While being awarded the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers by Canada's Governor General David Johnston was surely an honour, Bob Brett's highlight from the ceremony at the Whistler Public Library on Fri., June 2 came after the presentation.
"I was chasing him around the room with a brand new BioBlitz T-shirt that I picked up from the press two hours before, and asked him if he would take it home with him and if he ever had a chance to send back a photo of him in the T-shirt," Brett said.
"And he said 'Well why don't we just do it right now?' and he took off his jacket and put his T-shirt on and took a photo with me."
The casual moment was in contrast to the light pageantry of the award ceremony, but not to Johnston's personality itself.
"It's obvious why he's in that role, he's so good, and he's so natural with people," said Brett, one of 12 Whistlerites honoured at the ceremony for their volunteer efforts.
"Your work changes your communities, our country, the world, and you do it simply because it's the right thing to do — because you've found the true meaning of community," Johnston said in his opening remarks, before quoting Greek philosopher Aristotle.
"He said 'What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good.' Well, you volunteers have served others and you certainly have done good, and in doing so, you've improved the lives of those around you, and you've inspired others to follow your example."
The Whistler Singers, led by Alison Hunter — another recipient of the award — kicked off the event with a bilingual, a cappella performance of the national anthem.
"I think it's a great privilege," Hunter said of the award.
"When you volunteer, you don't do it for recognition, you volunteer because there's a need that needs to be filled, and certainly it was a great surprise and a great honour."
But what is it about Whistler that breeds so much selfless volunteerism?
Hunter chalks it up to a sense of family (and maybe some of the classic Whistler competitive spirit, too).
"When you think about it, so many people that move here, they don't have their extended family, so the community becomes your extended family," she said.
"I think also Whistlerites tend to sort of give 110 per cent to anything they do, including volunteering. We're not competitive at all," she added with a laugh.
The recipients, in order of acceptance:
Eric Martin Spent 13 years as the volunteer project manager overseeing the construction of the Meadow Park Sports Centre; involved in the selection process for the Audain Art Museum; chair of the Whistler Design Panel; president and chair of the Whistler 2020 Development Corporation.
Jennifer Erickson A volunteer instructor with the Whistler Adaptive Sports Program (WASP) since 2002, teaching skiers with disabilities and developing material for teaching seminars. Has also served four years on WASP's board of directors.
Jim Moodie One of the designers of the original Whistler Village; helped create the Whistler Athletes' Village for the 2010 Winter Olympics; helped establish the Audain Art Museum and serves as chair of its board of trustees and as vice-chair of the museum's foundation.
Jennifer Patterson Member of the Whistler Valley Quilter's Guild since 1994; volunteer with the local chapter of the Girl Guides of Canada for more than a decade; actively involved with the Scouts movement and the Whistler Skating Club.
Alison Hunter Volunteer with the Whistler Children's Chorus, Whistler Singers and the Whistler Children's Music Festival for the past 25 years; co-founder of the Whistler Chamber Music Society and past president of the Whistler Arts Council.
John Hetherington Member of the Whistler Search and Rescue Team since 1988; dedicated board member of the Canadian Avalanche Association and the Whistler Museum and Archives Society.
Jacqui Tyler Active volunteer with several organizations for more than three decades, including the Kelty Dennehy Foundation and Whistler Adaptive Sports; helped several annual fundraising events for the Festival of Lights and a dedicated supporter of the Whistler Cantando Music Festival.
Dave Clark Co-founded the Whistler Friends Society in 2002, a non-profit dedicated to raising awareness and funds for Crohn's and Colitis Canada and the BC Children's Hospital Foundation, helping raise more than half a million dollars.
Tony Horn A 13-year volunteer with the Whistler Off-Road Cycling Association, serving as president and race director and organizing several popular bike races.
Bob Brett Helped establish the Whistler Naturalists Society in 1999 and continues to serve on its board of directors; launched Whistler's annual BioBlitz program and Fungus Among Us Mushroom Festival.
Kristina Swerhun Founding member of the Whistler Naturalists Society, playing a key role in the organization's two main events; dedicated member of the Whistler 2020 Natural Areas task force and the Association of Whistler-Area Residents for the Environment.
Gord Annand Has served with the Whistler Public Library for 12 years as a trustee and as chair of its board of directors; led a successful fundraising campaign to preserve the library's capital reserve; dedicated supporter of the Whistler Blackcomb Foundation.
For more information about the Sovereign's Medal for Volunteers or to nominate someone, visit www.caring.gg.ca.