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Donna Holwell Legacy Award

About the Award

Nominations will open June 2024.

The Donna Holwell Legacy Award honours individuals who, through their dedication and commitment to Retirement Community Living, have created a legacy of work resulting in positive change and measurable difference for the sector.

Nominations are invited for ORCA members who have a demonstrated history of service in various capacities: exceptional people who have contributed both personally and professionally to the betterment of our sector.

If you have any questions about the award, please contact

Donna Holwell's Legacy

Donna’s contribution to the Retirement Home sector is a shining example of her passion for seniors housing demonstrated by her countless volunteer hours and activities. Her commitment was made both locally in her hometown of Orangeville and on a broader scale through her Ontario Retirement Communities Association (ORCA) Board, Ontario Seniors Secretariat and Retirement Home Regulatory Authority (RHRA) committee work.

Donna was always the first to raise her hand when an opportunity arose to ensure seniors continue to have choice, autonomy and quality of life. Donna’s legacy will remind us that she was truly an extraordinary person.

Honourees include Debbie Doherty from Debbie Doherty Enterprises Inc. (2017), Millie Christie from Verve Senior Living (2018), Ron Schlegel from Schlegel Villages (2019), Karen Sullivan from Chartwell Retirement Residences (2020), Jackie Dusome from All Seniors Care Living Centres (2021), Bob Kallonen, from Amica Senior Lifestyles (2022), and Mike Lavallée, from Seasons Retirement Communities (2023).

2023 Honouree

Mike Lavallee

Mike Lavallée

Mike Lavallée has successfully advocated for residents’ quality of life and care, government policy and regulation development for over 20 years.

Mike started at Jarlette Health Services as an Administrator before joining Chartwell Retirement Residences as Vice-President of Operations. He then joined a brand-new Seasons Retirement Communities in 2009.

In addition to a B.A. from Bishop’s University, he holds the ICD.D designation, which fuels his passion for leadership excellence and has led him to support multiple organizations through Board Governance. For example, outside of his seniors housing governance work, Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Governors for Trent University, where he Chairs the Land Development Committee.

Some of Mike’s notable accomplishments over his long-standing career include:

  • Actively volunteering with ORCA for 16 years. He has contributed to many committees, such as Finance, Strategy, Risk and Governance, Building Code Revision, CEO Selection, and Health and Human Resources, and has been the Board Liaison for commercial partners.
  • Acted as ORCA Board Chair for multiple terms and is currently the ORCA Board Treasurer.
  • Serving as an Alberta Seniors & Community Housing Association (ASCHA) Board of Directors member.
  • Establishing the Seasons Retirement Communities brand and operating platform with corporate culture as a key priority.
  • Authoring the book Connect, Care, Change. A Road Map for Authentic Leadership about the authentic connections that shape a company’s culture and create caring leaders who make a difference in the lives of others.

Despite Mike’s many responsibilities as Seasons CEO and active ORCA and ASCHA Board Member, he remains connected to the needs of Seasons’ retirement community team members, residents and their families.  His open-door policy makes him available to everyone, as he profoundly believes team members will provide the exceptional care and service our residents deserve when they are engaged, listened to and appreciated.

Past Honourees


Bob Kallonen, 2022

Bob has been a leader in service to older adults and the teams that support them in the retirement and long-term care communities across North America for nearly 30 years. Throughout his career, Bob has held key leadership roles at several of the most reputable companies in the senior living sector, including Schlegel Villages, Sunrise Senior Living, Extendicare, and VersaCare Ltd.

Prior to his retirement at the end of 2021, Bob was the President of Amica Senior Lifestyles for seven years, where he oversaw all aspects of sales, operations, and the resident experience.

With a background in environmental sciences and urban planning and a Master’s in Business Administration from the Ivey Business School, Bob intrinsically understands what it takes to create sustainable organizations that provide the highest quality of life for older adults and all those who support them.

