Mel Hebb Awards

PAANS would like you to help us recognize people in your community who have made a contribution to the inclusion of persons with disabilities in our province by submitting your nominations for the Mel Hebb Hour Glass Action Awards. The Hourglass Action Awards were launched in 1992 during National Access Awareness Week. That year, an hourglass symbolized the spirit of timely action the awards recognize.

In 2000, the name of the Award was changed to the Mel Hebb Hourglass Action Awards in honour of Mr. Melbourne Hebb, a former awards committee chair. Hebb, who passed away in October 1999, was the personification of dedicated action.

2017 Mel Hebb Award Winners

Encore Award Brian Tapper
Access Award Bill 59 Alliance
Exceptional Service Award Disabled Persons Commission
Andre McConnell Award Mayor Mike Savage


2016 Mel Hebb Award Winners

Encore Award Scott Jones
  Chase Valiant
Access Award The Prince George Hotel
Exceptional Service Award Louise Gillis
Andre McConnell Award Anne Black


Encore Award 2016:

Scott Jones

Scott Jones has made exceptional contributions to our community by encouraging people to overcome their fears, to not be afraid to overcome barriers, and to pursue full participation in the face of adversity. Scott has exhibited tremendous leadership by using his voice and story to advocate for inclusion, diversity, and acceptance to our differences. Scott was the victim of a hate crime in 2013, a crime which left him paralyzed. Scott has used his experience to create a movement called Don’t Be Afraid, and to lend his time and talent to other like-minded organizations such as Easter Seals Nova Scotia and Phoneix Yourth programs. Scott is an inspiration to all of us, and notably to youth, persons with disabilities, and the LGBTQ community.

Chase Valiant

This September Chase Valiant will be attending his final year in NSCCs Social Services program. Volunteering in his community for different organizations has been something he has done throughout his entire life starting with volunteering in a nursing home at age 12. Since his attendance at NSCC, chase has thrived in not only the classroom but also outside the classroom in volunteering for his community. The biggest tool chase has thrived on is turning his struggles into action and advocacy. Struggling with ADHD entering post secondary chase not only got on his feet with the help of ADHD coach Keith Gelhorn but also begun advocating along side him. Chase’s interview last year on CTV News on adult ADHD and his success after meeting Keith was only the start of his journey towards the advocacy of others. Chase’s more recent activities’ include building and leading a team of social services students and local musicians to Guatemala to work with children in orphanages. Film crew and director Wanda Taylor will be accompanying them to include his team as part of their documentary for the Red Carpet Film Festival. Chase has shown great initiative in his first years of college not only learning to advocate for him but also the diversity of others. Through his first years in college he has walked many paths touching many organizations and people along his way. He is a natural born leader who views success as meaningless without bringing the positive change of others along with him. Chase hopes to one day become an ADHD coach with Keith while pursuing his passion and career of psychology in university. Chase has shown initiative and creativity in becoming a leader. He is a published writer in Teens Now Talk and Adotpion today. In these articles he reflects his life, experiences and how his diversity has help build him. In this way Chase has proven how his disability has become his ability.

Access Award 2016:

The Prince George Hotel

Scott Travis, General Manager will receive the award on behalf of The Prince George Hotel

This nomination was given by a wheelchair user that travels to Halifax often.

'The Prince George is the only hotel within the Halifax area where I have found that I can stay safely and independently. This is in large part due to the staff who continuously go above and beyond to make me feel welcome and safe. I know if I run into any problems or have any accommodation needs they are more than willing to do whatever they can. They are truly knowledgeable about disabilities and always willing to learn in the areas that are unknown to them. When I had a group staying at the hotel for an event, their comment was it was like they were coming home and were instantly accepted despite their varying disabilities.'

Exceptional Service Award 2016:

Louise Gillis

Louise has spoken about her life experiences regarding having lived with more that one disability since the age of two. As a polio survivor, she was told that she could not attend nursing school or go to university; she defied this advice and became a nurse, graduating in the top ten in the province, working for 25 years in that career.  She attended university while working full time and graduated on the Deans’ list only to lose her career as well as her independence six months later.  She then found herself having to start over in a volunteer position

Louise joined the Canadian Council of the Blind in 1997 and organized many activities for other CCB members, led workshops, mentorship groups, served at grassroots, local, provincial and national board levels, as well as on an international level with the World Blind Union (WBU) and served on national advocacy committees such as Marine Atlantic Accessibility Advisory Committee, Consumer Access Group (CAG), Best Medicine Coalition (BMO), Society for Accessible Transportation for Cape Breton, Canadian Medical Association (CMA), Canadian Transport Agency (CTA), Canadian Ophthalmology Association (COA) and attended annual meetings, Seeing Beyond Horizons conference, among others.

