CDSS Inspiration Awards


About This Award

The CDSS Inspiration Award is awarded to two (2) people with Down syndrome (of any age) each year. These are the unsung heroes of the Down syndrome community. This award is best suited for people who feel as though they’re not typically represented in the community, but have a story worth celebrating. The two recipients are people who demonstrate the range that “See the Ability” encompasses.

See Selection Criteria & How to Nominate Someone

CDSS Inspiration Award Winners

Liam O’Brien & Brittany Orlita

Liam O’Brien
“If you are having a bad day, just go see Liam.” This has been spoken in the halls of St. James’ Regional High School in Port aux Basques. Liam is a 17-year-old in his final year of high school.

Liam has Down syndrome and is proud to inspire his community to See the Ability. He is one of two winners of the 2016 Inspiration Awards from the Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS), announced on World Down Syndrome Day (March 21, 2016). As an Inspiration Award winner, Liam will receive a $500 bursary, which he can put towards tuition, use to fund a special project, or donate back to his community.

Liam is an avid member of his high school community, voted as Student Council Representative by his peers. This year, he will be graduating with his high school diploma. He’s part of Special Olympics, competing and often earning medals in swimming and wrestling. He also loves music and can play the bodhran, tambourine, spoons and cajón; he has also participated in his school’s St. James’ Idol singing competition.

Liam was nominated by his teacher, Gail Spicer, his swimming coach, Jim Lane, and Joanne Strowbridge. He was chosen from nominations submitted from across the country.

Brittany Orlita
It’s a daunting task for most people. Moving to a big city after graduation, with new rules, new people, and new routines. Like many people after graduating from high school, Brittany Orlita left her home in Brooks to move to Calgary to attend university. Unlike many people, Brittany has Down syndrome.

For her courageousness and spirit, Brittany is being honoured by the Canadian Down Syndrome Society (CDSS). She is one of two winners of the 2016 Inspiration Awards, announced on World Down Syndrome Day (March 21, 2016). As an Inspiration Award winner, Brittany will receive a $500 bursary. The Inspiration Award aims to celebrate the community’s “unsung heroes” and to show the range that ‘See The Ability’ can encompass.

Brittany is in Mount Royal University’s Transitional Vocational Program. She works at No Frills in Calgary and volunteers at the Shawnessy YMCA and Beverly Centre, and attends acting classes at Inside Out Theatre. Her childhood dream to be in Shania Twain’s band came true recently – she sang with the country star at one of her shows in Las Vegas.

“Never underestimate a dream!” her mother wrote, in her nomination letter. Brittany was nominated by Maggie Theiss of Trinity Lutheran Church and her mother, Brenda. She was chosen from nominations submitted from across the country.

Selection Criteria


$500 Bursary for tuition, a special project, donation back to the community


The Inspiration awards will be chosen by a committee of CDSS leaders – members of VATTA (the VATTA Chair and Vice Chair), members of the CDSS Board of Directors Advocacy Committee, and members of the CDSS Staff.


  • These awards are for people with Down syndrome.
  • Entrants must be nominated – no self-nominations will be accepted. Parents and immediate family can nominate
  • Nominees must live in Canada.
  • Nominees are not required to be members of the Canadian Down Syndrome Society.
  • Nominees must not be a full or part-time paid staff member, board member, or committee member (for example, VATTA, or the Conference Committee) of the Canadian Down Syndrome Society. Past winners of the Canadian Down Syndrome Heroes are ineligible to receive this award. Past winners of the Canadian Down Syndrome Society’s Self-Advocate of the Year Award are ineligible to receive this award.

How to Nominate Someone

  • One (1) letter by the primary nominator on why the nominee deserves recognition (600 words MAXIMUM per letter).
  • One (1) to two (2) reference letters by someone other than the nominator (600 words MAXIMUM per letter).
  • You do not need to specify a category, but if you have a preference, please indicate in your letter.
  • To ensure a successful nomination, please refer to the award requirements.

Please submit your nomination letters – one letter by the primary nominator, one to two letters by people other than the primary nominator – by the deadline, February 1, 2016 extended to February 12, 2016.

We accept nominations via Email or Mail.

Subject: CDSS Awards 2016

Inspiration Awards
Canadian Down Syndrome Society
Suite 103 – 2003 14 Street NW
Calgary, AB T2M 3N4

Take a walk in their shoes and discover a world of possibilities – not disabilities – that will motivate and encourage you to learn more and get involved.