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A group of paddlers who recently took a Paddle Canada course with the Paddle Canada flag in front of them.
Location: Bonavista Bay, Newfoundland and Labrador. Photo credit: Richard Alexander

Paddle Canada Volunteer Awards

Paddle Canada relies very much on our volunteers. We wish to extend a warm thank you to ALL of the many volunteers over the years. Our committees are all comprised of passionate, and skilled individuals, our Board of Directors are volunteers as well. There are countless other folks who, while not formally working on a committee are available to guide us at any time.
We have developed two categories of recognizing outstanding work by a volunteer.

The Kirk Wipper Award

This award was created in honour of Kirk Wipper, who was a member of Paddle Canada from 1975 until his passing in 2011. He served many different roles within Paddle Canada over his tenure, not to mention his many contribution and affiliations within the canoeing community outside of Paddle Canada.

The recipient of this award is selected by the Board of Directors in recognition of outstanding contribution to Paddle Canada in canoeing, kayaking, paddleboarding, or through demonstration of passion and commitment to our mission statement.

Nominations for the Kirk Wipper Award may come from any Paddle Canada member. (form at the bottom of this page)

2023: Lana Ohler-Madsen

Lana Ohler-Madsen bio photo.

Lana Madsen has been an active member of Paddle Canada for decades.  She achieved her initial certifications as a lake and river instructor in the mid-1980s when Paddle Canada was known as the Canadian Recreational Canoe Association (She still has original lake and river manuals from that time!).  She has served as an executive member of Paddle Alberta for multiple terms and served on the Paddle Canada Board of Directors for the last 8 years, many of them as our Secretary.  With her husband Henry, Lana owns and operates HeLa Ventures, an Outdoor Educational facility in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta where flat water and moving water canoeing serve as a foundational activity for youth and adults. Of particular interest, and relevance to the current award, is that Lana worked as a canoe guide in the Northwest Territories and Yukon for almost a decade. During this time, she had the privilege of guiding Kirk Whipper on the Nahanni River.

2021: Tony Palmer

Tony in a kayak

Tony Palmer has been volunteering for Paddle Canada for over 25 years since he joined the Paddle Canada Board as the Alberta Director in 1994. Since then he has volunteered in a number of key positions. He has served on our program committees, and most recently was the Chair of the Program Coordination Committee. Tony was part of the leadership team that developed both our Stand-Up Paddle and Camping programs. He was a long time contributor to Kanawa, our print magazine. He has been an invaluable source of historical and how-to information when we went through recent staffing changes. Tony is passionate about paddling and Paddle Canada and devotes a large amount of his personal time an energy not just to paddling, and teaching, but also ensuring that Paddle Canada keeps moving forward in a positive direction. Kirk Wipper was known to advocate for the paddling community to “pull together” and we believe that Tony shares this same sentiment!

2020: Charles Burchill

Burchill 8

Charles has been a long-time instructor with Paddle Canada. As a major driving force and creator for the Style Canoe Program, he continues to look, work at and offer insight into the Style program as it is today. He continues to grow by developing his skills by venturing into the Poling stream and eventually becoming an instructor to spread this discipline. He is also pretty handy at videography and has developed a video series for both style and solo canoe paddling maneuvers. Charles holds multiple certifications including Advanced Instructor Trainer in Lake (Solo and Tandem) and Style, and an Instructor in Poling. Off the water, he sits on the Bill Mason Scholarship Committee, and has, on occasion encouraged his students to donate to the fund in lieu of his instructor fees. We are very pleased to be adding Charles’ name to Kirk Wipper Award.


2019: Brian Johnston

Brian in a white water canoe

Brian’s contributions to Paddle Canada date back to the 80’s, and he became more heavily involved in 2007. His contributions include but are not limited to volunteering on the membership, hiring, strategic plan committees, he served a number of terms on the Board of Directors as the Manitoba Director, and as Vice-President. He has been (and still is!) an active member of the Canoe Program Committee, contributing to an overhaul of the program as well as years as the manual editor. His years of both volunteering, and actively instructing canoeing make him an ideal recipient of the Kirk Wipper Award.

2018: David Johnston

David Kayaking
photo: Wilbur Wong

David is being recognized for over 20 years of contributions to Paddle Canada. What started as a staff position as a Program Coordinator from 1998-to 2004, he later returned as a member of the Sea Kayak Development Committee and held the position of chair for 7 years. He was one of the members who created the Program Coordination Committee and was instrumental behind the re-write of the Sea Kayak program and the development of our new Camping Program. His work on committees and combined work on both our public and members’ website make him a very worthy candidate of the Kirk Wipper Award.


Volunteer Recognition Awards

The first recipients of this award were announced at the 2016 Paddle Canada AGM. This is an award to recognize outstanding work done by a volunteer of Paddle Canada.

2023 Meaghan Hennessy, for her leadership and dedication to the Sea Kayak Program Committee, and the Program Coordination Committee
Karl Vollmer, for his role as the Program Committee Chair, River Kayak Program Committee and contributions to the Paddle Canada Database
Céline Palfroix, for her dedication and time to the translation of the Sea Kayak Manual (to be released in the spring of 2024)
Matt Cuccaro, in special recognition of his terms as the Ontario Director and two terms as our Board Chair

2021 Rick Wise, for his contributions to the Membership and Sea Kayak Program Committee

2020     Alan Goodridge, Membership Committee
             Priscilla Haskin, Chairs of the Canoe Program Committee

2019      Robyn Bell, Newsletter Curator and Editor

2018      Dave Woolridge, Big Canoe Program
              David Johnston, PCC/Camping Committee


2016      Viki Cirkvencic, Membership Committee
               Mark Lund, Bill Mason Scholarship Committee

Instructor Recognition Award

This is a new award category! Intended to honour a Paddle Canada Instructor who goes above and beyond in their communities as a paddling volunteer. We know there are some Instructors who on occasion will offer free paddling opportunities in their community, volunteer as a safety paddler in swimming events, or offer their expertise in some other way to help their paddling community. We want to hear their stories!

2023 Michael Egilson, for his dedication and contributions to SISKA (South Island Sea Kayaking Association) including volunteering his instructor services in delivering courses to club members.

Want to nominate a volunteer?