High Five, marking the fifth year of kicking ass

KickassCanadians.ca launched in January 2011. In honour of the site’s fifth year, here are a few reflections and tributes.

Kickass Collage March 2015

On the homepage, I explain that I started Kickass Canadians to share the “insights and experiences” of some of our country’s most inspiring people—those who are unique and remarkable, but also generous and uplifting. (And kind; I call the site “the jerk-free zone.”) People who bring about change, who make things happen for the better. People who may already be well known, or who simply deserve to be.

That was what I had in mind when I launched the site. What I didn’t foresee were the opportunities for building community, fostering connections and fundraising for charity. (I wrote a bit more about this for a CARE Canada blog last December.) It’s been amazing to forge a partnership with CARE Canada and to bring together some of the Kickass Canadians, and other members of the public, to direct attention to such an important organization. It’s been a gift to witness the generosity of so many artists and entrepreneurs who donated their time and talents to the first three Kickass fundraisers (to date). It’s been a privilege to connect the Kickass Canadians when one has been in a position to help another—be it with access into an industry, medical advice for a child in need, etc.

I’ve been deeply touched by the support and enthusiasm shown by the Kickass Canadians. Just in time for the site’s fifth year, James Raffan suggested I order lapel pins for each of the Kickass Canadians. (At the risk of embarrassing him, I’ll also mention that James helped pay for their manufacturing.)

Kickass Pin

Kevin Newman pointed out that I should collect selfies of each of the Kickass Canadians wearing their pins to make a Kickass Collage. Andrew Furey made time to send me a shot while on a mission in Port-au-Prince, Haiti with his non-profit organization, Team Broken Earth. Julie Drury told me she keeps her pin on the inspiration board for her young daughter, Kate, while she undergoes a bone marrow transplant. And so on. It’s been incredibly moving.

Honestly, as someone who spends a lot of time working solo behind the scenes, it isn’t always my instinct to seek connection with others. It has been a blessing to see what can happen when you open yourself up to it.

To mark the fifth year of KickassCanadians.ca, I put together what we have so far of the Kickass Collage. You’ll see that each contributor sports a lapel pin (or earring, or broach, or hat badge, or…) based on the fabulous logo design by Thomas J Bradley.

L-R, top to bottom: Amanda Putz, Al Charron, Anita Stewart, Blaine Penny, Bif Naked, Joel McConvey, Andrew Furey, Colin Harris, Julie & Kate Drury, Esther the Wonder Pig (and here dads, Steve & Derek), James Raffan, Henry Smith, Lorraine Campbell, Lee Demarbre, Matthew Edison, Niobe Thompson, Kevin Newman, Stephen Beckta, Roy Henry VIckers

L-R, top to bottom: Amanda Putz, Al Charron, Anita Stewart, Blaine Penny, Bif Naked, Joel McConvey, Andrew Furey, Colin Harris, Julie & Kate Drury, Esther the Wonder Pig (and her dads, Steve & Derek), James Raffan, Henry Smith, Lorraine Campbell, Lee Demarbre, Matthew Edison, Niobe Thompson, Kevin Newman, Stephen Beckta, Roy Henry Vickers

I also asked the Kickass Canadians to share something they’ve learned over the last few years, since I first interviewed them for this website. In the spirit of fairness, I figure I should open up on the subject, too, so here is one of the lessons I’ve learned since launching the site: “You never know what’s out there waiting for you. Sometimes it’s better not to decide in advance.”

And now, lessons learned by some of the Kickass Canadians in the collage:

“No matter how successful you think you have become, you need to stay humble and hungry. Success in any area of life is not a sprint, but a marathon. It never ends. Only the challenges change. To paraphrase Vince Lombardy, perfection is never attainable, but by striving for it, you can reach excellence.” Stephen Beckta, Beckta, Play & Gezellig owner

“Speak your mind and never take it personally how someone else reacts. Sometimes all that people need is a hug or a snack. So I carry snacks with me and make sure I smell good.” Lorraine Elizabeth Campbell, When We Play founder

“In Canada we have a lot to be proud of and happy about. We live in such a beautiful, democratic country, and though we all have our issues and problems with how some things are done at times, if we were to throw all our problems and complaints in a pile and saw every other country’s citizens’ complaints and problems, we’d quickly and gratefully grab ours back!”Al Charron, Rugby Canada manager, Player Advancement & Alumni Relations

