Each of VIATEC’s COVID heroes was awarded an “AstroDot” custom trophy made by local artist Russel Papp. (Courtesy of VIATEC)

Each of VIATEC’s COVID heroes was awarded an “AstroDot” custom trophy made by local artist Russel Papp. (Courtesy of VIATEC)

10 Greater Victoria people, businesses named COVID heroes

VIATEC announced the heroes in a livestreamed event Dec. 17

In lieu of its annual awards celebration, VIATEC livestreamed a one-time event Thursday to celebrate the exceptional contributions made by 10 Greater Victoria people and businesses throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a normal year, the Victoria Innovation, Advanced Technology and Entrepreneurship Council (VIATEC) recognizes companies, leaders and innovators in the technology sector with awards like Community Champion, Member of the Year and Technology Champion. This year, VIATEC instead asked the community to nominate the people and businesses that have made a difference during this difficult time.

“We had some folks nominate their caretakers, local business owners and even their neighbours for going the extra mile to make a difference,” Dan Gunn, CEO of VIATEC, said. “It was extremely inspiring to read all the nominations that came in, and it was extremely difficult for the judges to narrow it down to just 10.”

But, VIATEC managed to choose the following winners:

Mandy Farmer, CEO of Accent Inns and Hotel Zed. (Provided by Depepa Pillay)

Brianne Budlovsky: Budlovsky is an ER and cosmetic doctor who returned to work right at the start of the pandemic after taking a 6 month maternity leave. In March, she created an Instagram account, @doctorbri, to share COVID-19 information and thoughts. She now has over 3,000 followers.

Accent Inns and Hotel Zed Victoria: The hotel chain has housed cancer patients undergoing treatment, frontline workers in need of accommodation and, in Tofino, First Nations people who need to isolate. It has also given guests the option of donating 25 per cent of their room rate to Variety the Children’s Charity. At the start of the pandemic, CEO Mandy Farmer sent $250 grocery gift cards to all her employees – even those who were temporarily laid off.

READ ALSO: Accent Inns, Hotel Zed CEO earns prestigious award

The Rapid Relief Fund: The result of a coalition of businesses and philanthropic partners, the Rapid Relief Fund has provided support to vulnerable populations who have been impacted by COVID-19. Over 13,000 donors have contributed to the fund, and by April it was already nearing the $5 million mark.

READ ALSO: Greater Victoria businesses rally for Rapid Relief Fund

Smaragda Agathoklis: Working as an outreach nurse, Agathoklis took on additional hours during the pandemic to support vulnerable community members in downtown Victoria. When she wasn’t at work, she was organizing clothing donation pick ups to bring to warm supplies to those living outside in established camping areas.

StarFish Medical: StarFish and over 100 of its staff immediately dedicated themselves to developing a ventilator that could be produced quickly to meet demand. Once approved by Health Canada, StarFish used its connections to source suppliers and get the product into production.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Saanich company joins nation-wide effort to produce 30,000 ventilators

Vancouver Island drag queen, designer and performer, Jimbo. (Submitted photo)

Jimbo: Performer, designer and drag queen, Jimbo took on a new project during COVID-19, called Mask 4 Mask. Jimbo and his assembly-line team make masks in colourful, fun patterns and for every one sold, they personally hand one to a homeless person. He says he’s been sewing for up to 18 hours a day.

READ ALSO: Riot unveils a colourful brew in honour of an Island drag queen

Delusional Theatre Society: The non-profit transformed Logan’s Pub’s weekly “Hootenanny” into a free livestreamed show, helping local artists to be seen internationally. The show has featured over 250 artists from all over Canada, the States, Europe and Australia and garnered over 25,000 views.

Redlen Technologies: Dedicated to designing and building radiation sensing equipment for medical and security purposes, it was essential that Redlen Technologies stayed open during the pandemic. The company also redeployed its 3D printers to make face shields and donated hundreds of N95 masks to the Saanich Peninsula Hospital.

James Bay New Horizons Society: Staff at the senior citizens centre kept it open every week day to ensure elderly people had a place away from home where they could go rent books and DVDs. They also offered weekly produce and personal hygiene items to those who were struggling financially and filled requests for grocery shopping, prescription pick up, transportation to the Cancer Centre and meal delivery service. In total, the staff have organized grocery shopping for over 10,000 people in Greater Victoria and currently deliver prepared meals to 235 isolated clients.

The Vancouver Island COVID 3D Printing Group: The group coordinated over 100 volunteers to use 3D printers to create face shields and ear protector clips for medical masks. Coordinating with a Vancouver group, UVic and Vancouver Island Health Authority, the 3D printing group helped supply hospitals, ambulance stations, police and fire departments, senior homes, homeless support workers, rehab centres, among others.

Each hero was awarded an “AstroDot” custom trophy made by local artist Russel Papp.

The full video can be watched here.


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