By: CJ Ramsaran

One would expect to see masqueraders, revelers, and steel pan drums at the 2012 Scotiabank Caribbean Carnival, formerly and still affectionately known as Caribana to many.  One would also expect to see any number of random faces in the crowd of a million plus parade goers; yet in the midst of it all, one of those not so random faces stood out in the crowd – that face belongs to Canadian Olympic Athlete Susan (Sue) Stewart.

Stewart played for the Canadian Women’s Basketball team at the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia, where the team finished 11th overall.  She is also known for her representation of Canada at the FIBA World Championship, the PanAm Games, and the FISU World Student Games.

Stewart was making great strides in her basketball career and was on top of her game when tragedy struck in April, 2005.  Stewart suffered a head injury resulting in extended hospital stays and has required ongoing rehabilitation over the past seven years.  The road to recovery has been long, however, Stewart’s will and determination has propelled her forward in her recovery.

Stewart, like many attending the 2012 Caribana parade was introduced to the festival as a child.  “I remember my parents used to take us, we loved to see the spectacular costumes and there was food galore.”  Stewart lets out a chuckle as she says “I remember when the parade used to be on University Ave. – they used to turn down the music when they passed by the hospital so the noise wouldn’t be too loud for the patients.” Stewart also affirms “the parade became such a large event it had to be moved to the Lakeshore, and it continues to grow each year.”  “I have fond memories of the parade, those were the good old days” Stewart conveys. “People didn’t let things bother them; they came out to enjoy the Caribbean culture – everyone was there to have a good time.”

Some family traditions fade as the years go by, but for Stewart and her family 2012 proved to be a walk down memory lane.  Stewart, accompanied by her father, sister, niece and nephew made their way along the parade route, where she reminisced of Caribana days gone by, and optimistically looks toward the future of new traditions to come.  Stewart who is of Jamaican heritage wishes for her niece and nephew (the next generation) to embrace the spirit of Caribana. “We need to celebrate who we are – we can’t deny our heritage or culture”.

Today Stewart resides in her home-town of Mississauga, Ontario, where she has diligently taken on the role of community leader and advocate; proactively seeking out opportunities to make a difference and to impact lives wherever and however she can.

Stewart is a Mississauga Sports Hall of Fame inductee and she actively serves on the Mississauga Sports Council’s Board of Directors.  In 2009 and 2010 Stewart Chaired the Sports Council’s Annual Sports Awards Dinner, and in 2011 she went on to Chair Sports Week.

Stewart currently serves as Coordinator, Sports Ministry for Praise Cathedral Worship Centre (PCWC), where she works with young men and women from the community with a primary goal in mind – to keep them engaged in something productive and proactive which will ultimately keep them off the streets. “If I change one of these lives for the better, my work here is done.” says Stewart.

Stewart is also an ambassador and public speaker for One Voice One Team, founded by former Toronto Argonauts player Orlando Bowen.  One Voice One Team is an educational platform which teaches youth to make cognitive decisions to garner success in their personal lives and their communities.  The teachings and principles of One Voice One Team are simple: Self Respect, Work Hard, Overcome Adversity, Lead by Example, and Excellence; better known by the acronym S.W.O.L.E.™.

If all these hats weren’t enough, Stewart also took on the role of Assistant Coach for the Ryerson Rams Women’s Basketball Program during the 2011/2012 season.

Stewart’s passion for basketball remains – she’s just taken her game off the basketball court and into her community.  Her passion and leadership resonates in all she does and is echoed in her words “my community has given so much and done so much for me; and to whom much is given, much is required.”