THE SCARBOROUGH WALK OF FAME
In 2003, there was a SARS outbreak in the City of Toronto. The epicentre of that outbreak was The Scarborough Grace Hospital, which today is the Birchmount site of The Scarborough Health Network. When SARS finally came under control and things went back to “normal”, there was still a Scarborough stigma.
Maria Dyck (currently President and CEO of St. Joseph’s Health Centre Foundation) from University of Toronto Scarborough Campus (UTSC) started making phone calls to gather together Scarborough leaders to determine what could be done to bolster Scarborough’s reputation. Together with The Scarborough Mirror, Centennial College, Delta Toronto East and Roehm and Haas, a Stand Up Scarborough campaign was launched. A website was created and staff was hired by one of the partners to tell the Stand Up Scarborough story.
For some time, the committee continued to work behind the scenes, but eventually decided that it would be more beneficial to the community to create a permanent, visual demonstration of some of Scarborough’s bright lights. After much consideration, the committee agreed to start a Scarborough Walk of Fame (SWOF). The Scarborough Town Centre (STC) was approached and management came on board, agreeing to allow the installation of permanent Stars in the floor of the food court to form a footpath. With thousands of people passing through the space on a daily basis, it provided great visibly. The Scarborough Walk of Fame was born and the first inductions took place in 2006.
The Scarborough Walk of Fame Board was created and the organization was incorporated in 2006. Still volunteer-driven, members of the committee provided the funding to make this initiative a reality and they used many of their own resources to achieve that goal. The Scarborough Walk of Fame organization would be dedicated to honouring individuals who bring pride to Scarborough and inspire tomorrow’s leaders. SWOF would celebrate achievements of Scarborough residents, past and present in the fields of Arts & Culture, Community, Education, Environment, Entertainment, Health & Science and Sports. By creating and maintaining a permanent place of tribute at Scarborough Town Centre, residents and visitors alike can be inspired by the Stars.
The aim was to create a Walk of Fame that would serve as an inspiration for the youth in our community. With the help of Scarborough Councillor Glenn DeBaeremaeker, City funding was secured to design, fabricate and install the bronze Stars. Again, with the help of the committee members’ resources, particularly The Scarborough Mirror and The Scarborough Town Centre, a gala was planned, sponsorships were secured and tickets were sold to provide the necessary additional funding to create the celebration events surrounding the induction of the Stars. The committee agreed that inspiring youth was an important part of their mission, therefore, from the money raised, $30,000 was donated to three (3) youth organizations – $10,000 to each.
Members were delighted when Deb McGrath and Colin Mochrie came on board as pro bono emcees. They have hosted the events every year since and have already agreed to come back this year. During Scarborough Town Centre’s 2010 renovation, the Stars were moved adjacent to the mall’s centre court and The Scarborough Walk of Fame Court was created. Fund raising for events are complicated and fraught with countless challenges, but The Scarborough Walk of Fame has employed a variety of different models with great success.
In 2013, after the formal induction ceremonies, the event was held in a vacant store space in the Town Centre and with the creativity and imagination of the STC team, it was transformed into a hip, night club-like space. Another year, SWOF partnered with The Scarborough Hospital and Centennial College, who pitched in to make that same space a cool lounge with delicious food. Later that day, the newly inducted Stars participated in the entertainment at the fund raising Gala.
In 2018, (the latest induction) for the first time, the event was not held at STC but in the beautiful new Centennial College event centre. All these events were successful and refreshingly different.
To date, The Scarborough Walk of Fame has inducted 55 individuals. Each year nominations from prior years who have not been inducted are again reviewed. The SWOF nominations committee suggests nominees and a six week public campaign adds more nominees to be considered.
In 2018, for the first time, SWOF inducted a Star in the business category and the inductee was Domenic Primucci of Pizza Nova. In addition, four young people were presented with a Scarborough Walk of Fame Rising Star award. Too early in their careers to have accomplished enough to receive a Star, these recipients however are making their own mark in our community.
Colin Mochrie was given a special award of thanks for hosting the events for so many years, along with his wife, SWOF inductee, Deborah McGrath.
After a strategic planning session, The Scarborough Walk of Fame Board agreed on the necessity to insure that SWOF continued to celebrate community, recognize achievement and inspire tomorrow’s leaders. When looking at those goals, one can see that they are very much aligned with what The Scarborough Community Renewal Organization (SCRO) aspires to—connecting, promoting and renewing Scarborough. For that reason, on March 1, 2021 The Scarborough Walk of Fame Association was moved under the SCRO umbrella and all of SWOF assets were moved to SCRO who will continue to manage and present SWOF installations, events and initiatives.
In 2022, the SWOF Celebration Day event will be held at Scarborough Town Centre, Centre Court on September 15. Due to COVID, the last event was held in 2018; therefore, this year’s event will have 10-12 new inductions. 2022 will be the first year the event will be streamed to all residents in Scarborough and beyond. On Celebration Day, not only will there be two induction ceremonies but there will be programming showcasing Scarborough talent and pride.