She was instrumental in working with the provincial government to get approval in Nova Scotia for treatment for wet AMD and in establishing more clinics throughout the province to provide improved eye care.

She also worked with CNIB nationally as well as other experts to develop an education pamphlet for persons with diabetes living with vision loss. Louise assisted with the development of the Patient Charter for Persons with Vision Loss and developed, though CCB, programs for persons with vision loss such as exercise, curling, Getting Together with Technology (GTT) and the Eye Van.  She recently returned from a ten day stay in China with several eye care experts to advise people working at the Norman Bethune International Peace Hospital re the delivery of mobile eye care to outlying villages and continuing that care on an ongoing basis. 

The work which Louise has done, and continues to do, impacts all those living with vision loss locally, provincially, nationally and internationally.

Andre McConnell Award:

Anne Black

Anne Black has been employed in the field of community services since 1979. During this time she has worked in Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and in Nova Scotia, with both municipal and provincial governments. Her experience in the field of disability support spans more than 28 years, with her first job in this province, with Dartmouth City Social Services. Anne worked for many years as a front line Care Coordinator, where she was highly regarded by individuals with disabilities, their family members and community based disability organizations. Anne loved this work, most especially the interaction her clients, who have left her with many fond and happy memories.

Anne was recruited to work with the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services Head Office during the Community Supports for Adults Renewal Project in 2004. She has remained with the head office program team since this time. Anne currently works as a Program Coordinator for the Disability Support Program, where she has been instrumental in developing both the Independent Living Support and Alternative Family Support programs. These are both very successful and well utilized programs in our province. She is a "roll up the sleeves" person with a "can do attitude". Always with a smile on her face, and a commitment and self-described stubbornness in making sure that the "right thing" is achieved on behalf of persons with disabilities.

Anne supports every piece of work that happens in the Disability Support Program. Her combination of analytical skills and strategic thinking make her a huge asset to the Department of Community Services and the people served through the Disability Support Program.

Outside of work, Anne lives with her husband Grant in Fall River where she spends much of her spare time in her gardens. Anne and Grant are the parents of two wonderful daughters, Sarah and Amy and are the proud grandparents of two beautiful granddaughters Greta and Bridget.

We are so pleased that Anne is being recognized with the Andre McConnell Award, for her exemplary work. A sincere thank you Anne, for your many years of dedicated support and service to persons with disabilities in our province.

2015 Mel Hebb Award Winners

Encore Award Will Brewer
  Victoria Levack
Access Award Jim Smithson
  Jen Briand
Exceptional Service Award Amanda McCulloch
  Simon McFayden
Andre McConnell Award Damion Stapledon


Encore Award 2015:

Will Brewer

Will is an exceptional person who makes lasting connections with and impressions on everyone he meets. He has advocated for Team Possibles, Halifax NS Down Syndrome Society HNSDSS, and volunteer Board member of Voices at the Table, a voice for Self-Advocates for the Canadian Down Syndrome Society, on behalf of persons with Down Syndrome at and through multiple events, conferences and through his daily interactions. Will is both a person with a disability who has significantly contributed to his community and is also an advocate and supporter of people with Down Syndrome and organizations that support people with Down Syndrome. Will’s services to his community include duties as host and MC at public events, including Walk with Friends Event, advocate, liaison between community groups, board member and representative at provincial and national DS organizations, correspondence and communications and raising public awareness through many media interviews. Will is also an artist, photographer, active Team Possibles and Team City Art Hive leader, actor (starring as Corker in Wendy Lill’s 2012 production by the same name), special Olympics athlete, member of Friday Night Socials and The Club. Will has also forged ties for Team Possibles and the Down Syndrome Community with Saint Mary’s University Enactus Business Students, and faculty, and is completing a job skills program, excited to enhance his business skills. Will is forever focused on the rights of persons with DS and disabilities to be seen as people first and to celebrate their unique abilities. He demonstrates great pride and love for his community through all he does. But most importantly William MacPherson Brewer is an amazing, all rounded awesome human being with endless love, kindness, patience and compassion for everyone he meets.

Vicky Levack

Vicky grew up in Berwick with her Dad Mark, her Stepmom Joan and her younger sister Erica. Vicky was taught from a very young age that she was going to have to learn to advocate for herself and what her rights were when it came to her disability. She currently lives in Arborstone Enhanced Care in Halifax and is now using the knowledge she gained to help others. She cofounded an advocacy group called independence Now Nova Scotia. The objective of this group is to work with government to help them provide more age-appropriate, long-term care facilities for young adults. Vicky is also a published romance author, and social butterfly.