Some of Bob’s notable accomplishments over his long-standing career include:

  • Implementing culture change across many organizations – a social movement focused on transforming retirement living towards resident-centred and resident-directed values and practices, ensuring the voices of older adults and those working with them are respected.
  • Serving on the Board of Directors for the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA), a charitable foundation dedicated to enhancing care and quality of life for older adults.
  • Serving on the Board of Directors for the Retirement Home Regulatory Authority (RHRA) for many years, ensuring the voice of the operator was at the table.

Bob’s ongoing quest for knowledge and innovation has made him a conduit for change. His inspirational leadership, mentorship, caring spirit, and advocacy efforts are what distinguish him and make him so well-respected by his peers in the sector.

Jackie Dusome

Jackie Dusome, 2021

Jackie has over 30 years of experience in the retirement community sector. Committed to improving the lives of seniors, her philosophy is that seniors deserve to be treated with respect, dignity, privacy, and autonomy in retirement homes that offer security, safety, and comfort.

At the tender age of 21, Jackie was already the General Manager of an Ontario retirement home. Flash forward to today, she is the Vice President of Compliance and New Developments of All Seniors Care Living Centres and has been with the organization for over five years.

Over three decades in the sector, some of her accomplishments include:

  • Subject matter expert for Centennial College’s retirement communities’ management program, helping develop the first curriculum.
  • An integral member of the ORCA Advisory Committee, helping shape the safety standards for the sector during the development of the retirement home regulations.
  • Committed to life-long learning, completing an RN designation, a CHRL designation, a Teaching and Training Adults certificate, Queens Executive Management programs, all while working full time at an executive level and volunteering for the sector.
  • Active volunteer with ORCA since 2002. Her various positions with the Association include a member of the Standards Committee, Chair of the Operations Committee for seven years, a part of a variety of ad hoc groups, Regional Present of Region 1, RHRA Liaison, and Member of the Board of Directors since 2013, where she currently sits as Director at Large.
  • Supported the sector through significant changes over her ORCA tenure, including implementing the RHA standards, cannabis policy, and MAID.

Her dedication and commitment over the years have consistently moved the standards within the sector towards a level of operating excellence. Not only is she an invaluable contributor to the Association and her team, but she is also a natural-born leader who has helped the sector navigate through COVID-19.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Jackie has provided her time and expertise to interpret provincial directives, approve materials and messaging, represent ORCA and the sector as a collaborative partner with the MSAA/RHRA technical table, and more. Most importantly, Jackie has made sure to secure the voice of the sector during these challenging times.

As once said by Donna Holwell, “caring for seniors – it’s a privilege.” Jackie has lived by these words throughout her career and continues to shine as a leader and mentor for everyone in the sector.

Karen Sullivan 200x200

Karen Sullivan, 2020

Karen has over 33 years of experience in seniors housing and is known for her influence, guidance and friendships across the sector, and for the countless individuals she has mentored, inspired, and championed throughout her career.

Currently, she is the President and Chief Operating Officer of Chartwell Retirement Residences. Prior to joining Chartwell in 2008, Karen worked for the Ontario Long Term Care Association (OLTCA) for 21 years, including six as CEO, building extensive knowledge of seniors housing in Canada, a strong reputation, and deep respect from operators, national association peers and government across both the retirement and LTC sectors.

Her leadership experience across both sectors and associations is vast, and some of her career highlights include:

  • Joining ORCA’s Board of Directors in 2009 as Vice President, Government Relations, to help navigate the impending Retirement Homes Act;
  • Guiding ORCA through a renewal of its core mandate on governance, advocacy and member education to sustain and mitigate the substantial changes and risks to the sector in the transformation phase of becoming a regulated sector;
  • Launching the Canadian Association for Long-Term Care, a model that the retirement sector today follows through the Canadian Association for Senior Living to seek national alignment, collaboration, and shared learnings across our provincial retirement home associations; and
  • Developing Together We Care into Canada’s largest Canadian seniors housing conference, allowing ORCA & OLTCA to expand strategic alignment and member benefit.

More recently, Karen has worked with unwavering resolve not just to support Chartwell, but the entire sector, throughout the pandemic. She enlisted support from a group of large operators to create The Senior Living Cares fund “CaRES” – an emergency financial assistance program for senior living employees facing extraordinary circumstances. To date, almost $2 million has been awarded to more than 400 employees across Canada.

