Bonnie Cameron: 2016 Woman of Distinction
Courage and confidence are themes that repeat throughout Bonnie Cameron’s life. “I was a single mom for five years,” Cameron said. “With three children, I knew I either had to succeed or go on welfare, which wasn’t an option I would even consider. With my family all in Pennsylvania and having to do everything myself, I learned to have courage and to trust in my decisions.”
Currently senior vice president of Coldwell Banker M. M. Parrish Realtors, Cameron names her father as her biggest hero. “There were six kids in my family and we lived on a small farm,” she remembers. “My dad worked full time in addition to working the farm, planting and growing most of our food and taking care of the animals. Dad could talk to anyone. The example he set was what I knew I wanted to be.”
Getting things done is second nature to Cameron. In the mid-1980s, she earned her state building contractor’s license and in 1988, she became the first woman president of the Gainesville Home Builders Association (now the Builders Association of North Central Florida). She later became president of the Gainesville/Alachua County Association of Realtors, where she and her husband are the first and only husband and wife to have ever held that position.
When her granddaughter’s karate instructor teased her about learning martial arts, Cameron accepted his dare. “I trained four to five days a week for 2-1/2 years and earned my black belt before I was 60, which was a grueling challenge,” she said.
“After my husband took me for my first motorcycle ride with him, I decided I would rather be a rider than a passenger,” she said. “Now biking is my biggest passion.” Cameron turned that passion into a community benefit when she co-founded Bikers on Parade for the USA after the 2001 terrorist attacks. The first of these patriotic rides involved 1200 bikers and thousands of flag-waving observers along the parade route. Bikers on Parade continued for nine years, raising over $510,000 for charities including the American Red Cross, several veterans’ groups and a scholarship at Santa Fe College for deserving young veterans thanks to Cameron’s efforts.
“Bonnie has shown outstanding leadership in our community while volunteering and raising funds for the Girls Club of Alachua County, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, March of Dimes, Leukemia Society, American Cancer Society, Habitat for Humanity and Stop! Children’s Cancer,” wrote Tom Mallini on Cameron’s nomination form for the Women of Distinction Award.
Cameron’s advice for women who want to make a difference in their communities comes straight from her life. “Have passion for what you do,” she said. “Focus on your goals, have confidence in yourself, and don’t listen to the negatives. Be ready for change, have the courage to move forward, and go with what your heart tells you.”
About Women of Distinction
Women of Distinction recognizes outstanding female service in Alachua and Bradford Counties, and was created by the Women’s History Committee at Santa Fe College in 1987. Women of Distinction has honored more than 150 outstanding women in the community since its inception and acknowledges new women each spring at a formal ceremony.
The 2016 Women of Distinction ceremony will be held Thursday, March 31, at the Best Western Gateway Grand. This year’s Women of Distinction are Bonnie Cameron, Susan Faulkner-O’Neal, Grae Horvath and posthumously Gloria Fletcher. Also being honored at the ceremony is the Woman of Promise V.ictoria Denmark.
Tickets for the Women of Distinction event are $35 per person and are available online. Reservations should be made early, as seating is limited. For more information, please contact event coordinator Teri McClellan at 352-395-5201.