$16,000 in grants, Jay Onrait and good company at MAF Gala

The folks with the Miami Area Foundation made sure Jay Onrait wasn't lonely as they created a 'fake' Dan O'Toole for him to be seated with during dinner. (Aaron Wilgosh/Postmedia)

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The Miami and Area Foundation celebrated 10 years with an extravagant gala celebration featuring Canadian sports icon as TSN announcer Jay Onrait, who made the trip to the small community to entertain the sold-out crowd at the Miami Community Centre after $16,000 worth of granting cash was handed out to local organizations.

“I really like to compliment our board and all the volunteers that helped out, they went all out and had it looking quite fine and I thought it was a great evening,” said Foundation Chair, Gordon Simpson. “We always have tremendous support from the community. We even had a good amount of support from outside of the community as well, like the support we get from Carman, Morden and Winkler areas.”

Six grants were handed out at the event for a grand total of $16,000. The Miami and Area Foundation has granted over $80,000 to date.

Miami Railway Station Museum $1,000
Miami 4H Beef Club $1,000
Miami Agricultural Society $2,000
Miami Sports Complex $3,500
Lloyd Orchard Community Arena $5,000
Miami Parks Board – Cenotaph memorial $3,500

The gala’s highlight was an evening with Jay Onrait, who shared tales from his life/career in the media and sports world.

“I feel like people must tell that Miami joke constantly,” laughed Onrait. “It was interesting to me because I hosted Breakfast Television in Winnipeg in the 90’s and I couldn’t believe I didn’t know there was a Miami, Manitoba. One of my favourite parts of the day was the drive from Winnipeg to Miami because I love driving through the prairies.”

Onrait says it was an honour to be brought in to speak at such an important event as he knows it what small towns have to do to raise money for the community.

“The hall is beautiful and it was a really fun night. People came up to me all night and said how much they appreciated what we do, and we don’t do much, but I think our appreciation for all things Canada comes through (in the show) and we’re especially big in the prairies,” Onrait said. “I think the people in the prairies understand people who are genuine and we really do love what we do and it really shows through the show.”

The event also featured a special presentation to Miami’s Huntley Knox Memorial Citizen of the Year. This year’s recipient is Miami Railway Station Museum Chairperson Joan Driedger, who is a standout volunteer in the community.

Joan Driedger (left) reacting with a friend to the announcement that she is 2019’s Citizen of the Year. (Aaron Wilgosh/Postmedia)

“My husband told my kids they needed to come, and I was so worried that day to clean for the kids incoming over I didn’t think about the award at all, and when they showed the picture of us as kids my really good friend Karen Orchard, I thought she was going to win because she is very active in the community as well, and then they showed my picture and I thought wow,” exclaimed Driedger. “I was more than surprised.”

Dreidger has her hand in many different groups in the community but mainly spends her time caring and working to improve The Railway Station Museum. She’s also helped organize ladies draws, worked in the kitchen at the curling rink, and currently, volunteers at the Miami Library.

“I also collect for the Kidney Foundation and I really will do anything the town of Miami needs within reason,” she laughed. “You need a worker in the kitchen I don’t mind, you need a cake I can probably bake you one.”

She adds, Miami is an amazing place and she really cares for it.

“I love this town, I love the people in it and the organizations here,” said Driedger. “Right now, we have so many young people picking up the slack and taking over things like the baseball and soccer pitch project, the cenotaph, the new train playground we brought in. I really think this is just a really great place to be.”

The Railway station museum had an exceptional year with 1420 visitors through 2019, and Driedger says that is 400 more than ever before.

“That’s really good for the town too because we tell our visitors there is another museum, have a coffee at the station house and you have to stop in at Miami Variety too,” she added.

A total amount raised from the Miami and Area Foundation Gala will be announced in the coming weeks.