2017 Great Kids Award Winners Alexandre Brost, Age 5 – St. Albert
At five years old, Alex has dealt with something more serious than most people will ever experience in their lives. Diagnosed with cancer at a young age, he has endured many treatments and side effects that often made him too exhausted or sick to come to school. Still, when he is able to be in class, Alex shows up with a huge smile on his face, excited to be there, to learn and to befriend others. When classmates had questions about what his disease was, Alex positively and confidently delivered a presentation about his journey. And, answered questions about losing his hair, missing school and whether his disease was contagious. Alex is a great kid because he uses his hardships to share, teach, inspire and uplift others.
David Gladue-Kutt, Age 8 – Fort Vermilion
David’s ability to show love, kindness and extend grace to others inspires those around him. His family recently opened their home to two boys who faced difficult life circumstances. These boys were scared, tired and very sad and David reached out and comforted them. However, the boys sometimes behaved in hurtful ways towards David. Worried, his mother asked him how long he could take it. David replied, “Forever!” David understood that these boys had troubles that led them to behave in certain ways and that they still deserved love. He reminded his mom that they had made a commitment and that the boys needed them. David leads by example and proves that one person can truly make a difference.
Jordyn White Quills, Age 9 – Lethbridge
Jordyn began honing her sense of self-worth despite growing up with little support and moving multiple times throughout her life. Her studies suffered as a result of her moves, but over time, she has learned the value of perseverance. Those around her say they’ve watched her excel in her education, in making new friends, and in leading other kids to be resilient and value themselves despite challenges. She’s fought for what is right when she’s seen discriminatory play on school grounds. And, she’s helped make the playground a safe place where everyone can play.
Oliver Hamilton, Age 9 – Calgary
Oliver faces a number of health challenges yet continually demonstrates humour and a positive attitude in all that he does. He is a good influence on students and staff alike. He loves to help people and shows empathy and good character in his day to day life. He is a giving person who wants everyone else to be happy and comfortable. This past year, Oliver was also selected to be the 2016 Junior Fire Chief by the Calgary Fire Department. Oliver’s was excited and enthusiastic about the role because he was proud to be tasked with spreading an important message to his peers. As the face of children’s fire safety in Calgary, Oliver carefully rehearsed his presentations and proved to be an amazing ambassador for fire safety to his peers. Oliver demonstrates the importance of kindness, empathy and generosity for others.
Abigayle Clarke, Age 9 – Airdrie
Abigayle has made a large contribution to her family and to a community that suffers from Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. This disease can cause lung failure due to scar tissue and currently has no cure. Over the past nine years, Abigayle has watched several family members be diagnosed and suffer from the disease. Despite this situation, she was inspired to take positive action. To raise awareness about the disease, she organized and promoted a run for her classmates at school. Soon after this successful event, she was notified that her run could join with the annual Mayor’s Run in Airdrie. Not only was this a bigger opportunity to raise awareness, the event raised $6,422. With her youthful optimism and determination, Abigayle inspires others to become involved in a cause to make a positive difference.
Cecilia Bulbrook, Age 12 – Calgary
Cecilia has an unstoppable spirit. She has remained strong even though, within one year, she lost her father to cancer and her house to a fire. Rather than pitying herself, Cecilia has excelled at helping others and their communities. She led a group of students in cooking lasagnas and making cards for people who were experiencing difficult times. She volunteers for any project, club or sports activity. She will even participate in activities she doesn’t like, just to be involved and to help. She is kind and supportive to everyone she meets and shows a genuine interest in supporting others.
Maryanne Leathwaite, Age 13 – Okotoks
As a young girl, Maryann had a number of serious health complications. By grade one, she was on the path to recovery but school was a challenge. However she has a willingness to always try her best and tremendous determination to succeed. Maryanne regularly volunteers at Southern Alberta Children’s Hospital. And, she participates in the school “Me to We” group to raise money and supplies for families in need. The only thing Maryanne asks in return for all that she does is that others are treated with kindness.
Jed Calhoun Rutter, Age 14 – Edmonton
Jed is a modest young man despite the phenomenal positive impact he has on others. In spite of his health challenges, Jed continues to smile and keep his head up high. He is a good friend, neighbour, and source of support and strength to other sick children across Alberta. In 2011, he was chosen as the Stollery Hospital’s Child Champion and National Ambassador. In this role, he helps fundraise and inspires other kids to overcome difficulties they face with dignity and courage. He represented Alberta and the Stollery Hospital at a meeting with the Governor General of Canada in Ottawa. And he has been awarded a medal of courage by a renowned doctor. Jed plays an important role in his community because he teaches others compassion and kindness.
