John Johnston humbled by honour

His name is synonymous with the Youth and Volunteer Centre of Red Deer and the Boys and Girls Club of Red Deer & District.

His name is synonymous with the Youth and Volunteer Centre of Red Deer and the Boys and Girls Club of Red Deer & District.

Now John Johnston has a new title to add to his resume – Red Deer’s 2013 Citizen of the Year.

Johnston was given the nod at the Rotary Clubs of Red Deer and City of Red Deer gala at the Sheraton Hotel on Thursday evening.

Johnston said receiving the honour was both humbling and unexpected. Johnston said it takes three types of people to make a community work — those with time to give, those with a skill set and those with the dollars to help the other two do what they need to do.

“It takes all three,” said Johnston, who has worked at the Centre for 30 years. “Some people do one. Some people do all three. I am just so proud to be a citizen in Red Deer because it is an amazing community. It’s passionate and caring and I am just overwhelmed with this.”

The 54-year-old said he has real passion for the outdoor environment and working with young people that continue to inspire him every day. Johnston said adventure based programs are a wonderful way to learn life skills.

Johnston’s impressive portfolio includes working on the David Thompson Ride for Youth and developing Camp Alexo, west of Rocky Mountain House.

He even coached the Red Deer College King’s basketball team to a Alberta Conference Athletic Association title in 1998.

The Young Citizen of the Year went to RJ Willms.

The 25-year-old recently finished his third year in the University of Alberta’s education program. He is a 2005 graduate of Notre Dame High School.

Once Willms finishes his degree, he hopes to come back to Red Deer to teach.

Willms’ volunteer work that span from volunteering as a tutor at RDC to raising money and awareness for the victims of war in northern Uganda.

But it is more recent efforts of co-founding Technology Initiative For Immigrants and Disadvantaged Institute (TIFIDI) in 2012 that puts a smile on his face these days. The charity is designed to get computers in the hands of underprivileged and immigrant families that do not have the means to purchase the technology.

Willms said he doesn’t volunteer or lend a helping hand for the attention. Willms said he likes to think most people would do the same if given the opportunity.

“Finding out that I won was a huge surprise,” said Willms, an accomplished song writer and musician. “It’s interesting because I don’t about a lot of things I do with my friends. You don’t understand that the things you are doing are above average things or beyond status quo. It’s really cool to get some recognition for some of the things I have been doing.”

The Rotary Clubs of Red Deer hand out the two prestigious awards every year at a spring gala.

Acting Rotary Club president Ken Johnston said the awards recognize those who do not seek but deserve the applause. He said the awards are given to those who are make a commitment to building the community.

Motivational speaker and former CFL great Terry Evanshen was the guest speaker. Speaking before the gala, Evanshen said he wanted to leave the audience with a desire to become better people.

Evanshen said he hopes to have touched at least one person in the audience with his story.

In 1988, Evanshen was involved in a serious car accident. When he woke form his coma, his memory of his entire life was completely erased and he began a long road to recovery. Evanshen said part of his recovery is telling his story to motivate and inspire others.

crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com

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