Kitchener – Five local seniors were honoured on this past weekend at Kitchener’s Senior of the Year ceremony. The Senior of the Year Award is a provincial program that recognizes residents aged 65+ with this prestigious award.

This year’s nominees have positively impacted hundreds of lives in our community. Each of them is a role model for active living and exemplifies what it means to be a community builder. The selection panel, made up of members of Kitchener City Council, the Mayor’s Advisory Council of Kitchener Seniors (MACKS) and the Volunteer Action Centre, faced an impossible task in selecting just one recipient.

“I was so honoured to present this year’s Senior of the Year award to Esseleyne Bell,” said Mayor Berry Vrbanovic. “I am always so inspired to see and learn about the contributions of these older adults. I’m glad we have such incredible role models to look up to here in Kitchener.”

Bell, who runs the Caribbean Kitchener at the Kitchener Market, has a special gift of understanding the needs of others and putting those needs ahead of her own. The selection panel was impressed with her efforts as a caregiver, connector and contributor in both the Caribbean community and more broadly across the region.

The award was presented as part of the Living Well Expo held May 26 at Kitchener City Hall. The Living Well Expo is an event that helps adults over 55 continue to live healthy, active lives.

Senior of the Year profiles

Esseleyne Bell – Recipient of the Senior of the Year Award 2018

As the owner and cook at Caribbean Kitchener, Esseleyne is able to give back by donating food to those less fortunate through catering and charitable events. She volunteers with a number of organizations including The Aids Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener Waterloo Area (ACCKWA), Congress of Black Women of Waterloo Region and the Caribbean Canadian Cultural Association (CCAWR). She is also a founding and very active member of her church.

Carol Johnston – Nominee

Carol is a peer support volunteer at Peer Connections, a program that supports those living with dementia as well as those who care for them. She also volunteers at the Rockway Centre Tuck Shop and is an important presence at the centre.

Wanda Cakebread – Nominee

Since retiring, Wanda has used her teaching background to benefit our local community as well as those in El Salvador. She has been involved with a number of organizations including the Waterloo Holocaust Education Committee, 100 Women Who Care – Wilmot, L’Arch, Congregation of the Resurrection and CanTeach Connections.

Wayne Ernst – Nominee

Wayne founded the Leukemia Awareness Fund in order to raise funds to support the Oncology Unit at Grand River Hospital. He is actively involved in planning and organizing a charity golf tournament that has raised over $165,000 for the unit since 2010. His efforts have had a positive contribution to those facing a life-threatening illness.

Heike Sixtus – Nominee

Heike became a fitness instructor at age 60 proving that it’s never too late to live a healthy life. At 76, she teaches 16 classes a week and takes care with each participant to ensure they are able to safely participate to their fullest potential. She has inspired many to feel strong and live a healthy lifestyle.


Photos attached:

Esseleyne Bell receiving Senior of the Year certificate

Senior of the Year nominees with Mayor and Chair of MACKS: Mayor Berry Vrbanovic, Wayne Ernst, Esseleyne Bell, Carol Johnston, Wanda Cakebread, Heike Sixtus, David Dirks - MACKS chair

Group of people posing for a photo with the mayor in council chambres