On March 8, 2017, the YWCA Banff will present three extraordinary women leaders in our community with the 3rd annual Bow Valley Women of Distinction Awards. 

The awards recognize women who through their own initiative, ability and effort have made an exemplary achievement in their field, women who are outstanding role models because of their goals and the way they have achieved these goals, women who have made substantial contributions to the social fabric of their communities in unique and individual ways.

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From left to right: Mary Buckingham; Keri Martens, Janet Townsend

Mary Buckingham moved to Banff with her husband Jim in the 1970’s, and she has been part of the social fabric of the Bow Valley community ever since. Through her professional and volunteer roles with many local agencies, Buckingham has worked with children, seniors and everyone in between. For approximately 25 years, Buckingham worked as a librarian at the Banff Elementary School and over this time she fostered the love of reading in many students. She also worked at the Banff Library and helped students as an English tutor. Motivated by her love of the outdoors, Buckingham and her husband shared their passion for canoeing and ski touring with many friends over the past four decades. She currently serves on the board of the Banff Senior Citizens Society and Rundle Memorial United Church and is a past board member of YWCA Banff. Buckingham has been a volunteer victim advocate with Bow Valley Victim Services from 2000 to 2007, and was very active in assisting residents and visitors in various crisis situations. She joined the BVVS Board of Directors in 2008, and became the president in 2011. She continues to serve in this position.

Keri Martens has served with the Lake Louise Fire Department for 18 years, 15 of those as chief. In this time, she has answered nearly 1,500 calls – a milestone she celebrated at a surprise party organized in her honour by the town residents in 2012. At that time she was also recognized for her service to the community by the Office of the Fire Commissioner of Alberta, with the Alberta Emergency Services Award. Back in 2003, Martens took on a big responsibility as the new chief, and she has worked tirelessly since then to serve the Lake Louise community. Under her management, the department has grown exponentially from a volunteer-run organization to a department with two full time positions with the rest paid on-call positions. She is one of only a dozen female fire chiefs in the country.

Janet Townsend has been helping people most of her life – as a social worker for 35 years, and as founder and president of Canmore’s Hearts and Hands Foundation for the last 12. With more than 36 volunteer trips to Guatemala organized under Townsend’s leadership, the Hearts and Hands Foundation assists hundreds of Mayan people in improving their daily lives, while fostering cross-cultural understanding. Townsend’s charitable organization facilitates health and education programs and helps to provide basic life necessities to those in need, while at the same time giving Bow Valley residents the opportunity to experience a meaningful intercultural exchange, by engaging the local community in global voluntourism.


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These inspiring women will be honoured with the award at Change Makers, celebrating International Women‘s Day and the 2017 Bow Valley Women of Distinction on March 8th.

This year, the keynote speaker is an acclaimed author, Amanda Jetté Knox. Mother of 14-year-old transgender daughter Alexis and wife of transgender wife Zoe, she shares their family journey through her blog Maven of Mayhem to advocate for LGBTQ rights.

Change Makers will take place on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 in Margaret Greenham Theatre at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, followed by a post-event reception in Maclab Bistro. Tickets are $20 and are available through the Banff Centre Box Office.


2015 Bow Valley Women of Distinction

2015 Bow Valley Women of Distinction

L to R: Carla Pauls; Corrie DiManno; Bev Carrick

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2016 Bow Valley Women Of Distinction

2016 Women of Distinction

L to R: Carolin J. Crofts, Madeline Crilley, Dr. Priscilla Wilson