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WSD staff receive Honour 150

Manitoba 150 has recognized two Winnipeg School Division employees for their positive contributions to the province and the people around them. 

On Feb. 17, Elmwood High School principal Mike Babb and Sisler High School head caretaker Junel Malapad were announced as recipients of Honour 150.

Presented by Canada Life, Honour 150 recognizes 150 Manitobans who “stand out for their role in making Manitoba such an amazing province.”

Honour 150 recipients receive a commemorative medal designed by Manitoba artist Takashi Iwasaki, as well as a $500 donation to a charity of their choice.

The Honour 150 program was launched in early 2020 as part of the province’s 150th anniversary celebrations, but was delayed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Babb, 63, started his teaching career in 1984 at Churchill High School as a phys-ed and biology teacher. A long-time coach at the school, university and community level, Babb was inducted into the Manitoba High School Athletic Association’s Hall of Fame in 2019 in the Builder category.

When the Honour 150 recipients were announced, Babb said he was inundated with messages of congratulations from current and former students, colleagues and athletes.

“It’s a huge honour. Very humbling,” Babb said. “My kids posted the announcement online and I coached a lot of their friends and classmates, so the messages that were coming in from across the country – and even some from overseas – were just remarkable.”

“It’s just phenomenal how quickly word gets around. It’s really nice to hear from people that you coached 15 or 20 years ago.”

After his run at Churchill, Babb was the phys-ed department head at Sisler for seven years, before becoming Elmwood’s vice-principal in 2000. In 2004, he moved to Andrew Mynarski V.C. School where he was principal for four years, before moving into his current role as Elmwood’s principal.

Babb said his time as a phys-ed teacher prepared him well for his current administrator role.

“Something I’m really proud of that is still running at Churchill and Sisler is the Mini-Olympics,” Babb said. “I started it in the ‘80s at Churchill and it’s still going. Organizing a school-wide event like that or organizing a major sports season, you get used to those organizational demands, so moving into an administrative role was a natural fit.”

Some other highlights of Babb’s career (so far) are helping to establish the annual Grade 9 ski and canoe trips at Churchill and the implementation of Elmwood’s Student Success Centre in 2010, which has seen the average graduating class size increase from 59 to 89 students per year. 

“The Student Success Centre is supporting kids to stay on the graduation path, and been really effective,” Babb said.

Malapad, 50, is on a different path, and he’s on it a lot. 

In 2020, Malapad ran 50 kilometres 50 times to raise money for local charities. In total, his running raised approximately $40,000, including a 100 kilometre run on Boxing Day that raised $26,000 for Siloam Mission.

“I was quite emotional yesterday,” said Malapad the day after the Honour 150 announcement.

“I knew it was coming, but when it finally came out on social media and people were reaching out to me, it was quite emotional to know that I was able to be a part of so many people’s lives.”

Malapad started long-distance running 14 years ago for his own health, but it was a couple years later that he started running for others. 

“My father passed away from a heart condition and cancer,” Malapad said. “It was getting close to his birthday and I was on a run by myself at the lake and I started getting emotional about it. I decided to raise some money for CancerCare MB, because they really helped my father out.”

“I did this thing called 4 Hours 4 Cancer. I canvassed my friends and family and said I’m going to run for four hours in Kildonan Park to raise money for cancer research. It was my birthday too, so it turned out to be a great potluck lunch with friends and family. That was the first time I raised money for something and then something else happened that sparked some more inspiration.”

That spark was Edward “Fast Eddy” Dostaler. In 2015 and 2016, Fast Eddy ran across Canada and back in support of Alzheimer’s and breast cancer research and Malapad had the chance to run alongside him in Winnipeg.

“That inspired me to run for mental health,” Malapad said.

That’s when Malapad founded Trash the Stigma, an annual June run around Garbage Hill that raises money for the Canadian Mental Health Association. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 event was virtual, but still successful.

“It was actually good, because more people got involved,” Malapad said. “I had participants from Alberta and B.C., people in the States, as well as people in Kenora and Winnipeg Beach, so Trash the Stigma wasn’t just on Garbage Hill last year.”

With Honour 150, Malapad’s charity of choice is Rossbrook House, a neighbourhood drop-in centre for youth in the inner-city.

When he’s on a long, grueling run, Malapad said it’s organizations like Rossbrook House that keep him going.

“My yoga instructor said, ‘When gratitude is genuine, it puts you in a place of strength’,” Malapad said.

“When I run, it’s tough, but if I had cancer, it would be a lot tougher. One month I ran for the Manitoba Brain Injury Association. If I had a brain injury, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing. I’m just so grateful and that transfers into the strength that keeps me going.”

As for Babb, he’s donating his Honour 150 money to the Elmwood High School Legacy Fund. Babb said he has no plans for retirement and is eager to get back to coaching basketball and other sports once COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

“Working with young people in the same area of interest is an awesome experience. It’s kind of like you’re not putting in any hours at all,” Babb said. 

“The number of students that I’ve got to work with over the years is pretty phenomenal. You build connections that often last a lifetime. It’s a huge honour to coach these young people and you’re always excited to see where they get to. And sometimes you’re able to help them reach those goals.”

“And to be honest, coaching is my happy place. I’m not thinking of anything else when I’m coaching. It’s great.”


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