaries for the greater good in their communities, and women who do what it takes to help the causes they’re passionate about. These are the type of women that are recognized and celebrated through the Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta Women of Inspiration Series, presented by Syncrude.

The overall goal of Women of Inspiration is to recognize women throughout the Wood Buffalo region who inspire others, break new ground or old barriers, and help create positive change. The series also aims to show local girls positive role models who live right here in our communities.

Christina Traverse

Christina Traverse, born and raised in Fort McMurray, is an inspiration in so many ways, with her greatest quality being perseverance. Christina has always had the dream to run a team of dogs. As a young girl, she used to hook up her younger brother to a sled and make him run. Once she got her childhood dog, a German Shepherd by the name of Cheyenne, she figured out how to hook her up and go for a run. Christina began running dogs in 2008, started racing in 2011, and in the winter of 2013 Christina represented Fort McMurray as a Dog Musher (Mush McMurray) in the Yukon Quest. This is considered the most difficult dog sled race in the entire world. Christina faced a lot of adversity during this race including sexist behaviour from the other racers. She also fell extremely ill during the race and had to drop out early. Despite all of this she plans to return and try again in 2015. Christina is an amazing advocate for animals. She has served on the board of directors at the Fort McMurray SPCA for two years and is still an active member. Christina is also the president of the board of directors of the Justin Slade Youth Foundation. Justin Slade was Christina’s cousin who lost his life following a tragic accident on Highway 63, so she is extremely passionate about the foundation. To pay the bills, Christina works as a local realtor at Sutton Group in her “spare time,” as she refers to it. She is such a busy young woman; it’s a wonder if she has any time at all to rest!

Ana Maria Mendez

More than five years ago, Ana Maria Mendez moved to Fort McMurray from Peru with her husband. Shortly after her arrival, her background as an artist and a teacher allowed her to step right into the role of promoting arts and culture at the MacDonald Island Park, now known as ONE Rec or the Regional Recreation Corporation of Wood Buffalo. During her time at MacDonald Island Park she has moved from working as a coordinator to now operating as the Manager of Arts & Culture, all the while continuing to have a huge impact on our community in the area of arts. Ana Maria has been involved in multiple art events during her time in Fort McMurray. Most prominently she runs the Macdonald Island Community Art Gallery. She has played a key role in coordinating events that add vibrancy to our city. Ana Maria has done much to influence women in our community through the Artists in Residency program, and she is constantly doing school visits and hosting high school art shows to encourage our young people to pursue the arts. Not only that, but Ana Maria has found innovative ways to use art to support our Social Profit sector. She has coordinated charity art shows, where individual artists can donate their artwork to be auctioned off, with the proceeds going towards a specified charity in the area. Ana Maria dedicates her time and energy to making Wood Buffalo a better place through the arts. She encourages our young people and women in our community to believe in themselves, and in their abilities.

Diane Shannon

Diane Shannon moved to Fort McMurray from Edmonton six years ago, and has been a tireless advocate of Fort McMurray by embracing the community, celebrating its opportunities, and working to alleviate its challenges - especially when it comes to the social profit sector. Diane has been at the helm of the United Way of Fort McMurray for the last six years, and her leadership is based on a model of camaraderie, team-work, understanding, and above all empowerment. Diane tirelessly researches and monitors community needs to ensure United Way meets its strategic objectives for resource investments into 70 programs and partnerships in three priority areas that help move people from poverty to realizing possibility, strengthens community and supports kids to become all they can be. Diane recently led the effort that saw the United Way of Fort McMurray become one of only 82 charitable and non-profit organizations across Canada that received accreditation under Imagine Canada Standards program. She also leads the Homelessness Initiative Strategic Committee (HISC) and has helped change the way our region works across organizations and sectors to tackle the issues around homelessness. Diane’s tireless efforts to sustain our social profits have been acknowledged nationally with a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. Alberta Venture named her one of the Top 50 Most Influential Albertans in 2011, and the same honour came from YMM magazine in 2013. This summer she was honoured by Xi Alpha Xi, a chapter of the Beta Sigma Phi Sorority, as City Woman of the Year as well as for her leadership of the United Way, her work on homelessness, and for all that she does for Wood Buffalo.

For a complete list of the Girls Inc. of Northern Alberta Women of Inspiration nominees presented by Syncrude, or to nominate a woman who has been an inspiration to you, please visit: