The vibrant energy and unwavering commitment of Cochrane youth and others in Calgary and area was saluted at Youth Central's annual Youth of Distinction Awards (YODA).

Three of the several local youth nominated were shortlisted as the top three in their category.

Natonya Fedeyko was the recipient of the innovation award, while Nick Maclure was a finalist for sportsmanship and Annalise Hinks for environment.

At the awards banquet, attended by all three, YODA recognized Natonya for her innovative approach to assisting youth in Cochrane and surrounding area and her determination to find possible solutions.

She's been focusing on youth homelessness and aims to not only finding a place for them to sleep but to provide them with a range of services from counselling to mentorship to rehabilitation.

YODA called her idea of aiming to provide these services exclusively for youth "unique and original."

"Many of these services tend to be directed towards people of all ages or for adults only," it was explained during the ceremony. "Nat understands that it can be detrimental to house adults and youth together in the same complex, so she wants to make sure youth are the focus."

Natonya says the ceremony was not only cool, but it was also eye-opening.

"Honestly, my heart kind of stopped when I got selected for first place, because everyone there was amazing," she says. "It was kind of surprising that I was the one to receive the award out of all the amazing people in my category."

It has rekindled her passion to get the project back on track after having to pause it briefly.

"Receiving the award kind of like gives me that push that I needed because it shows that I'm not the only one who thinks it's important; it's important to all the people that selected me to win, too."

Nat is active with BGC Cochrane's Lead Up 2.0 program and is a member of the BGC National Youth Council.

nick maclureNick Maclure, second from right, was shortlisted for the sportsmanship award. (photo supplied)

Nick Maclure's passion for hockey is well known.

He plays, volunteers with minor hockey and handles social media and whatever else he's called upon to do for the Cannex Cochrane Generals junior team. That includes appearing as the team mascot "Hat-Trick" and being on their alternate goaltending list last season. He also lead the charge to create an active alumni group and has been developing and constantly expanding an archive for the team.  

READ: Blast from the Past unearthed thanks to Hockeyville

Nick was nominated by Catriona Hill, director of experience at the SLS Centre.

"Hockey is in Nick’s blood," she says. "His grandpa was with the AJHL for over 25 years; his dad was a trainer for 30 years, assistant GM for the Cochrane Generals, and an arena and sports facility manager for much of his career. Both were incredibly active volunteers in the hockey community.

Nick's dream is to follow in their footsteps. 

Even when he's not at the SLS Centre to play hockey or volunteer, he's there as a part-time recreation attendant.

"Nick finds a way to connect with everyone and make them feel valued," stated his YODA introduction. "He's a compassionate competitor but is taking his love for the game and the definition of sportsmanship beyond the ice by contributing to the success of its community as a whole."

"There was a lot of smart, talented kids there that really do a lot for the community," says Nick in speaking of the ceremony, "and I think everybody at that ceremony was deserving 100 per cent. But it was overall a really cool experience for me and my family."

Annalise is passionate and dedicated to environmental causes and is knowledgeable, enthusiastic and committed to preserving nature. She actively seeks to learn more about the environment, recognizing its importance to keep the ecosystem balanced.

"By volunteering with organizations like Branches and Banks, Anna has developed a wholistic perspective of the world and a deep appreciation for nature," it was explained at YODA. "Her involvement has not only shaped her career aspirations but also inspired others by sharing her knowledge and passion." 

Kendra McColeman, former youth mentorship program facilitator for BGC Cochrane, says Annalise was a perfect candidate for the environment award.

"She totally embraces her uniqueness and is just an amazing kiddo and knows some very interesting facts that a lot of adults don't. Honestly, I was learning from her often. She knew a lot about marine life, and about the outdoors and environment from doing camps and such."

McColeman has gone on to work at a BGC in Brantford, ON. but before she left, she nominated all 13 youth participating in the Lead Up 2.0 program. She's a strong believer in the program.

"I think it really helps them kind of come out of their shell a bit more and open up to not only me, but also the community."

She's disappointed she was unable to attend the YODA ceremony but was there in spirit.

Youth Central calls the YODA ceremony more than just an awards show.

"It’s a testament to the positive change that is possible when we empower youth. With the help of dedicated sponsors and volunteers, Youth Central has created a platform for recognition that uplifts and inspires."

Other awards were presented for advocacy, arts & culture, leadership, peer support, perseverance, and volunteerism. The awards focus on leadership, friendship, overcoming a personal challenge and community service. They were open to all youth of Calgary and within a 50km radius.