Another addition to his long list of awards and recognitions, Neil Aitchison has been named 2015 Citizen of the Year by the Lions Club of Kitchener.
He says he is very happy to accept, and was even taken aback when he received the phone call.
“It was a very pleasant surprise,” he said with a laugh. “Dr. Jack Bishop (from the Citizen of the Year committee) phoned me and I thought, ‘where is this coming from? What is going on?’ and my wife was sitting there smiling because she was in on it and I was totally blindsided. My first reaction was, ‘you know you are getting old when they start giving you awards like this.’ I hope it doesn’t become a eulogy. I would rather a roast.”
The nominations for the Citizen of the Year award open at the beginning of the year, and Dr. Bishop, a past winner himself, says the support for Aitchison’s nomination was overwhelming.
“He is very well thought of in the community and we do get letters of support from various people in the community and I think we had 15 or 20 of those for him. That includes the mayors, the regional chair, all sorts of people that are very prominent in the community,” he said, adding that Aitchison was at the top of their list while debating who would receive the honour. “If you have been involved in anything in the Twin Cities over the years, you know that Neil has been involved in so many things. He emcees a lot of big events, where a lot of those prominent people are. It is just his total commitment to the community over the years that really counts.”
Just some of those community commitments Aitchison has thrown himself into include being a founding member of the Kitchener Westmount Rotary Club, as well as volunteering with the K-W Symphony, K-W Musical Productions, Gilbert & Sullivan Society, RAISE Home Support, Waterloo Regional Police Service, Twin City Harmonizers, the Working Centre and K-W Oktoberfest. He even has scholarships at Conestoga College in his name, and contributes significantly to the local arts.
He says himself, that “variety is the spice of life,” and that is what drives him to remain so involved in many different community projects. Specifically, his time with Drayton Entertainment, both on stage and behind the scenes.
“Well, really, I just think I have enjoyed the ride,” he said. “ I have had a chance to earn a good living in sales and management, then I went into performing on air and on stage, and a little bit of the fat on everybody’s ham. Drayton has been a great diversion from reality over the years. I guess I have been on stage on and off over the last 25 years, and it is never the leading male role when you get to kiss the girl. It has always been the funny character role, and those are great fun. There is nothing like feeling the warmth of the laughter spilling over the stage to you.”
He also has a thing or two to say to those who showed their support by writing letters to the Citizen of the Year committee in support of his winning this award.
“First would be a big thank you. How kind of them,” he said, adding that something always comes after all the hoopla. “It is very nice, and it is wonderful to see, but it is kind of like bubblegum. You chew it for a while, but don’t swallow it. You have got to move on. Everybody has a turn at something.”
Aitchison isn’t showing any signs of slowing down with his acting and community involvement and will be taking the stage with Drayton Entertainment, once again, this summer in their Grand Bend run of last summer’s hit Canadian Legends.
“We are going to be doing eight shows a week for nearly a month this year,” he said. “Now, I have to rehearse.”
As part of winning the Kitchener-Waterloo Citizen of the Year award, Aitchison will be the guest of honour at a gala on May 12 at the Holiday Inn in Kitchener. For tickets to the evening event, call Bishop at 519-575-6184. For more information on the Citizen of the Year nominations and past winners, visit www.lionsclubofkitchener.com.