Margaret Spoelstra, a member of First Christian Reformed Church in Toronto, Ontario, is being recognized for her ongoing work and advocacy for individuals with autism.
On December 30, 2011, Spoelstra and 36 others were announced as the newest members appointed to the Order of Canada, one of the country’s highest civilian honors, in recognition of a lifetime of outstanding achievement and dedication to community.
Spoelstra, executive director of Autism Ontario, is receiving the appointment for her lifelong career to further awareness and understanding of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
The news of the appointment came as a complete surprise to Spoelstra, as nominations are kept anonymous. She said at first she was speechless and felt undeserving, but it was very moving to know that people thought she should be nominated.
“I am simultaneously honored and humbled,” she said. “The people who do the hardest work are the families of people with ASD. They are the ones deserving this recognition, and it is an honor to represent them.”
Spoelstra went on to express her excitement that this public recognition of the work she and her colleagues have been involved in may help Canadians better understand and respond to their fellow citizens with ASD.
“Although it’s a personal honor, this is also recognizing the importance of the ongoing relationship-building that we are working toward. We want to make Canada a better place for people with autism and their families.”
An awards ceremony will take place in Ottawa in the spring.