Rotary Toronto West hosts the Rotary Youth Impact Awards in January each year to recognize and honour people in the community who have contributed significantly to the support and development of youth. At the 20th awards ceremony to be held on January 25, 2019, we will be privileged to give the Lifetime Achievement Award to Denise Bebenek, founder of Meagan's Walk: Creating a Circle of Hope.
The story of Meagan's Walk: Creating a Circle of Hope begins with the tragic death of Denise's daughter at the age of 5 from a form of brain cancer. In the aftermath, Denise and the community that had been a comfort to Meagan and her family established the Walk as a means of promoting public awareness of brain tumors in children and youth, and supporting those affected by these illnesses. The annual Walk and Hug, Gala, school programs and community events raise funds for research in pursuit of advanced treatments and, one day, a cure.
After more than 15 years, Denise remains the driving force behind Meagan's Walk: Creating a Circle of Hope.  The organization has raised more than $5 million in funding for pediatric brain tumor research.  In addition to her work on fundraising, Denise has also been a school teacher and has worked with troubled youth and children.
The 5-kilometer Walk and Hug event occurs on Mother's Day annually.  Thousands of people participate in the Walk, with others providing encouragement from the sidelines of the route.  At this year's event, Toronto Mayor John Tory, who also participated, proclaimed May 12  Toronto's “Pediatric Brain Tumour Day.”
The school program encourages students to find Meagan's spirit within them while giving them opportunities to develop leadership skills and learn the importance of hope and compassion within a community.
The mission of the Rotary Club of Toronto West is to ignite potential in youth through direct involvement in projects and financial support of organizations whose activities align with this goal.  Denise Bebenek clearly embodies the spirit of our mission and is highly valued as our 20th Lifetime Achievement honouree.