Crime Stoppers of Niagara is establishing a Citizen of the Year award to honor the memory of Sandie Bellows, a former Crime Stoppers board member who passed away last October following a courageous battle with cancer.
Ms. Bellows dedicated her life to community service, crime and safety issues, victim’s rights and helping young people after she survived a horrific kidnapping ordeal in January 1990 when sexually assaulted and savagely stabbed.
The award will be presented annually to recipients who exhibit some of the qualities and strengths that Sandie displayed, such as heroism, significant achievement, an exceptional advocate for justice, outstanding community service and distinguished leadership.
At the time of her death, Ms. Bellows was serving her first term as a Niagara Region Councillor representing the City of St. Catharines and also chair of the Niagara Parks Board. She previously served from 2014 to 2018 as a municipal councillor in St. Catharines representing residents in the Grantham Ward.
Through the years and during the time she served as a politician, Ms. Bellows was also an active volunteer with a number of community organizations, including the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival, the St. Catharines Minor Hockey Association, Crime Stoppers of Niagara and an active member of the May Court Club of St. Catharines, a service organization dedicated to helping woman and children through volunteerism and fundraising.
Because of the commitment, dedication and all other qualities that Sandie has shown through her life, the Crime Stoppers of Niagara board of directors voted unanimously to make her the first recipient of the Niagara Crime Stoppers Sandie Bellows Citizen of the Year memorial award.
Many people in the region may not realize it, but it was that horrific crime that was a turning point in Sandie’s life and transformed her from a victim to a hero and advocate for crime victims, especially survivors of sexual assaults.
She was very public about her ordeal and shared her story to encourage other victims to stand up for themselves and not let their offenders take control of their lives. Her ordeal began when a man approached as she was getting into her car after leaving a credit union branch in St. Catharines. She screamed as the attacker forced her into the vehicle, but her cries for help were ignored by passersby.
Within seconds she was at the start of a drive to a lonely wooded area near Paris, Ontario with a man who had already killed two people. She was sexually attacked and then repeatedly beaten and stabbed with a carpenter’s awl before a farmer working in a nearby field came to her rescue.
That man was Al Pike, a retired Ontario Provincial Police officer who chased the suspect away before taking Bellows to his home and summoning help.
Tributes poured in for Bellows following her death. Regional Chair Jim Bradley said her passing was a significant loss to the Niagara Region and St. Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik described Sandie as an amazing woman. “All she ever wanted to do was make peoples’ lives better,” the mayor said.
Others described her as a remarkable citizen and leader in the community. Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s minister of heritage, sports, tourism and culture industries, said Ms. Bellows was her friend, cheerleader and mentor.
“Her brilliance, determination and above all kindness drew so many people to her, including me,” MacLeod said.
Ms. Bellows was a member of Niagara’s Crime Stoppers program from 2014 to 2019 and served terms as the vice-chair and ombudsman as well as a member of the nomination committee and a major force behind the Crime Stoppers annual fundraising gala. In her capacity as chair of the Niagara Parks Board, Ms. Bellows oversaw the redevelopment of the Table Rock Centre as well as the completion and opening of the agency’s newest attraction, the Niagara Parks Power Station.
Directors on the Crime Stoppers of Niagara board will call for nominations from the region each year to choose the person who will be selected by an independent panel as the recipient of the Crime Stoppers of Niagara Citizen of the Year award in memory of Sandie Bellows.
Contact: Sara Stevens
Crime Stoppers of Niagara