Tonawanda News — The Tonawanda News has named six women as the first installment of its 2013 class to be honored in the paper’s annual Women of Distinction program.
The News has also changed the format for this year’s publication. Where previously 12 women were honored, this year the paper will select six adults and six young adults — high school seniors who exemplify the traits honorees in past classes have shown.
Tonawanda News Publisher Peter Mio said the change in format was a natural outgrowth of what’s proven to be one of the paper’s most popular projects each year.
“Women of Distinction has always been about more than what these special ladies have done in the past,” Mio said. “The women we’ve honored since we started this program show a commitment to bettering our community for future generations. It made perfect sense for us to recognize the young women who embody that forward-looking ideal alongside them.”
This year’s adult honorees are:
• Laura Thomas of North Tonawanda. Thomas is a retired active duty member of the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard and is also an active member of several veterans groups in the city, including being the first female commander of the American Legion Stephen Sikora Post 1322.
• Barbara Stryz of North Tonawanda. Stryz is a dedicated community volunteer who’s active in numerous charitable groups including the Zontas, Business & Professional Women’s Association, the YWCA of the Tonawandas, the United Way of the Tonawandas, the Elks Club and the Exchange Club.
• Mary Brown, DeGraff Memorial Hospital’s director of nursing. The 38-year employee has risen through the ranks from nurse’s aide to the department’s top position while also serving as a representative for UNYTS and the New York State Alliance for Organ Donation.
• Kate White of the City of Tonawanda. White has served as the founder and organizer of two youth-centered events that have gained mass popularity: the Rockin’ With Santa toy drive and the Kids Fishing Derby — events she founded and still coordinate with her husband, John.
• Natalie Brown of North Tonawanda. Brown recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of founding Project 308, an art gallery on Oliver Street that has proven a fantastic outlet for many of the region’s emerging young artists to have their work shown. She also spear-headed the return of the Oliver Street Art Festival this summer, reviving it after years without an outdoor art festival in the Lumber City.
• Dr. Raquel Martin, Kenmore Mercy Hospital emergency department coordinator. Martin has helped oversee the multi-million dollar expansion of the hospital’s emergency room and turned KMH’s ER into one of the top-rated emergency medical facilities in Western New York.
Mio commended the women being honored this year for their dedication to the community.
“As I’ve said from the first time we did this, I’m truly amazed at the work so many people do in this community to help others and make this the wonderful place it is,” Mio said. “This year’s honorees, just like the women before them, are truly distinguished citizens.”
The News will announce the youth recipients next week. All 12 Women of Distinction will be featured in a special magazine and banquet. The magazine will publish in the Oct. 12 edition and the banquet will be held at Suzanne’s Fine Dining on Oct. 15.
A limited number of tickets are available for the banquet by contacting the Tonawanda News during regular business hours.