Strong Start® Charitable Organization’s long-time technology advisor and software developer volunteer, Chris Howlett, was honoured with a 2023 Ontario Senior Achievement Award on Thursday, February 29, 2024. Recognized by the Honourable Edith Dumont, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and Minister Cho, at a ceremony in the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite at Queen’s Park, this award recognizes people who have made outstanding contributions to their communities through voluntary or professional activities after the age of 65.

Chris Howlett, pictured middle, second row, celebrates receiving a 2023 Ontario Senior Achievement Award with fellow recipients at Queen’s Park. Award recipients were recognized by the Honourable Edith Dumont, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility.

Chris was awarded for his efforts to help young children learn to read by donating countless hours of technology advice and software development services to Strong Start. His incredible gift has helped Strong Start dramatically scale its programs using proprietary web applications, including SiTE SOURCE™ and the ViP™ (Volunteer Information Portal) . Since Chris has been volunteering with Strong Start, the number of children served has risen from 10,000 in 2010 to more than 56,000 in 2023.

“Chris’ contributions to Strong Start over the years including his technology innovations have been instrumental in our ability to grow our impact and help thousands of children learn to read each year. Chris is most worthy of this award and an inspiration to us all,” said Strong Start’s Chief Executive Officer, Machelle Denison.

In the press release from the Ministry of Seniors and Accessibility announcing the recipients, Chris was highlighted for bringing the best of technology and charity together through his work with Strong Start.

“I was very gratified to receive this award and appreciate Strong Start nominating me for this honour. I am heartened to be part of the wonderful work Strong Start has been doing for many years, educating Ontario’s children in reading using innovative tools and methods developed here in Waterloo by Ontario educators. The ceremony itself was impressive and humbling, with twenty recipients like me gathered in the Lieutenant-Governor’s chambers at Queen’s Park, hosted graciously by the Honourable Edith Dumont, Lieutenant-Governor and the Honourable  Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility.

We traveled to and from the event in style, in a beautiful stretch Limousine kindly provided by Brentwood Livery. Thank you Brentwood!” Chris shared.

Chris was one of 20 recipients to receive the honour and was joined at the ceremony by Machelle, along with some of his immediate family including  wife, Lynn, son, Michael, and daughter, Caitlin. Family members, friends, and Strong Start staff and volunteers joined the celebration via the live stream including several who attended a “watch party” at Strong Start’s National Program Deployment Centre, including grandson Alex and son-in-law Craig.

Strong Start would also like to acknowledge and thank Brentwood Livery for their generous sponsorship of the limousine service, which allowed Chris and his family to attend the ceremony in comfort.

Chris, and his wife, Lynn, celebrate his 2023 Ontario Senior Achievement Award in the comfort of transportation generously provided by Brentwood Livery.

CBC’s The Morning Edition K-W with Craig Norris also featured an interview with Chris about his award. Click here to listen. 

Strong Start extends its heartfelt congratulations to Chris Howlett for this well-deserved recognition of his dedication and invaluable contributions. Chris’s unwavering commitment to advancing the mission of Strong Start and his innovative use of technology have made a profound impact on the lives of thousands of young children. His ongoing support and leadership continue to inspire us all.