Tammy Kirkwood and Julia Felgner have a lot in common.
They’re both advocates. They share a desire for helping the less fortunate. They’re intelligent and independent. And, both were given the highest honour bestowed on local women during an event Wednesday night.
Kirkwood was named the Orillia Business Women’s Association’s Nelle Carter Woman of the Year, while Felgner picked up the Lisa Brooking Young Woman of the Year trophy during a gala at the Best Western Plus Mariposa Inn and Conference Centre.
Kirkwood, vice-chair of the FAIR Association of Victims for Accident Insurance Reform, was surprised to hear her name called.
That surprise was evident in the first two words of her speech, only one of which can be repeated here: “holy.”
Kirkwood used to take care of and counsel people with disabilities.
She was critically injured after her vehicle was hit by a dump truck in 2008.
“And then I became my client,” she said.
She spent six months in three hospitals and was in a coma for weeks, having suffered brain damage. Dealing with insurance companies throughout the ordeal was a nightmare, and it led her to volunteer with FAIR.
“The one thing women have consistently done is adapt,” she said.
She thanked Karen Layne, who nominated her for Woman of the Year.
“You have truly proven to me that I’m more than I thought I was,” Kirkwood said.
Like Kirkwood, Felgner is passionate about a number of causes.
She is a member of the student council at Twin Lakes Secondary School, overseeing multiple events and fundraisers.
She has also volunteered with Me to We and raised money for organizations including the Salvation Army and the Lighthouse, all while maintaining an academic average of 98.6 per cent.
She credited the influential people in her life for her success, especially her mother.
“(She told me to) take my passions and interests and use them in my advocacy as well as my work,” Felgner said.
She, too, was shocked when it was announced she’d won the Young Woman of the Year award.
“I was very surprised. The other two nominees are so inspiring. I was just awestruck,” she said. “I won the award for them as well as for all the other females in high school.”
Felgner said it was “an honour to be presented with this award.”
“It’s an honour to represent the voices of other girls my age,” she said. “You can achieve anything, especially as a female.”
Felgner and Kirkwood hadn’t met before Wednesday’s event, but when the two had some quiet time together after the ceremony, they hit it off like old friends.
Kirkwood had some advice for the teenager.
“As we age, we can become less fearless and we worry about what people think,” Kirkwood told her. “Women need to know we have our own strengths. It just gets downplayed a lot.”
Orillia Business Women’s Association president Shelle Hossack echoed that sentiment when she acknowledged the nominees at the start of the event.
“Listen to your hearts, be yourself, be true to yourself and be real. You will do anything you set your minds to,” she said. “Tonight is your night to be acknowledged and appreciated.”
Kirkwood was nominated alongside Allison Abbott, Sheelagh Gunn and Shannon Shivers.
Joining Felgner on the list of nominees for Young Woman of the year were Cassidy Byers (Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School) and Gillian Hunnisett (Orillia Secondary School).
The Woman of the Year award has been handed out since 1991, while a Young Woman of the Year has been named since 2005.