Last week I had the distinct honour to be one of the introductory speakers for this year’s recipient, Toula Sakellaris of the Sudbury Sunrisers Paul Harris Award. What an absolutely perfect night and so fitting for one of Greater Sudbury’s most generous citizens.
Each of us is an individual with our own story of how we came to be who we are today. Our individuality creates our uniqueness; our similarities create the tapestry of a strong community. Many people understand and recognize the commitment of a person who receives the Paul Harris award and Toula exemplifies what is expected. When Gerry Lougheed Jr. asked the other recipients in the room to stand, I can honestly say WOW!! So many of them are people I personally know and already am aware of many of their contributions. They, too exemplify the definition of giving beyond self. No wonder Greater Sudbury is known for its volunteerism, the role models grow with each passing year.
Toula and I share our similar backgrounds Toula is first-generation Canadian I am second. Both families chose the restaurant business to build their foundation, to literally feed their families, provide the basic needs, and teach the importance of being Canadian. And when I arrived in Sudbury in the early 80s looking for a connection to home, one of the treasures I found was the Apollo. Toula and her late husband, George reminded me so much of how my dad, uncles, aunts, cousins, siblings and I interacted with staff and customers. When one of my friends came to Sault Ste. Marie one weekend, she commented how unusual it was to visit in a restaurant. When I think about that, I smile the restaurant was definitely a meeting place and if you ever go to the Apollo you can witness Toula and Annette visiting with customers, building lasting relationships.
So much so that even today I wonder how it is that I am so is blessed with her in my life? When my Uncle had to come for cancer treatments, the Apollo is where we came for our food. My father and uncle appreciated her care and concern. She made a difficult time easier. When I managed to get into a serious car accident, once again Toula, now armed with Annette ensured I was taken care of. When I became a guardian of a child, Toula became a Thia to Leila and Leila asked this morning when she could see Thia’s award. Tough times Toula is there for so many of us. A true friend is also there to celebrate your successes, encourage you on your dreams, and listen when you are confused.
Yes, on a macro level Greater Sudbury has moved forward in a kinder, healthier way because of Toula’s contributions. On the micro level, there are many of us whose lives are richer, who know through her efforts we can all give of ourselves to those in our families, in our workplaces, in the community. Thank you Toula for being the bright star that guides us.