Copper River Record November 7, 2019
By Judith Lorenz
On Saturday, October 19th, Advocates for Victims of Violence organized its 12th annual "Women of Distinction Awards and Celebration", held at the Valdez Civic Center. The event, one of the biggest fundraisers of the year in Valdez, assembled over 200 people for a dinner-auction and award ceremony.
This award is presented to honor women who are outstanding role models, support the development of others, show vision and initiative and set themselves apart through their philanthropic and professional contributions to our communities.
Gay Wellman and Robin Mayo, both from Kenny Lake, are the recipients of this year's awards, chosen among a field of 13 nominees.
When asked how she felt about her award, Gay Wellman says it is a big honor. "How wonderful to get recognized. The field of nominees are an incredible group of women. None of us is doing this by ourselves though. I feel like all women are women of distinction. It's important for me to accept this kind of recognition for everyone. It is not just about me". Robin Mayo says she was surprised and honored. "There are so many inspiring women in our communities who fit the description, making a difference every day."
Gay has degrees in nursing and Organizational Administration, and has worked at AK Regional Hospital South Central Counseling Center, and a Behavior Health Nursing carreer for 22 years. In 2017, she became an educator for the Alzheimer's Disease Resource Agency of Alaska, and from there, her name became synonymous with advocacy for for Alaskans effected by Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, as well as the elderly in need.
She spearheaded the development of a huge online and telephone education effort that now brings information to rural Alaskan caregivers. She regularly teaches the classes that she helped create, "The ABC's of Caregiving and Savvy Caregivers".
Among the messages of support posted on behalf of Gay at the Women of Distinction event includes the following:
"Gay honors her family, her community, her state, her earth. Sh reaches out to persons in need and feeds them amazing support and education. She gives, and she is a true Woman of Distinction."
"Gay is an educator but she does not teacher in a school. She teaches though outreach. She has a solid understanding of folks living with dementia, and her true gift is her ability to relay that information to caregivers with love, compassion and humor, in normal-speak. Her messages are true and understandable, often by persons struggling with very difficult and pressing situations."
As a long time resident of Kenny Lake and a life-long Alaskan, Robin Mayo is deeply connected to the Copperr Valley community. Her experience includes time as director and vice-chair of the Kenny Lake Community Library, substitute teaching at Kenny Lake School, operating her own fiber art business ("Wild and Wooly"), work as an outreach technician for Prince William Sound Community College, and office management, and co-ownership of a rafting guide service ("Osprey Expeditions").
Local non-profit Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment has enjoyed Robin's ingenuity, resourcefulness, and upbeat attitude through every challenge. With each month since she assumed the helm, Robin has grown into an ever-more exceptional teachers, organizer, and leader.
In October 2013, Robin earned a certificate in non-profit management from the Foraker Group. In January 2015 she completed training to be a certified Wilderness First Responder. She Participated in the Foraker Group's Executive Leadership Initiative in 2015.
Robin's message of support included the following passages:
"While Robin's an inspiration to youth of all ages, she is a special role model for young women in the middle and high school years when ,any girls lose confidence and interest in outdoor activities and adventures. Her perfect mix of strong outdoor leadership skills, can-do spirit, and safety consciousness demonstrates to girls that being a strong outdoors woman can open doors for future careers and for a lifetime of contentment."
Congratulations to both Gay and Robin and thanks for all that you do for the Copper Valley and beyond.
Gay Wellman and Robin Mayo were chosen as the 2019 Women of Distinction from among 13 nominees at the annual Advocates for Victims of Violence fundraiser held in Valdez on October 19. Photo Courtesy of WISE
Who We Are
WISEfriends are several writers connected with Wrangell Institute for Science and Environment, a nonprofit organization located in Alaska's Copper River Valley. Most of these articles originally appeared in our local newspaper, the Copper River Record.