Michael Pelechaty faced challenges from the day he was born, but he never let it define him.
Pelechaty, a Grade 12 student from Carlton Comprehensive High School, was diagnosed as deaf at birth. Through the assistance of a cochlear implant and speech therapy, he became a strong commutator, decorated athlete, and a guest speaker for charitable organizations like the Saskatchewan Pediatric Auditory Rehabilitation Centre (SPARC).
On Wednesday, Pelechaty was recognized for those contributions when he was named one of Saskatchewan’s four 2021 Junior Citizens of the Year.
“I was really shocked and honoured,” Pelechaty said during a phone interview. “It was good to know I was being noticed for all my hard work.”
Pelechaty became involved in sports almost as soon as he was able to take part in them. He played volleyball competitively, and was named to Saskatchewan’s 5-pin youth bowling team in 2020.
As a child, he had to modify equipment, like his batting helmet in baseball, to accommodate his implants. In some sports, like basketball and volleyball, he had to tape them down. Sometimes he would develop signals with his coaches or instructors.
Pelechaty credits his parents for getting him involved in sports at a young age, and peers for helping him feel welcome.
“I still tried to do everything as a normal person my age would do,” he remembered. “My parents still put me any sport I wanted to be in. Of course it came with lots of challenges.”
“It was just great,” he added. “All my peers were there to help me, and they treated me like anybody else.”
Pelechaty needed help from two charities to get his implants, and their generosity convinced him to give back too. As a youth, he’s participated in fundraisers like the Saskatchewan Royal Purple and Elks Walk-a-thon, and raised $1,000 for SPARC when he was named a finalist in the Scotia Bank Game Changers Competition. He also works as a mentor at the Sask. AG Bell Camp for hearing impaired children.
Brian Martin, a friend of the Pelechaty family, said Michael’s athletic accomplishments are impressive, but it’s his actions and efforts away from sports that made him worthy of the Junior Citizen Award.
“He was always such a positive young boy growing up, and as he progressed with his hearing, he just became this remarkable young guy,” Martin said. “He was a damn good athlete. He was a hell of a volleyball player. He’s one of the best bowlers in the province, and he’s just a kid. He’s just had his 18th birthday, but the reason I nominated him is because of who he is. He is this young man who treats people with respect.”
Martin said he wasn’t too surprised to hear Pelechaty receive the honour. He said the soon-to-be Carlton grad was a good kid, and it’s obvious the award committee new what they were doing when they made their selections.
“I’m just so damn proud of him, and I’m so happy,” Martin said. “The province couldn’t have picked a better person to win this award.”
Pelechaty said he hopes to continue acting as a spokesperson for SPARC and raising awareness after he graduates this spring. He plans to study carpentry at Saskatchewan Polytechnic next fall.
Pelechaty was one of four youth to be named Saskatchewan Junior Citizens of the Year. The others were Megan Ebel of Weyburn, Darshana Lanke of Saskatoon, and Ashya Siermachesky of Melfort.
The Junior Citizen Awards recognize Saskatchewan residents from eight to 18 years of age for their ability to overcome challenges, develop positive lifestyles, show responsibility and school spirit, and care for their community.
Lt.-Gove Russ Mirasty announced the winners on Wednesday, and credited the group for being great examples to the province.
“The 2021 Junior Citizens of the Year are very impressive individuals,” Mirasty said in a media release. “Despite personal challenges, each recipient has made remarkable contributions to their family, school and community and is very deserving of this prestigious award.”
The Junior Citizen of the Year Awards are sponsored by the Saskatchewan Weekly Newspapers Association (SWNA) and SaskPower. Each award winner will receive a $3,000 bursary provided by SaskPower.