Society bestows honour

Vernon Women in Business’ Woman of the Year Gala celebration and dinner will be held Thursday

Since its inception in 1988, the Woman of the Year Award has celebrated the best of women’s achievements across industry, culture and public service whether in the home or volunteering in the community, or in the workplace as an employee or operating their own business.

This Vernon Women in Business event has grown immensely and now generates nominees from not only Vernon but also our neighbouring communities of Armstrong, Enderby, Lumby and surrounding rural areas.

Vernon Women in Business’ Woman of the Year Gala celebration and dinner will be held Thursday at the Prestige Hotel starting at 5:30 p.m. During the evening we will enjoy presentations on each of the remarkable nominees and an independent judges’ panel will announce the Woman of the Year 2016 winner to cap off the evening.

Tickets to the Gala are $40 until today and can be purchased through PayPal at or by cash/cheque at White House Wellness Centre, 3107-27 St. Tickets are expected to sell out and are $50 if they  are still available.

The 11 Woman of the Year 2016 Nominees are:

Juliette Cunningham is the owner of Carousal Consignment clothing store since 1990 and is a past board member of the Downtown Vernon Association. Juliette has been politically active in serving the community, both as a Vernon School District trustee from 1996-2005 and currently as a three-term Vernon city councillor.

Cunningham advocates for social policy by being a supporter of affordable and accessible housing.

She is passionate about children’s rights having hosted the Cities Fit for Children provincial summit.

A long time Vernon resident, Cunningham has raised four children and is a proud grandmother of five.

Benita Elliott, known as “B” by those who know her, has worked 23 years for Kindale and was promoted to executive director in 2013.

Kindale assists more than 400 people yearly and Elliott works tirelessly to improve the lives of those with diverse abilities.

Elliott frequently gives both her own time and resources to advocate and support those individuals who are often marginalized by society. Elliott’s leadership has been recognized by Community Living of British Columbia as a nominee for the Hero Award.

Janice Foster is a long-time resident of Lumby who worked many years in the telecommunications sector.

Since 2008, Foster has been a Vernon School District Homestay co-ordinator, helping over 200 international students connect with suitable families and personally opening her home to 14 students.

Foster has been involved for 20 years with the North Okanagan Neurological Association Child Development Centre, leading the $2.5 million Tree House Project. Foster has been an active Vernon Rotarian since 2009 and is currently secretary for the B.C. Liberal Vernon Monashee Riding Association.

Niki Knight worked for 20 years at Interior Health as a social worker, mainly for the women’s and children’s unit at Vernon Jubilee Hospital, before venturing on her own in private practice at Balance Natural Health Centre.

Knight assisted families with guidance and support while dealing with a stressful health crisis and created the annual Walk to Remember for parents who have suffered infant loss.

Knight’s caring nature extends to the furry four legged friends as she volunteers with local animal agencies.

Knight has had to find balance in working full-time while completing her master’s degree


Sherry Lukey is an emotional freedom technique (EFT) practitioner who operates Infinite Tapping Potential. Lukey’s work has been described as life changing, helping others to overcome obstacles and build their self-esteem.  Lukey has volunteered countless hours with her two daughters’ activities, from serving on Coldstream PAC to coaching volleyball and soccer. Lukey has also been an active member of Vernon Women in Business serving as both secretary and treasurer, and is currently chairing the upcoming 2016 VWIB Leadership Conference.

Becky Martselos is the owner and teacher of Accentz Dance Studio. She has mentored more than 300 students, both young and old, in the previous 10 years of operation.  Martselos makes time for community events that request dance performances such as the Queen Silver Star Excellence program and Schubert Centre. Martselos is passionate about dance, often working 60 to 80 hours a week, but also manages to maintain a busy household with two young boys.

Sareena Nickoli is recognized as the voice of City Furniture, her family business she has worked at for more than 15 years. Nickoli has been a fitness and zumba instructor since 1999 and recently launched her own dance studio, Soul Studio.  Nickoli has hosted several zumbathons to raise money for Vernon Jubilee Hospital and Habitat for Humanity. Nickoli has volunteered her time and talent with North Okanagan Hospice’s Dancing with the Vernon Stars and the Queen Silver Star Excellence program.

Sandra Patterson has worked for 15 years at Vernon Battery, moving up from bookkeeper to manager. Sandra volunteers her time with the Royal Canadian Army Cadet program and has spent 12 years mentoring these young men and women into well rounded and respectful leaders of tomorrow. Patterson’s leadership and professionalism with cadets was recognized with the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal. Patterson is also an inspiring mother and grandmother, as she was nominated by her daughter.

Caroline Radics is an independent financial advisor with Investia Group.  She currently is president of the Advocis –  Thompson Okanagan chapter, part of the Financial Advisors Association of Canada. Radics has served as director for the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce, a trustee with the Downtown Vernon Association and board member of Vernon Winter Carnival.  Radics is a long-term resident of Vernon whom as a single parent raised four children and now enjoys four grandchildren.

Jennifer Thompson works full time at the Salvation Army and is the head elder at her church. Thompson managed the Talkin’ Donkey coffee house to raise funds for the Salvation Army.  Thompson is the integrated mission co-ordinator, administering several women’s outreach programs.  Thompson finds the resources and support for clients who are facing challenges in life, offering assistance with empathy and no judgement and has been recognized for her work with a Hero award. Thompson is also a busy mother raising four young boys.

Karla Ziegler has worked for the last eight years, most recently at Click-@-Geek Tech Support, while balancing her family and many volunteer commitments. While raising her three children, Ziegler ran a website called Vernon Moms Meet ‘n’ Play. Ziegler was president of Silver Star Elementary PAC and instrumental in fundraising and organizing various programs and purchasing new playground equipment.

Ziegler is an active member of JCI Vernon, helping fundraise for the VJH Gala and has been a Vernon Winter Carnival director for many years.