2016 was a big year for Winnipeg. We saw the Heritage Classic come to town, the Goldeyes won the American Association championship, and Vogue gave our city a huge shoutout as an "absolute must-visit destination." But while the rest of the world is finally starting to see how awesome our hometown is, we know it's not necessarily the events, sports and attention that make Winnipeg great – it's the people. And we have well over 700,000 of them.
Winnipeggers keep finding new ways to be awesome. Our city is home to entrepreneurs, artists, revolutionaries and people who work insanely hard to break records, break the status quo or break down barriers. But what makes them even more special is how so many of these people work together to help the community here and abroad.
Here are eight locals who are helping to put Winnipeg on the map and make the world a better place while they do it. Cheers, Winnipeg. Can't wait to see what they – and you – do this year.
1. Joseph Visser
This Winnipegger is taking photography to the next level. Joseph Visser is the founder and creative mastermind behind From Here & Away, a multimedia platform that promotes art, travel, exploration, and adventure. The FH&A crew hosts accessible photography workshops throughout the city and launched an ethically produced clothing line in November. He's helping people embrace photography and, maybe more importantly, a community-focused mindset. Check out #FromHereAndAway to see some incredible shots of Winnipeg and the world.
2. Chantal Van Landeghem
Good luck out-swimming this girl. Chantal Van Landeghem is 22, an Olympic medallist and one of the Canadian women who helped to bring swimming into the sports spotlight last summer. She helped Team Canada capture the bronze in the 4x100 (while setting a Canadian time record for the event, nbd), which, incidentally, is the country's first 4x100 medal in 40 years. Let's face it, the Canadian women stole the show during the Rio Olympics, and Chantal stole our hearts back home in Winnipeg.
3. Chris Kirouac and Lindsay Nikkel
The buzz is that they're the sweetest couple around (enough puns for ya?). Chris Kirouac and Lindsay Nikkel are the married duo behind Beeproject Apiaries. The pair fought to change local bylaws and allow urban beekeeping in downtown Winnipeg and now teach people all about bees while selling honey, installing hives and raising awareness about pollinators. Check out their growing Urban Pollination Project and Instagram to learn more about small-scale local agriculture and how to protect the bees. They recently made this their full-time gig, so I can't wait to see what 2017 has in store for them.
4. Shane Dyck
Inspirational story alert: In 2013, Shane Dyck was in a motorcycle accident that left him with 15 broken vertebrae. He spent six months in the hospital, where his spine was fused with metal rods and he had to learn how to sit up, eat and stand again. He told CBC he was given a 1% chance of ever walking again. But in March 2016, the former body builder beat the odds, stepped up on stage and competed in the Manitoba Amateur Body Building Association’s provincial qualifiers.
5. Tracie Leost
In 2015, Tracie Leost took to the streets to raise awareness for missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada. She was a teenager when she laced up her running shoes and started her Journey of Hope, a 115-kilometre marathon from Oak Point to downtown Winnipeg – and raised $6,000 for the Families First Foundation along the way. Last year, she and her run were featured in a Cass McCombs music video, and she's still working to raise awareness about MMIW and other Indigenous issues.
6. Jodie Layne
Her Instagram posts (like this one) alone are inspiring, but just wait until you hear more of her story. Jodie Layne is a sexual educator and writer who is making a huge impact in with her honest and candid takes on acceptance and body positivity. She's a sexual assault survivor, and she stands up for other victims. The women's and LGBTQ+ rights advocate created Safe Spaces, a group that combats street harassment and helps create safe spaces for marginalized groups in Manitoba. Seriously, read some of her work.
7. Eric Olek
It's an understatement to say Eric Olek has done – and been through – a lot this year. The man behind the Friday Knights clothing line started out selling T-shirts from the trunk of his car. He pursued his passion and opened pop-up shops, including one on Graham Avenue, where he sells designs inspired by artists, musicians, and DJs. In December, his shop was broken into and robbed – right before Christmas. But he stayed positive and pushed through.
8. Aly Raposo
Aly Raposo made a name for herself in 2016. The 4th year U of M student is involved with so – and I mean SO – many initiatives, events, and projects. I have no idea how she has the time to do it all, but she's vocal and passionate about each and every one. She just became the Arts Student Body Council women's representative at the U of M. She's one of the organizers of the Winnipeg Women's March on Washington. She founded the Women's and Gender Studies Student Association at the U of M, and she's outspoken about mental health and LGBTQ+ rights. Seriously, she's involved with pretty much everything amazing happening at the university and in Winnipeg. Look for her on the news, behind a megaphone or who knows, maybe running the world.