The 2019 Women of Distinction Awards will be presented on May 9th, 2019 as part of our annual Change Makers event, at the Rolston Recital Hall of the Banff Centre. Each year, Change Makers is our opportunity to celebrate the trailblazing women of the Bow Valley who are affecting positive change on a local and global scale.

YWCA Banff is proud to host these awards, recognizing local women who through their own initiative, ability and effort have demonstrated exemplary achievement in their fields. The awards recognize women who are outstanding role models and have made substantial contributions to the local fabric of our community in unique ways.

Meet the 2019 Bow Valley Women of Distinction: 


Patricia Grayling

Canmore’s Patricia Grayling is a passionate and tireless volunteer. She has served in every position of the executive of the Canmore Hospital Auxiliary, and as President of the Anglican Church Women. Known by many as the “Dessert Queen”, Pat coordinates the desserts for Canmore Food & Friends and many other community dinners throughout the year. Pat is one of the original Mountain Grannies, known for their popular annual Chili-in-a-Bowl fundraiser to support grandmothers, women and children in Africa. Whether Pat is paying visits to patients and residents of Canmore General Hospital on Christmas Day, working with children as part of the ‘Friends of the Canmore Library’ summer programs, or providing welcome kits for women arriving at YWCA’s Bridge House, her engagement and leadership encourages others to get involved in their communities.


Nan Hughes-Poole

Banff mezzo-soprano Nan Hughes-Poole is described by her peers as a passionate advocate for education, arts and Banff heritage. Nan’s volunteer involvement has spanned the entire Bow Valley through music, church, school and Girl Guides. For years she supported the Banff Community Christmas Concert as a performer, coach and volunteer organizer; supported Banff Community High School musicals as a voice coach and mentor; and inspired music through her involvement with the St. Mary’s Catholic Church Choir. She recently participated in The Shoe Project as a public speaking and voice coach, empowering the women participating in the project to tell their stories of immigrating to Canada.


Karen Hunter Sorensen

Karen Hunter Sorensen has served as the Mayor of Banff since 2010, and as a member of Town Council since 2004. Karen worked for more than 30 years in the tourism industry in public relations and sales, and has extensive experience working with boards. She has served as a school board trustee for Canadian Rockies Public Schools, and on the Banff Lake Louise Tourism Board, Bow Valley Regional Transit, Bow Valley Regional Housing, Municipal Planning Commission and the Development Appeal Boards.

As Mayor, Karen is committed to her goals of keeping Banff affordable, aiming for a three percent vacancy rate in rental housing, expanding transit and traffic solutions, and championing sustainable tourism. Described as a hard worker who focuses on meaningful actions that create change, Karen is a positive role model as both a woman in politics, and a tenacious and engaged leader committed to improving the quality of life for the people in her community.

The Dr. Priscilla Wilson Memorial Award

This year’s awards will include the presentation of the first annual Dr. Priscilla Wilson Memorial Award to long-time Banff resident Barb Pelham.

Barb Pelham began her career at age nine sweeping sidewalks, washing windows and organizing inventory for her parent’s business, Canada House Gallery. She developed a passion for the study of art and anthropology and attended University of British of Columbia, where she was exposed to indigenous art and later inspired to attain national recognition for the Canada House. She spent 10 years as manager of the gallery and was acknowledged for her accomplishments when the Art Dealers Association of Canada accredited Canada House in 2000. That same year, Barb and Eric Pelham purchased the gallery outright, and Barb continued to launch innovative ways to engage clients with Canadian art. Canada House would ultimately represent 50 paints and 20 sculptors, promoting Canada’s finest artists with visitors from around the world.

As a self-taught entrepreneur, Barb learned early in her career the value of staying connected to the Banff business community. She played an active role in tourism marketing, furthering public education and appreciation of art in tourism. She served on public boards such as the Banff Art Committee, Banff Heritage Tourism, Banff Lake Louise Tourism and the Banff Art Walk. As a significant, long-time sponsor for the Banff Centre’s Midsummer Ball Weekend Silent Auction, Barb was a significant partner in generating strategies for growth and engaging additional sponsors and donors to benefit the national arts community.

Join us on May 9, 2019 at the Rolston Recital Hall, Banff Centre, where this year’s recipients will be honoured at Change Makers, our annual celebration of women who impact change and inspire action.

Tickets available online through the Banff Centre Box Office.