PEI

6 Islanders honoured by GG with Meritorious Service Decoration

Six Prince Edward Islanders are being honoured by the Governor General’s office for their service to others, with their names appearing Thursday on a list of 98 recipients of the Meritorious Service Decoration.

Award is 'nothing I ever expected' says Carolyn Bateman

'When I got the email I thought it was a spam or something.' Carolyn Bateman says. (CBC)

Six Prince Edward Islanders are being honoured by the Governor General's office for their service to others, with their names appearing Thursday on a list of 98 recipients of the Meritorious Service Decoration.

They are: 

  • Stephen Allen, Don Wright and Ken Zakem "for creating Santa's Angels, an organization that distributes care packages, food hampers and toys to hundreds of homes on Christmas morning."
  • Carolyn Bateman and Joan Elaine Hoffman teRaa (posthumous) "for creating the Autism Society of Prince Edward Island and the Stars for Life Foundation for Autism to support to family members, professionals and individuals affected by autism."
  • Betty Begg-Brooks "for founding Gifts from the Heart, a local charity that collects food, clothing and household items for redistribution to people in need."

Carolyn Bateman said receiving the honour has been "a little surreal, nothing I ever expected that's for sure."

In an interview with CBC News: Compass's Louise Martin, Bateman said when she received the email about the award she thought it was a hoax. 

Bateman recalled how she and teRaa both had children with autism, and started the Autism Society. As the children grew up, the women had to figure out how best to support them as adults. 

There's nothing like putting a mother in a corner!— Carolyn Bateman

"Once they left the school system there was nothing for them to do, no place to go, no place to live if their parents were aging," Bateman said. Her son Adam was "very bright" and graduated high school, Bateman said.

"We just thought he deserved more than sitting at home all day, he needed a life. And others like him needed a life too," she said.

"There's nothing like putting a mother in a corner!" 

So they started the Stars for Life Foundation, a home for adults with autism. Adam Bateman is now 39 and enjoys volunteering and socializing, she said.

Much has been learned about autism since then and with robust fundraising, the foundation continues to be a success. 

Bateman was also named to the Order of P.E.I. in 2016. 

Betty Begg-Brooks is one of six people from Prince Edward Island being honoured by the Governor General of Canada's Office for their work helping others. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

"Honourees announced today have undertaken a variety of inspiring initiatives to support the most vulnerable in their communities," said a news release from the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General.

It continues: "Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to extraordinary and unprecedented times, and many Canadians rose to the challenge to support and help others." 

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from CBC News: Compass

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