Mayor recognizes folks who make a difference

Lou Sprenger with his camera and trusty monopod takes in the crowd at Artwalk 2017. Nora Penhale Photo

Troy Shantz

Look closely during a major event in Sarnia and you’ll often see Lou Sprenger there with camera in hand.

“For me, the perfect event means getting out there and capturing something nobody saw, what was missed,” said the 50-year-old city photographer.

“It’s the person that did so much but who nobody is recognizing or paying attention to.”

Sprenger has shot and shared his photos from countless local events, including Santa Claus parades and Canada Day festivities.

Lou Sprenger uses his characteristic camera monopod to get a long shot at last year’s Labour Day Parade in downtown Sarnia.
Nora Penhale Photo

For his commitment to recording local culture, Mike Bradley named him one of 23 individuals and organizations on the 2018 Mayor’s Honour List.

“The list is a tribute to the unsung people and groups in the community who make a difference in trying to create a good and just community and society,” Bradley said.

“It is living proof that individual citizens and groups can make a difference,” he said.

Sprenger said being named last week to the 36th annual list was unexpected. Photographing Sarnians in action is enjoyable, he said.

“I tell people, ‘If you’re smiling you’re the perfect target,’” he said with a laugh.

But Sprenger is contending with spastic paraplegia, a hereditary condition that causes severe stiffness of the legs and hips. It is degenerative, which means his event photography – and mobility – is becoming a challenge, he said.

“I keep saying ‘no’ in my head but the body language is telling me I probably won’t be able to,” he said.

“But if I can’t get out there and take pictures anymore, at least I have the history from the last 10 or 15 years,” he said.

Bradley said the Honour List was the brainchild of former city mayor Marceil Saddy, who began the tradition in 1981.

Since then, several hundred have earned a spot, including Col. Chris Hadfield, Kim Mitchell and Emm Gryner, the mayor said.

This year’s recipients will be formally recognized at a Feb. 5 reception.

The others are:

James Acheson (Port Huron businessman, philanthropist and bi-national event supporter)

  • Alzheimer Society of Sarnia-Lambton (which has served local families since 1986)
  • Michelle Batty (retiring after 27 years with the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Centre and Women’s Interval Home).
  • David Chilton (best-selling author, TV personality, part-time resident and friend of Sarnia)
  • Cinderella Story/Debbie Anderson (for providing 625 girls from struggling families with prom dresses and accessories)
  • Helen Danby (long-time supporter of the IODE at local and national levels)
  • 4Friends (having raised $10,000 for Community Living by knitting mittens and sweaters from recycled wool)
  • Liam Henderson (11-year-old who made the city proud as a contestant on CBC-TV’s Canada’s Smartest Person Junior)
  • Laurie Hicks (for launching a local patch-for-patch fentanyl program that became provincial law)
  • Wendy Hooghiem (for her leadership and success in expanding the Adopt-A-Scientist program)
  • Fabien Jagoo (for his quiet support of charities and businesses, including Cystic Fibrosis Canada)
  • LiUNA, Local 1089 (generous backer of numerous charitable organizations and dozens of youth sports teams)
  • Lee Michaels (legendary radio broadcaster and humanitarian who retired last year after 40 years of delivering news, sports and weather)
  • Blake Morrison (St. Patrick’s teacher who involves his students in current events and organizes a Citizenship Court in the school gym)
  • Robert and Marion Round (long-time residents and the Roller Skating Dance Champions of Canada in 1987 and 1988)
  • St. Patrick’s art, construction, manufacturing and design students (for their detailed replica of Sarnia’s Cenotaph used in the 2018 Remembrance Day services at Sarnia Arena)
  • John Stewart (long-time community supporter active with the 403 Wing, Rotary Club, Remembrance services and Labour Day parade)
  • Douglas Thibert (an active Scouting leader with a long list of accomplishments, despite being only in his 20s)
  • Al and Michelle Weiss (who organized four concerts that raised $90,000 for the Breast Cancer Society of Canada).