In terms of school, VICKY is pursuing a degree in women's studies, and hopes to become a counselor for abuse victims in women's shelters.

Access Award 2015:

Jim Smithson

Jim Smithson, general manager of Cineplex Cinemas Dartmouth Crossing, formed a partnership with Affirmative Ventures in the summer of 2014 in order to explore how his business could become more inclusive. He rejects oppressive training methods that do not allow for accommodations and encourages new ways of viewing productivity. This outlook supports the notion that employers must draw on the strength of their employees, of varying abilities, in order to celebrate individual diversity.

Mr. Smithson leads his team, comprised of over 65 employees, with respect, support and empowerment. It is because of him that Cineplex Cinemas Dartmouth Crossing has started challenging traditional policies, procedures and training programs. By continuing to create more employment opportunities for youth and young adults with disabilities he has entered a larger discourse centered on equal opportunity.

Jen Briand

Jen has worked avidly to create opportunities for young people to have fulfilling experiences in dance for over eight years.  She set up the Inclusive Movement courses at Halifax Dance, ran the Dance Club at Halifax Dance in partnership with SCRI Society "The Club" for over two years and has volunteered and run many dance programs with young people who have different abilities at Halifax Dance and The Club.  She has helped young people access mainstream programming and provided the support that people need to access high quality dance programming. Jen's work has inspired so many young people with diverse abilities to express themselves through the arts.

Exceptional Service Award 2015:

Amanda McCulloch

As a volunteer coach for both recreational and competitive Boccia in Halifax Metro, Amanda has taken the sport to new levels of achievement and consistently strives for the active involvement of youth with disabilities in the sport. Her interaction with players has always been done with the utmost level of caring, compassion and professionalism, and her dedication to providing this recreational activity to youth with disabilities has been without fail. Amanda is also an active Committee Member of the Boccia Association of Nova Scotia and working with other members of the Committee, has actively participated in Boccia demonstrations in other areas of the Province to help the sport.

Simon McFadyen:

Simon, better known as DJ Ace, is a youth community member that continues to go above and beyond his mandated duties in order to celebrate and encourage youth with disabilities.

Simon volunteered his musical services for the Art of Disability festival in July of 2014 but quickly became involved in all aspects of the event planning. His participation and ideas centered on how the Art of Disability festival could improve by way of increasing the participation of youth with disabilities. Simon brought to the team his positive attitude, incredible work ethic and infinite suggestions. His vast connections in the Halifax non-profit and musical community also helped promote the event by reaching a wider audience. Simon’s role as a volunteer was instrumental to the success of this event.

Simon has a long history of volunteering in his community, from the Canada Games, Tall Ships and the Blue Nose marathon to community events such as the Northern Lights Lantern Festival in the North End, Dartmouth’s Pirate Days and Halifax’s Parade of Lights.

Over the past two years, Simon has dedicated much of his time to developing his DJing skills, and continues to hone his craft with the help of his mentor, DJ Ronnie Medley. Simon’s increasing popularity as a DJ, particularly within the disability community, is a testament to his hard work and passion for DJing. Simon continues to volunteer at the The Club (SCRI Society) where he got his start as a DJ and also works part-time at the Halifax Association for Community Living.

Andre McConnell Award 2015:

Damion Stapledon

In 2004, Damion began his career with the Halifax Regional Municipality. During his time at HRM Damion created the Accessibility Committee for the Recreation Department, developed the Playbook, A Guide to Sport and Recreation Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities in Nova Scotia, sits as a staff member on the Accessibility Advisory Committee for HRM and over the past 4 years has developed a new policy and framework for HRM Recreation: A policy and framework that is based on feedback from the disability community, is based on Article 30 of the UN Convention on the Rights for Persons with disabilities and from  best practices across Canada. Damion is currently the chair of the Recreation for ALL foundation. The purpose of the foundation is to receive, manage, distribute, and administer a fund to charitable organizations and municipalities that are pursuing programs, initiatives, capacity building and research designed to reduce and eliminating barriers to participation in recreational opportunities caused by poverty, distance, disability, the built environment and/or culture. Damion’s drive to see a more accessible Nova Scotia was heightened in 2007, when his nephew (who will be 8 on June 16) was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy.  Damion, his wife Carolyn and their two children, Eden and Bodhi spend a lot of time with Van and his family. They get to see firsthand why fully participating in ones’ community is so important.

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