Shaking royalty’s hands can be quite an honour for some. But when Prince Charles takes the time from his busy schedule to spend a few minutes chatting with you, that can be an experience of a lifetime.
Tamara Gordon, was among six Ontarians selected by Lieutenant Governor, David Onley, to receive Diamond Jubilee Medals from the Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla during their brief two-day visit to the province last week.
The Prince congratulated Gordon on her impressive body of community service and challenged her to continue making a difference.
“I also told him about the foundation I am about to start and he was very excited about it and told me it’s such a great idea helping students with disabilities,” said Gordon who has been confined to a wheelchair for the past decade.
The TD Bank customer relations coordinator is in the process of establishing a foundation in her name that will help physically challenged youth complete high school and pursue post-secondary education.
Onley nominated Gordon for the Diamond Jubilee Medal awarded to mark the ascension to the throne 60 years ago on February 6, 1952 of Queen Elizabeth II, the second longest-serving monarch in British history.
“I was honoured to be chosen by the Lieutenant Governor and just being able to get the opportunity to meet the Prince of Wales was an awesome experience,” she said. “Having my mother by my side completed the amazing day.”
Gordon suffered a debilitating spinal cord injury in February 2002 while on a high school downhill skiing trip. The spinal cord and brachial injuries left her paralyzed from the waist down and without the use of her dominant left hand. Despite the setback, the Markham resident, who aspired to be a professional basketball player, graduated on time from high school as an Ontario scholar with a 91 per cent average.
Three years ago, she completed her undergraduate degree at York University in Administrative Studies and was on the Dean’s List.
In spite of limited mobility, recurring health issues and challenges associated with functioning as a student and a person with disabilities, Gordon was quite active on campus. She headed the student caucus for undergraduates with disabilities and served as the student undergraduate representative for Access York.
Gordon is the recipient of close to 60 scholarships, certificates and awards, including Harry Jerome and TD Canada Trust scholarships. In August 2006, she completed an internship at a TD bank close to her then Don Mills residence and was offered a full-time position. She currently works with a branch near her Markham residence and is its diversity committee representative.
Three years ago, she was the recipient of the Ontario Medal for Young Volunteers and the Mildred Theobalds Prize awarded to the York University undergraduate student with the highest mark in the Introductory Marketing course. The award was set up to honour the late long-time York University program coordinator.
Gordon has been quite busy in the community. She sponsors a volunteer centre for the tenants in the Don Mills building where her mother still resides and she’s a board member on the Operating Engineers Local 769 Non-profit Housing Inc. In the past, she was a peer support volunteer with the Canadian Paraplegic Association, spending hours with young people suffering from spinal cord injuries. She also spearheaded a teen volunteer program and tutoring service, organized free back-to-school barbecues and Canada Day celebrations and presented motivational speeches, always reminding young people to strive to overcome barriers they face in life.
Her full-time job combined with setting up the foundation are consuming much of her time these days.
“This foundation will serve as a conduit to help me realize my dream of reaching out to even more young people who are physically and economically challenged,” she said. “I want them to maximize their potential, pursue their academic goals and become useful members of society.”
By RON FANFAIR