Rita Canning of Inverness has become a tireless advocate for women and children, most notably as chairwoman of the board of the anti-domestic violence agency WINGS and a longtime supporter of the Women's Program at Harper College.
Through it all, she has maintained strict regimen that keeps her in shape physically and mentally: playing racquetball as many as three times a week at her local YMCA.
Her active participation at the Buehler YMCA in Palatine -- and that of her three children -- led Canning to join its advisory board in 2001, a position she continues to hold. Through her involvement, she said, she's learned of the YMCA's pivotal roles in the communities it serves.
"The YMCA is an anchor in the community for families," Canning said. "It offers a wholesome, safe environment for parents and their children."
She describes the advisory board's role at the Y as something of a conduit between members and staff. Its involvement has led to many improvements, she says, including the newly paved parking lot at the Y.
While the advisory board is not directly responsible for fundraising, its members play a role in promoting the facility and its programs to the larger community.
Canning's 15-year commitment to her local Y has not gone unnoticed. Officials with the YMCA of Metro Chicago on Thursday will present her with the Y's "So Much More Than a Leader Award" for her long-standing engagement.
The award will be presented to her by last year's honoree, Vince Foglia of North Barrington, chairman of Sage Products and an honorary member of the Sage YMCA board of directors.
Coincidentally, the tables were turned on Saturday, when Canning and her husband, John, introduced Vince and Pat Foglia at a WINGS gala, where the couple were honored for their continued philanthropy for domestic violence victims and their children.
Thursday's award presentation will take place at the third annual "The Y. So Much More Recognition Dinner," which is expected to draw 400 guests to the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago.
The dinner highlights the Y's mission to develop strong children, families and healthy communities through its academic readiness programs, character development, violence prevention, and fitness and healthy living.
WMAQ-TV reporter LeeAnn Trotter will host the recognition dinner, which last year raised more than $1 million for YMCA programs.