A Guiding Light in the Community
On the evening of May 10, 2012, the Vaughan Chamber of Commerce honoured community stars at the Annual Business Achievement Awards.
While the accolades praised individuals in fields from business to media work, the moment that capped the night was when Broker of Record Vivian Risi of Royal LePage – Your Community Realty received the Philanthropic Business Person of the Year award for her charitable work.
“What inspires me is helping people – vulnerable people – who are not as fortunate as I am,” says Risi. As chair of Yellow Brick House’s Second Shelter – Second Chances Capital Campaign, she has helped raise awareness and funds of $4 million for an additional YBH crisis shelter. Alongside her efforts in helping abused women and children find refuge, the award-winning realtor is also an avid supporter of various hospitals, which include Southlake Regional Health Centre, York Central Hospital, the Hospital for Sick Children, and foundations such as Lupus Ontario and Amnesty International.
On how she manages to balance her humanitarian work with professional responsibilities and family life, the receiver of 2012’s Richmond Hill’s The Mayor’s Award for Business Excellence jokingly replies that she simply doesn’t sleep. “I prioritize,” she continues in a serious manner. “I have a fantastic structure: a lot of support from my family and everyone around me contributes. I start my day positive,” says Risi, a YMCA Peace Medallion recipient.
As her name is called at the Vaughan Chamber of Commerce awards ceremony, held at La Primavera Hospitality & Convention Centre, Risi answers the standing ovation with humility and a smile. She stands next to her family while the mayor of Vaughan delivers a speech on her benevolence. “[Vivian Risi] is a woman who embodies the very best qualities of what humanity ought to be about,” says Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua. “In life, you can choose the path of least resistance, or you can choose the road less travelled. Vivian Risi [took] the road less travelled; she understood that we collectively have a responsibility to one another. The real lesson of Vivian Risi is that there’s no greater purpose in life than to be of service to one another, and more importantly, to be of service to the most vulnerable,” adds the mayor, while presenting her with an unexpected donation to the Yellow Brick House: a $10,000 cheque from proceeds raised at the 2011 Mayor’s Gala.
When it’s Risi’s turn on the podium to accept her award, she thanks her family and colleagues for their inspiration and partnership in making the Yellow Brick House a haven for struggling women and children. “Just thinking of the women and children who will walk through the door of the shelter, how their lives are going to be repaired, their broken dreams restored … What we take for granted when we go home at night is something they just dreamed about,” says an emotional Risi. An outstanding leader in the community, Risi recently extended her efforts beyond Vaughan, helping to organize Oprah Winfrey’s Toronto tour stop in her role as fervent contributor of The Power of Women speaking circuit.
As the celebrations draw to a close and the spacious hall empties, the energetic vibe makes it clear that Risi’s giving spirit ignites a passion for philanthropy in each guest. “We all need to take care of each other,” says the mayor. “Vivian learned early on that we’re all in this together.”