The proprietor of the Sault’s Water Tower Inn was honoured at the 2020 Hotel Association of Canada Awards of Excellence
JJ accepts his award.
His cancer was catching up with him by the time Terry Fox reached Sault Ste. Marie in 1980. Each day he would run his quota of 26 kilometres along Hwy. 17 N., then return to the Sault’s Water Tower Inn for respite. He loved the whirlpool spa. Terry was staying at the Water Tower Inn because owner JJ Hilsinger had offered accommodations to Terry and his crew. At the time, JJ also operated 4 KFC locations. Terry would collect donations in a KFC bucket. This very bucket was part of an exhibit honouring the runner at the Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec.
We at the Inn are so proud of JJ (Jim) Hilsinger, dauntless entrepreneur, community-builder, world-wide cycling traveller, and philanthropic humanist…and congratulate him on this award. JJ has a long-time reputation for kicking in to help, for pitting his time and resources toward a cause. Since it began operations in 1974, the employee booklet lists the eight “Shared Values” that lie at the crux of The Water Tower Inn’s culture. One of these is Community Involvement. This is taken to heart: at their Staff Awards Banquet each year, people of the Inn always raise money to donate to a local charity.
Blog space can’t accommodate an elongated list of JJ’s so-many contributions at community, regional and global levels. From his fund raising activities for Rotary to his donations and support for Sault arts, sports and recreation, his hosting of major events that have put our city on the map, his fundraisers for vulnerable groups and individuals, his fundraising for the United Way, his dynamic and innovative tourism strategies for our region. Add to that his global initiatives.
JJ’s sense of humanity stretches far beyond the borders of Sault Ste. Marie and Northern Ontario. Encouraged and backed by an enthusiastic staff, he began a series of global cross-country bicycle tours that not only enabled him to live his own dream of self-propelled travel, but to support the dreams of others. In 2005, he bicycled 11,000 kilometres from Cairo to Capetown, raising money for The Stephen Lewis Foundation to fight Aids in Africa, as well as for the Sault Cancer Society. In 2007, JJ rode 8,000 kilometres from Istanbul to Beijing, partnering with the city to challenge Sault citizens to save an equal number of carbon emission tons. In 2012, he rode through Ethiopia to the hottest spot on the planet, raising money for the Ethiopian Tree Planting Program. In 2015, JJ rode 2300 kilometres through Central America to raise funds in support of local volunteer Barb Harrison, who worked in the Kibera slums of Nairobi Kenya with an organization called TAPA (Transform a Person Africa). Currently JJ is very involved with Tumaini Afrika Sault Ste. Marie, a local based group of volunteers dedicated to giving a “hand up” to children and youth in Africa.
See related stories, anecdotes and pictures.
“Although JJ’s day job for many years has been to own and operate the Water Tower Inn in Sault Ste. Marie, his passion has been the land, his town and Northern Ontario.”
M. Atkins, Publisher, Northern Ontario Business.