“Be patient and work hard.” Lee Demarbre, Mayfair Theatre co-owner

“The most important lesson I’ve learned in the last four years is what I have learned from distance running and from my daughter, Kate—a lifestyle of fitness, and the heart of a little girl who has faced so many challenges: Life is hard and it is a marathon. The best way to approach it is with determination and focus. Knowing that all you can do is your best. Planning is important, but so is being ready to adapt at any moment. Putting one foot in front of the other, pushing through the difficult times, waiting for the light to emerge, and listening to your inner voice—letting it speak to you and guide you—is how you get from moment to moment and from day to day. Anything can happen, and there will be things that will happen that are beyond your control. What you can control is your determination, your courage, your ability to be kind to others and to yourself. Try to keep some softness while you are hardening yourself to be strong. Let that softness flow.”Julie Drury, medical advocate & Health Canada Senior Advisor

“I’ve learned more about time and what’s truly important to me. My priorities have shifted to simpler things.”Matthew Edison, actor & writer

“The power of a team should never be underestimated.” Dr. Andrew Furey, Team Broken Earth founder

“Persevere. One of my favourite quotes is from Ray Bradbury: ‘You fail only if you stop writing.’”Joel McConvey, writer & filmmaker

“Learning to relax and breathe was the most rewarding and, truthfully, the hardest lesson to learn. Being all wound-up and stressed (or anxious) was familiar and comfortable, because I was so used to it. In fact, I half-expected it most of the time, shaking from anticipation and sleepless from anxiety. I worried about everything! I stopped eating, never slept, and was a fragile girl when I wasn’t on stage. The true Gemini! I finally started to realize that all the stress, frustration and hurt I may feel was simply unnecessary. What I really needed was to soften my face, soften my heart and soften my breath. And take a deeeeep, deeep breath, and know that I will get through (insert drama) if I just hang in there and stayed ‘soft’ (also known as ‘calm’). When I finally learned to respond instead of react to a stressor (real or imagined), my life got better and I truly became an even happier person. Living in this mindset has enriched my life and I feel like I am the Luckiest Girl Alive, pretty much all the time now. I still get stressed and, like anyone, I worry. But now I have found a peaceful balance in remaining calm and centred, and that wisdom truly is treasure beyond measure.”Bif Naked, rock star & spokeswoman

“1) I have learned more about parenting, overcoming challenges, and what’s important in life these past seven years (while raising a child with special needs) than I ever imagined I would in a lifetime. 2) If something in your life is making you unhappy, you are the only person who can change it. Not letting things build to a breaking point has certainly helped me feel in control of my life. Taking time to reflect on what’s important helps me keep my priorities straight. 3) My health and family are the most important things in my life. Without health, our ability to fully experience life is significantly diminished. 4) I always look for ways to challenge myself and step outside my comfort zone every day. Every time I overcome these challenges, I feel I grow as a person. I look at overcoming challenges as a way to learn something new about myself.” —Blaine Penny, MitoCanada founder

“Canada is food, and the world is richer for it.” Anita Stewart, Food Day Canada founder

“I look to the east, the direction of the teacher. We are all teachers and responsible for our knowledge. I look south to the healer. We are healers, and the knowledge reveals our need for healing. I look west to the visionary, which we all are. Our vision is clarified by our knowledge and healing, and helps us to see clearly. I look to the north, the way of the leader, and ask to see the journey, and fight for truth and love of all life and Mother Earth. This is my lesson that comes stronger each year. Do not walk a path of destruction; walk with a desire to make your world a more loving place.” Roy Henry Vickers, Eagle Aerie Gallery artist

“The most important thing we learned is that if you don’t ask, you will never know. ASK!! Never be afraid to ask!”Derek Walter, Happily Ever Esther Farm Sanctuary co-founder

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If you’d like to support CARE Canada, or any of the other wonderful organizations mentioned in many of the Kickass Canadians articles, please do.

Thank you for reading and for being part of the Kickass community.


  1. Catherine Jensen says:

    And a high five to you Amanda! Congratulations on your inspiration and initiative in creating this ever-growing virtual community of wonderful Canadians. You are making a real and beautiful contribution to understanding what it means to be Canadian and to be human. Thank you, and Happy Anniversary!

  2. kickasscanadians says:

    Thank you for being such a loyal reader, Catherine! Your comments mean a lot.

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