In 2009, WOW or Women of Waterloo Region was started by a woman named Amanda Knapp. Knapp wanted simply to celebrate women who were doing things that made other women think “WOW, what an amazing woman”.  As Knapp puts it “This is about women who WOW you.    They didn’t have to build the Perimeter Institute, they could be a mom who raised 5 kids, volunteered and made a WOW difference.” There are no distinct categories or criteria.  Recipients are nominated and selected by other women in the community and it is a community event.

Attendance doubled from 60 women last year to over 120 this year. It is a successful event because it is simple. The concept is easily understood and the program itself straightforward. Come out and celebrate women for the sake of celebrating women. The evening consists of an opportunity to meet-up with other women in the community, both familiar faces and new ones. There is a cash bar and wait staff continuously serving plates of delicious appetizers and for those looking for a place to congregate  there is an aesthetically pleasing edible table display filled with an assortment of crisp breads, dips and veggies. Small art exhibits by some of the area’s local women painters are set up near the entrance doors subtlety stating once again that women in this community, as elsewhere, are capable of many extraordinary things.

There is no dinner. Women sit at tables sipping glasses of wine or soda munching on more small plates of different appetizers and the MC introduces the event and the year’s 5 Women of Waterloo. In turn each recipient has 5 minutes to speak and to introduce the audience to a woman they’ve invited whom they respect and admire. The second woman is called to the podium and both are given thank you gifts. This is followed by a brief Q&A period where the audience is able to ask the WOW women any questions they like. Then closing remarks and those in attendance either continue to chat with others in the room or disperse. The program which began at 5:30 wraps up neatly and on time at 7:30. The atmosphere is both informal and professional. Those wishing to continue chatting retire to the hotel’s bar. In total 2 hours of intriguing opportunities to discover and celebrate some of the richness that Waterloo Region’s women contribute to this community. Well done.

Congratulations to this year’s women of distinction: Entrepreneur Connie Deckert of Fore U Enterprises, Citizenship Judge Sharon Robertson, RIM VP Sara Shortreed, Publisher of Snap KW Newspapers Dawne Taylor-Gilders, Lori Van Opstal, President of Your Advantage Staffing and of course, also to those women who WOW them.

Heike Mertins