Young leaders in Thunder Bay and across northwestern Ontario were honoured at the 2016 Northwestern Ontario Visionary Awards on Saturday.

The third bi-annual NOVA awards recognized the region's top 20 people under the age of 40.

The event, hosted by SHIFT, Thunder Bay's Young Professionals Network, and presented by the Thunder Bay Community Economic Development Committee, was held to recognize young professionals in the region, "for their leadership, community engagement, volunteerism, uniqueness and mentorship, and those that are really making a difference in their community," an event press release stated.

"This year we had the highest number of nominations received to date, with over 100 submissions," SHIFT president and NOVA Committee chair, Peter Marchl said.

"The award recipients really represent what SHIFT is all about. Those honoured are from all walks of life — entrepreneurs, doctors, executives, and professionals in public, private and non-profit sectors."

The 20 award recipients were:

  • Candi Edwards - Aboriginal Healthy Babies Healthy Children Program, Ontario Native Women's Association
  • Chad Austin Gropp – Owner/ Operator, Gropp's Country Catering
  • Cynthia Olsen – Drug Strategy Coordinator, City of Thunder Bay
  • Darren Fisk – Account Executive, Jones & Associates Insurance
  • Dave Grady – Owner/ General Manager, Thunder Bay Xerographix Inc and the Office Supplier
  • Dr. Christopher Mushquash – Associate Professor, Lakehead University
  • Dr. Jillie Retson – Family Physician, Paterson Medical Clinic and Lake of the Woods District Hospital
  • Dr. Lana Ray - Project Manager of Research, The Centre for Policy in Aboriginal Learning, Confederation College
  • Dr. Michel Beaulieu - Chair, Department of History, Lakehead University
  • Erin Beagle - Executive Director, Roots to Harvest
  • Jaimie Mintenko – Owner/ Centre Director, Scholars Education Centre & Owner/ Campus Director, Academy of Learning College
  • Joe Moses – Director – Lands, Resources, and Governance, Pic River First Nation
  • Joe Quaresima – Co-Founder & Systems Director, Sencia Canada Ltd.
  • Melanie Blanchette – Executive Director, Thunder Bay and District Humane Society
  • Michael Nitz – Regional Manager, Small Business, Royal Bank RBC
  • Michelle Blackburn – Occupational Therapist, George Jeffery Children's Centre
  • Parker Jones – Operations Manager, Tom Jones Corporation
  • Robert Perrier – Director of Student Success Centre, Lakehead University
  • Sean Charles Davies - Co-Owner/ Operator, Maintair Aviation Services
  • Shelby Ch'ng – Owner, Unveiled Bridal Boutique

The NOVA committee also presented a new award to a young professional who has achieved outstanding success on a regional and national level. The first ever Super NOVA award was presented to Thunder Bay's Coleman Hell. Hell, a 26-year-old musician, created the hit single 2 Heads, which has been streamed online globally more than 50 million times.

Hell is expected to release his debut full-length album on Columbia Records in 2016. A graduate of Hammarskjold High School in Thunder Bay, Hell now calls Toronto home.

Watch the 2 Heads music video.