Two young women from Merrickville have been presented with Canada 150 medals for their volunteerism and contribution to the community. Taylor Horning, 18, and Peyton Horning, 17, both have impressive backgrounds for ones so young. In 2011 they ran their “Share Your Hair” initiative, where they collected 1,000 pounds of hair to help with the cleanup after the BP oil spill. In 2013 they collected 33,000 aluminum cans for Habitat for Humanity, which were recycled, with funds going towards purchasing building materials for a new build in Kemptville. “I really learned that kids can do anything they put their minds to,” says Taylor, who was just eleven during their “Share Your Hair” project. The sisters have received significant recognition for their efforts, including the Presidential Environmental Youth Award from President Barack Obama, and a SuperCitizen award from TVOKids.

Both Peyton and Taylor have also been very involved in politics, both provincially and nationally. Peyton served as a legislative page in 2013 at Queens Park, and both have been Student Advisors and Youth MPPs in Parliament. They have also done a lot of advocacy work and fundraising for autism, a cause that is very important to them, as Taylor has Asperger Syndrome. Peyton even wrote a book about autism acceptance, which was presented at an Autism Day celebration last June. “Having Asperger’s sometimes makes communication difficult,” Taylor says, yet it obviously hasn’t stopped her from becoming one of the area’s most decorated young people.

As if that isn’t enough, both girls are heavily involved in Theatre Night in Merrickville (TNIM) and Taylor was just awarded a $500 scholarship from the group to help pay for her studies in TV Broadcasting. “She has been a really reliable and competent member of our production crews for several years,” says Andrea Howard of TNIM. Peyton is currently participating in her second TNIM project, acting in the upcoming production of My Three Angels. Peyton is a second-generation performer with TNIM, as her mother was also part of the cast of several productions, including one when she was pregnant with Peyton. “I’d like to think that has something to do with my love of theatre,” she says.

Taylor is currently attending Canadore College in North Bay, where she is learning everything there is to know about TV Broadcasting, and loving it. “It’s great living on my own and focusing on something that I love doing”.

Peyton is the President of the Student Council at Saint Michael Catholic High School and hopes to go to the University of Toronto next year to study political science. “I want to be close to Queen’s Park,” she says. One day, she hopes to channel her two passions, teaching and politics, into a job as a high school teacher.

The Canada 150 medals that the girls received are part of the Leeds and Grenville area awards program spearheaded by MP Gord Brown and MPP Steve Clark to honour volunteers and community builders in the riding. Gord and Steve decided to commission the medals when they found out the federal government was not issuing commemorative medals to celebrate Canada 150, as they had done in previous milestone years.

Taylor and Peyton were nominated for the awards by Merrickville-Wolford Council, and they were introduced by Mayor David Nash at the ceremony in Brockville. “It was really amazing and humbling, because people like us don’t do it for the recognition,” Peyton said. “It felt so good to be a part of a large group of people that were gathered to celebrate volunteering and making a difference in the community,” Taylor added. “We’d really like to inspire kids to become a part of their community and find ways to volunteer and make a difference.”

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