fftvplos rvozxqb · 2021-03-16

Penetang teen acclaimed for ‘giving heart’

It was a shopping trip Jonathan Hesler will never forget.

Strolling the aisles at a Hamilton grocery store, the 18-year-old Penetanguishene resident took a call on his cellphone informing him he had been selected as one of eight 2009 recipients of an Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers.

“I was shocked,” he recalled. “It’s not every day that someone from the government calls and says you’re receiving an award.”

True, but it’s not every 18-year-old whose accomplishments merit such recognition. The St. Theresa’s High School Grade 12 student richly deserves the accolades, says Angela Monaghan, who nominated Hesler for the award.

“His outgoing and accepting personality elicits joy, and his optimistic energy gives hope of a wonderful world to anyone who may be struggling,” she wrote in her nomination letter.

Monaghan and Hesler are co-facilitators of the BEAT Bullying (Bullying Education and Awareness Team) program. It offers assistance to teens struggling with bullying issues.

Hesler heads up the communications component of the program, spending hours conducting online support at www.endbullyingnow.com, a website he created. He also spends time every week talking to struggling teens face to face.

Hesler’s other volunteer activities have also included work for the Relay for Life, Lupus Ontario, Mental Health Centre Penetanguishene, Meals on Wheels and the Jack Rabbits ski program.

Monaghan described Hesler as “a young man with a giving heart” whose “endless energy makes him a positive role model to not only his peers, but adults, as well.”

“His embracing smile and genuine spirit enhances our community,” she said. “Such an inspirational, enlightened and genuine individual is, unfortunately, rare.”

Hesler, who hadn’t read Monaghan’s letter, said he volunteers for the simplest of reasons.

“I just get involved because I know someone’s benefiting from my work,” he explained, adding he gets satisfaction from “knowing I make a difference and … someone who might be experiencing bullying can come and ask me questions and I can help them.”

Hesler travelled to Queen’s Park on Monday to receive his award. His father, mother, stepmother, sister, grandmother and Monaghan were all scheduled to accompany him.

The medal for young volunteers is presented by the lieutenant-governor in recognition of the time and effort made by Ontarians between the ages of 15 and 24 to improve the quality of life in their communities. Including Hesler, eight young people are on the list of 2009 recipients.

“I am pleased to invest eight of Ontario’ finest young volunteers with this tremendous honour for their leadership and dedication,” Lt.-Gov. David Onley stated in a press release. “They are inspirations for all Ontarians.”