U of G Staff Member Receives Citizenship Medal

November 18, 2009 - Campus Bulletin

A University of Guelph staff member has been honoured with an Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship. Cyndy McLean, director of the University of Guelph's Health and Performance Centre, was one of 11 Ontarians honoured in a ceremony Monday evening at Queen's Park by David Onley, Ontario's lieutenant-governor.

Created in 1973, the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship recognizes people who have made exceptional long-term contributions to their communities.

“It was an absolutely unbelievable experience,” McLean said. “I really am speechless. I can’t describe how incredible it was, a once-in-a-lifetime event. I am honestly overwhelmed.”

McLean was honoured for being an advocate for people with disabilities. A former elite-level athlete who became paraplegic in 2003 after falling off a cliff, she is a national ambassador for the Rick Hansen Foundation and was instrumental in bringing the annual Wheels in Motion fundraising event to Guelph. In the past six years, hundreds have taken part in the annual event, raising awareness and more than $120,000 to help local people living with spinal cord injury.

McLean is now a member of the national and provincial wheelchair tennis teams. In 2006, she won a Guelph-YMCA Woman of Distinction Award for voluntary community service and chaired the Women of Distinction Awards in 2008.

Among those honoured Monday was 13-year-old Bilaal Rajan, the youngest-ever medal recipient, who was recognized for his work to help disadvantaged children around the world. Others recognized along with McLean are involved in education, health, environment, engineering and social innovation.

“The vast contrast of people was just amazing," she said. "I met the 13-year-old and he made me feel like an underachiever. Then at the other end of the age scale, there was an 85-year-old woman who has fostered 400 children during her lifetime and currently has an 11-year-old foster child who has been with her since age four. It was an impressive group.”

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