Karen would be the first to say that nothing compares with the sacrifice of workers on the front lines. And yet, her influence has undeniably affected countless employees across the entire sector.

Ron Schlegel

Ron Schlegel, 2019

Ron has been supporting the seniors in his communities since he was a boy serving meals in the seniors’ home his parents operated in London, Ontario. The values instilled in his heart at a young age have guided his path through life, and the retirement villages he has built that bear his family name are a testament to his ongoing quest to offer the best of service in retirement living.

Some of his accomplishments over his 70 years serving seniors include:

  • Opening his first retirement community in Kitchener, Ontario, more than 25 years ago;
  • Founding Schlegel Villages, the successful long-term care and retirement community organization that currently operates 19 villages across Ontario;
  • Pledging $10 million in seed money to launch the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging (RIA) in 2005; and
  • Marrying the RIA research and its practical application in all aspects of Schlegel Villages communities, from the unique Program for Active Living, which helps residents maintain strength, mobility and independence, to the physical design of the living environment.

Ron’s commitment to the social approach in retirement living has created opportunities for countless residents to not only find security and comfort in a true continuum of care, but new opportunities for growth, joy and meaning in their lives.

To this day, Ron is still active in the villages, meeting with team members and residents alike, asking questions about what is working and where there are strengths to be built upon. He enjoys working alongside his three sons, Rob, James and Brad, all of whom are actively involved in the everyday operations of Schlegel Villages.

Millie Christie

Millie Christie, 2018

Millie has been a leader, an influencer and a passionate supporter of the retirement living sector in Ontario for over 25 years. She has experience in both Operations and Human Resources through her leadership at Verve Senior Living/Diversicare, giving her great insight into the detailed day-to-day workings of different retirement residences, the sector and, most importantly, the people who work and live in retirement homes.

In collaboration with other leaders in the sector, Millie has applied her knowledge of what the sector needs to thrive and better serve seniors to positively shape the future retirement living environment in Ontario. She served several terms as President of the ORCA Board of Directors covering:

  • Amendments to the Assessment Act classifying retirement homes as residential;
  • Development and introduction of the Retirement Homes Act (RHA);
  • Improvements to fire safety through changes to the Fire & Building Codes; and
  • The new Building Code classification for retirement homes.

She currently serves as a Board member of the Retirement Home Regulatory Authority (RHRA), bringing an operator’s voice and perspective to the table and in earlier years, was a VP of Education on the ORCA Board of Directors and member of the Standards Committee.

At Verve Senior Living/Diversicare, Millie is responsible for Human Resources & Labour Relations, leading a talented team dedicated to ensuring that their passionate staff live and breathe the company’s promise of delivering inspired senior living every single day.

Debbie Doherty, 2017

Debbie has made significant contributions to ORCA and the sector through her leadership at Lifestyles Retirement Communities, Specialty Care Inc. and Sienna Senior Living, her involvement on the ORCA Board of Directors, and her many years as a volunteer member of ORCA committees.

In 1996, as Chair of the Standards Committee, Debbie spearheaded the introduction of the ORCA standards and guided the implementation process, during which all members of ORCA were required to obtain accreditation.

During round table discussions while the Retirement Homes Act (RHA) was in development, Debbie was a key contributor to recognizing that, with regulations approaching, ORCA must move from 254 standards to essential operating standards that all homes could meet. The standards were then streamlined to 79.

These mandatory standards were key for both ORCA and the entire sector in many ways, including:

  • Enriching our knowledge and reputation as a sector;
  • Earning recognition by government and an invitation to the table when developing provincial regulations;
  • Preparing ORCA Members to implement and manage those regulations; and
  • Creating public awareness that an ORCA certificate in the lobby is a mark of distinction.

Through the accreditation program, homes were prepared for the incoming regulations and the ORCA standards were recognized in the development of the RHA regulations.

Debbie chaired the Stakeholder Advisory Board of the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA)for a full term of 6 years and continues to work with operators to assist them with a variety of operational areas including meeting compliance, restructuring and redevelopment, risk management and operational reviews.