A passion for music and a love of children shone through in the bright faces of Bendigo’s new citizen and young citizen of the year, announced on Thursday.

Valerie Broad OAM, who graduated from Bendigo High in 1948, was recognised for her instrumental role in establishing the Bendigo Youth Choir to spread the life-changing power of music in the city.

The tireless volunteer also set up a disability support network.

“I am definitely going to wear out, I’m not going to rust out,” Ms Broad said.

The singer, who set up the choir some 30 years ago, said music was a “wonderful tool” for young and old.

“It helps their development, but more importantly it’s enjoyable, they learn teamwork and how to give,” she said.

“Music is therapeutic. I have seen what it can do with sick people, for people who are grieving.

Her resolve to establish Sternberg Lodge and a disability support network was born out of personal experience: some of her close friends had severe disabilities and ageing parents who needed respite.

Through the choir, Ms Broad has shared Bendigo with the world and welcomed refugees.

Former BSSC student, now primary school teacher, Breanna Thomas has been named Bendigo’s young citizen of the year.

Rather than taking a break, in her school holidays Ms Thomas volunteers at camps for children who have been abused or neglected at Southern Cross Kids Camp in Bendigo.

For Ms Thomas, the smile on the children’s faces makes her efforts worthwhile.

“It’s not a lot for me to give up a week, but for those kids, to have a smile on their face, to experience something new, is very important,” she said.

“One of the hardest things is knowing that we have got them for a week and then we send them home.

“But it makes it easier knowing they have had a good time and are making memories … it gives a little bit of hope.”

She also gives her time to children diagnosed with cancer at Camp Quality.

“Cancer now is very close to my heart, I’ve lost my uncle and my nan …but it’s different with kids, because they hardly talk about it,” she said.

“You’re not there to dwell on the sadness, you’re there to make the most of it.”

 Article by Erin Handley, Bendigo Advertiser. Pictures by Darren Howe.