Covey*, Age 14 – Calgary
Covey is an extraordinary young man who has shown great perseverance and self-determination despite a difficult childhood. He demonstrates significant resiliency and strength, having renewed his commitment to academics, building healthy relationships, and setting and achieving personal goals. Recently, he advocated for a holistic approach to his health in front of a committee of doctors. He laid out a detailed plan that impressed the committee so much that they agreed to his wishes. Covey has been on a path to wellness ever since. He also partakes in Muay Thai and volunteers to coach the younger kids at the gym where he trains. Covey also regularly visits his sister to ensure she is not impacted by the same feelings and struggles that he faced in his childhood. Those who know Covey say he has gone above and beyond to overcome his difficult life circumstances and to help others.
Taija Rylea Dryden, Age 14 – Drayton Valley
Taija not only triumphs in the face of adversity, she inspires people every day. Taija was diagnosed with Juvenile Dermatomyositis at age nine. This disease has no cure and causes a rash, fatigue, and extreme pain and weakness. Taija decided to use her situation to help mentor friends, family and community. Even when she didn’t feel well, she would push to go to school, to volunteer and to connect with others. Instead of complaining about her health, she uses her time to help other kids who are sick. Taija reminds others that the disease does not define the individual. Instead, it is their spirit, smile and drive to help others.
Harmony Paquette, Age 15 – Grande Prairie
Harmony has demonstrated her strength through many changes and losses and continues to astound those around her with her perseverance. Throughout these changes in her life, she has consistently shown empathy, and the ability to engage and be a positive role model for young children. Additionally, she is an active participant in school and engages in numerous sports. She is a resilient young woman who has suffered significant loss, changes to her life and routine. Throughout all of this she’s maintained a positive attitude and continued to accomplish her own goals.
Bailey Opolony, Age 16 – Sherwood Park
One would never know the difficult life circumstances Bailey’s faced if they saw her. She comes to school every day with a smile on her face and exudes a bubbly, kind and compassionate personality. She has an honours academic standing and because English is not her first language, Bailey often has to work harder than the other students to understand what is being taught. She has persistence and has exercised a desire to learn and is committed to her goals. She is also incredibly talented in the fine arts and passionate about singing and the performing arts. Although she still experiences adversity in her life, she shows remarkable resilience and grace.
Sanchit Chopra, Age 17 – Calgary
Sanchit is a community leader who aims to improve others’ lives through innovation. In the past year, he contributed over 500 volunteer hours to various organizations. He even developed his own initiatives, including HelpAKid.org. With this project, Sanchit hopes to use technology to create connections between underprivileged children and people who want to help improve their quality of life. In addition to this, Sanchit works independently with a woman with progressive Multiple Sclerosis to brighten her days. Because of this experience, Sanchit has also developed relationships with other MS patients. His goal is to also help them by organizing different fundraising events and raising awareness about the disease. Sachit is a strong leader and those who know him say they can’t wait to see what he does next.
Percy Kergan, Age 17 – Edmonton
Percy is a critical thinker who is always seeking new ways to positively impact his community. At school, he is a prominent leader who works tirelessly to ensure his school is an inclusive place. He helps youth tell their personal stories about racism and discrimination. As a member of the transgender community, he has delivered presentations to staff about his journey and advocated for students and staff to be allies to the LGBTQ community at his school. And, he has worked with school administration to ensure Gender Neutral bathrooms were established with clear signage. Percy has the utmost respect from his peers for his hard work and dedication in serving his school community. He is sure to continue making a positive difference.
Justin Wack, Age 17 – St. Albert
Justin is a young man who uses his experience with vision loss to help those similarly affected locally and globally. He has contributed to a blog that teaches people to use technology to support and enhance their everyday lives. He mentors younger children by teaching them how to use technology to improve their daily living and learning in school. He also helps them develop friendships to avoid social isolation and helps them adopt a positive outlook despite their circumstances. Justin plans to pursue his post-secondary education in the tech-field with a focus on marketing. He is a determined young man who has succeeded thus far and will continue to do so in the future.
Madalo Matenda, Age 18 – Edmonton
Before Madalo moved to Edmonton, he lived with his parents and sister in Malawi, where he was a successful student. Sadly, over the course of a few years, several members of Madalo’s immediate family passed away. He stopped participating in school and began developing negative lifestyle habits. To add to the struggles, Madalo was forced to relocate to Canada, a country far from his home both geographically and culturally. Despite these big changes, Madalo got back on track in school and in his life. He found his smile again and is becoming a mature young man with great inner strength and determination. He exhibits a quiet leadership, making him well respected and much liked by his peers and teachers.