Whitby mental health advocate, Port Colborne MP honoured as ‘Great Lakes Changemakers’ at Toronto sustainability forum

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Published July 5, 2024 at 2:23 pm

Mike Shoreman
Mike Shoreman

It’s been an eventful half dozen years for Whitby’s Mike Shoreman and the accolades keep coming for the paddleboarder-turned-mental health advocate.

His latest honour is Great Lakes Changemaker of the Year from the Council of the Great Lakes Region, an international organization charged with protecting the waters of the great lakes while exploring economic opportunities.

“It’s been quite something,” Shoreman said after being surprised with the award at the council’s sustainable growth forum in Toronto last week, where he was a keynote speaker. “It was unexpected hardware. What an honour to join the recipients of years past.”

Shoreman shared the award with Vance Badawey, a Liberal MP from Niagara Centre who served as vice-chair of the Canada-United States Inter-Parliamentary Group, where he focused on protecting the environmental, economic, and social sustainability of the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River. He also spent more than 35 years in the private sector, including time as the fourth-generation operator of the family’s business, Badawey Marine in Port Colborne.

Changemaker of the Year award winners Mike Shoreman and Vance Badawey

“I am honoured to join Mike Shoreman in receiving the Great Lakes Changemaker Award from the Council of the Great Lakes Region for our efforts to enhance the long-term sustainability and competitiveness of the binational Great Lakes Region,” Badawey said.

The Council of the Great Lakes Region, comprised of eight U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, provides a binational, multi-sector forum for exchange and collaboration on the region’s key risks and opportunities.

With 20 per cent of the worlds surface freshwater, the Great Lakes make up a globally significant ecosystem and sustain thousands of unique habitats, plants, and animals. The lakes also provide drinking water to more than 40 million Americans and Canadians living in the Great Lakes watershed and support the regional economy, from marine commerce and hydropower to fishing and recreational boating.

With 107 million residents – a third living along the shores of the Great Lakes – 51 million jobs and an annual GDP of $6 trillium, the region also helps to drive the North American economy.

The Council created the Great Lakes Changemaker Award in 2019 to recognize individuals, companies, non-profit organizations, or academics that are leading the way in strengthening the long-term competitiveness and sustainability of the binational great lakes region. The award also recognizes those who are playing a leadership role internationally on a range of economic and environmental issues.

The first five recipients that year were Swim Drink Fish Canada, SC Johnson, former U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce Heyman and Vicki Heyman, Fred and Barbara Erb Family Foundation and Ohio Congressman Dave Joyce.

For leadership on environmental and economic issues in the region, the Joyce Foundation received the 2022 award.

The sustainable growth forum, held June 25-27 at Queens Quay on Toronto’s harbourfront, boasted dozens of prominent speakers besides Shoreman, including Ontario Premier Doug Ford, federal environment minister Steven Guilbealt and UN Ambassador (and former Ontario Premier) Bob Rae.

Other speakers at the forum came from government, education and the private and corporate sectors, including Project Arrow champion Flavio Volpe, OPG environment, health & safety VP Hether Brown, Ontario Tech professor Daniel Hoornweg and HOPA CEO Ian Hamilton.

Honouring Shoreman in 2024 was an easy decision, the Council of the Great Lakes said on social media after presenting him with the award. “Tonight, we had the honor of awarding Mike Shoreman with the Great Lakes Changemaker Award for his advocacy for the Great Lakes and mental health awareness. Mike, thank you, for being an inspiration to us all.”

Shoreman said he was “humbled” to be one of the recipients. “Many associate water with mental health. With over 35 million people living in cities and towns surrounding the Great Lakes, mental health supports and access are critical in these areas. To receive this honour for my Great Lakes and mental health advocacy is very meaningful. “

Shoreman was a paddleboard coach in 2018 when he was diagnosed with Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, a rare neurological condition that left him paralyzed, with vertigo, hearing and vision loss, ultimately leading to depression and a mental health breakdown.

Told he would never walk again, let alone get on a paddleboard, Shoreman overcame his fears, assembled a crack team of people who believed in him and crossed all five Great Lakes on a paddleboard in a single memorable summer two years ago.

Shoreman then transitioned from paddleboarder to mental health advocate and travelled the country taking about mental health issues and suicide prevention, especially involving young people, as well as speaking to organizations about corporate wellness and resilience.

His latest brush with fame prior to the Changemaker honours was the release of a TEDx in May – at the onset of Mental Health Awareness Month – that was called a “must-see” discussion on mental health challenges in Canada.

The talk looked at statistics that show one in five Canadians are facing mental health issues and “how we can look at that in a new way” by creating widespread systems of support for those experiencing mental health challenges at work, in schools and in the community, Shoreman said.

Shoreman, who has been a hot commodity on the lecture circuit since his epic crossing of all five Great Lakes in 2022 has received an outpouring of support since the release of the talk, titled How to keep going when life seems impossible.

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