Karen Letofsky Awarded Order of Canada

March 1 2009

In recognition of her contribution to suicide prevention in Canada, including the development of community-based assistance programs for people at risk or in distress, Karen Letofsky, Executive Director of Distress Centres, was named a Member of the Order of Canada in December 2007. The Order of Canada is the country’s highest honour and “recognizes a lifetime of outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation.”

Karen is also one of the driving forces behind the B.A.D. Ride (Bikers Against Despair) in Toronto. The B.A.D. Ride has been raising money for the Distress Centres for eleven years now. The 2008 B.A.D. Ride had more than 1320 motorcycles and more than 1500 riders that raised over $200,000 in funds in support of the services of Distress Centres.

“I am extremely grateful for the award because of the light it shines on Distress Centres’ mission and programming,” said Karen. “Recognition at this level also provides an opportunity to open doors on behalf of those whose lives are full of despair and suffering,” she continued. “I share this award with all the agency’s volunteers and staff, and with the many others who have made major contributions in this field but go unrecognized. This award has validated my life’s work, but the true honour for me has been to work in an organization that for over 40-years has been a pioneer in suicide prevention and crisis support services.

Karen’s involvement with Distress Centres dates to 1979, when she created the Survivor Support (SSP), an innovative counseling service for individuals and families bereaved by suicide. In 2001, in response to an identified gap in services, SSP expanded its mandate to also support those impacted by homicide. The program continues to serve as a prototype for other communities that are developing similar services.

In 1995, Karen became Co-Executive Director of Distress Centres, and under her stewardship beginning in 2001, all of the telephone Distress Centres in Toronto merged into one networked, volunteer-based agency. She became Executive Director of the consolidated Distress Centres in 2003.

The 2009 B.A.D. Ride in support of Distress Centres is a new 165 km signed and unescorted ride passing through picturesque villages, such as Cheltenham, Terra Cotta and Glen Williams, nestled on the banks of the Credit River. Climbing the escarpment to Mount Hope for an afternoon of live music and great food under the wings of the classic aircraft and fantastic warbirds at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum.

The Grand Prize giveaway is a 2009 Harley-Davidson Cross Bones! You will get at least one draw ticket with your minimum registration of $75, and an extra draw ticket for every $50 you raise!

Check out www.thebadride.com for this year’s upcoming ride on May 31, 2009 or to donate directly to the Distress Centres. MMM

Karen Letofsky Award winner

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