Great Kids Award Winners 2016
Cordell Gray, age 18 – Peace River
Cordell is an excellent role model to all those who face adversity and work diligently to overcome life’s obstacles. He left home when he was a teenager and has been living on his own ever since. Despite these circumstances, Cordell has always been motivated to achieve his own goals. He maintained a part-time job while attending high school and graduated while living independently and being responsible for his finances. He is now enrolled in college and works full-time. In his spare time, he enjoys playing sports where he demonstrates his leadership and sportsmanship. Cordell is a determined young man who has always succeeded and will likely continue to succeed in his endeavours.
Megan Johnson, age 18 – Red Deer
Megan is an exceptional young woman who is a positive force in her community. Not only is she a great student and athlete, she always finds time to help her peers. This is exactly what happened when Megan became aware of a classmate who had been hit by an alleged drunk driver and sustained a traumatic brain injury. She started an online fundraising campaign that has raised over $22,000 to date. Megan also spent countless hours providing emotional support to her classmate and his family. She visited him in the hospital every day, read to him and helped him with his physiotherapy. She also acted as a liaison between the family and the community to inform them about his progress, and help with visits and fundraising events. Megan leads by example and proves that one person truly can make a difference.
Sarah Mickey, age 17 – Redcliff
Sarah is a teenager who overcame the odds after becoming paralyzed from the waist down. Before her accident, Sarah was an active youth who loved participating in competitive figure skating. When she learned she could no longer use her legs, she felt very isolated and struggled with the transition. However, after being introduced to sledge hockey, her passion to be on the ice and her drive to be the best were renewed. Even when she would miss weeks of practice due to hospital stays or strong pain, she was determined to excel. Her impressive skills and perseverance earned her a spot on the Canadian women’s national sledge hockey team within a year of playing the sport. Through all her medical trials, she still found time to volunteer, including teaching children of all abilities adaptive sports and recreation. Sarah shows kids with similar challenges that they too can aspire to be anything they want.
Diona Notenbomer, age 18 – Dunmore
Diona was determined to succeed despite poor treatment at an orphanage during the first 18 months of her life. Conditions impacted her ability to develop relationships, express her emotions and succeed academically. With the help of her adoptive family, teachers and peers, Diona made tremendous strides on her learning journey. Along the way, she learned to be empathetic and compassionate to others facing struggles. She became a peer mentor and provided support, advice and encouragement to younger students. She learned basic sewing skills to create items for premature and critically ill babies admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the Medicine Hat Hospital. She volunteers her time to various organizations and has participated in numerous fundraisers and community events. Becoming a resilient young woman has not been an easy journey, but Diona has overcome her challenges through her strength and tenacity.
Keyana Faye Anderson, age 15 – Sexsmith
Instead of focusing on her personal struggles, Keyana makes a selfless choice to improve the lives of others. Having experienced bullying, Keyana is aware of how others can be impacted by life’s struggles. She is a positive example to them and is recognized for her empathetic nature. She’s initiated several of her own projects, including a group called Little Women, which raised money for girls in Afghanistan. She also started a club that raised money for children with cancer. Keyana volunteered with a social justice group that is focused on helping to free people around the globe from poverty and exploitation. And just this past Christmas, Keyana filled shoeboxes with gifts for children from low-income families.
Darian Chonkolay, age 15 – Grande Prairie
Darian is a survivor who inspires others with his strength. He experienced a number of tragedies early in his life resulting in an unstable living situation and a great deal of grief and trauma. He was angry, distrustful of others and in a lot of pain. As his circumstances became more difficult, Darian sought help. Once he had the opportunity to interact with caring individuals, Darian began to care for himself and others. He developed relationships and displayed great courage in talking with them about the pain he was going through. He began to use drawing, writing, music and humour to overcome his grief. Once he started modelling positive behaviours, he become a role model to other youth and helped them change their negative behaviours. Throughout his journey, Darian has positively impacted the lives of others and made a lasting impression on them.
Aly Johnson, age 15 – Edmonton
Aly is an ambassador for the importance of mental health and an inspiration to many children and youth. Having struggled with depression and bullying, she seeks to support anyone experiencing emotional pain and trauma. Her ability to speak publicly as an advocate and mentor is well recognized. Aly served on the CASA Child, Family & Adolescent Health Youth Advisory Committee and provided feedback on youth mental health programming. She shared her experiences and advocated for program funding through presentations to donors. Additionally, Aly made such an impact at a school that the staff asked her to return the next year to give a presentation on bullying. Aly is a leader whose past could have kept her silent, but she chose otherwise. In doing so, she encouraged the growth of positive change and broke down the barriers of stigma and shame in mental health.
Zander Johnson, age 13 – Maskwacis
Zander is a natural born leader who empowers and inspires others to make a positive difference. He recognized and helped meet the need and desire for students to engage in cultural practices at school. He advocated for students to be able to smudge at school every morning. He also shared the cultural significance of smudging for First Nations people with students, staff and the school board. As a result of his efforts, not only are students able to engage in cultural practices at school, but the school is designing a new smudging room. Through these actions, Zander has empowered First Nations students to take pride in their culture, and helped create a learning environment that respects the diversity and needs of all students.
Megan Phillips, age 15 – Elk Point
Megan is dedicated to doing well in her studies and often volunteers to lead a project despite the time commitment. Megan does her work with a smile and inspires others to get involved. She excels at fairly voicing her opinion on what is right in an open and collaborative way and takes charge to create or be part of school events. She is bright, positive and committed. Megan consistently goes out of her way to interact with those who might not feel accepted. She does not need to be coached or mentored to do these things; she just does what comes naturally to her. She’s got the knack for being responsible and flexible at the same time, a recipe for success.
Juliett Bullock, age nine – Grande Cache
Juliett is a young girl who takes great ideas and puts them into action. Since she was six years old, Juliett has been saving her money from recycling and chores for micro-loans to Kiva, an organization that helps people in need across the world. Recently, Juliett was a guest speaker in a grade 11 social studies class. With just the help of cue cards held up by her mom, Juliett presented to a class of 50 students. She discussed effective international development aid in the area of microfinance. And, she explained to students how Kiva worked and answered all their questions. The students were shocked that someone in the third grade knew so much about microfinance and had taken the initiative to contribute to the world. Juliett leads by example and her ability to share her knowledge and experience inspires others to do the same.
Emmah Dorey, age 12 – Edmonton
Emmah’s leadership in the community sets her apart from her peers. At age 10, she began her interest in social justice through a project with her dad. She later decided she wanted to continue that type of charity on her own and initiated her first campaign, “Bucks for Backpacks.” Emmah raised enough money to provide 147 high-needs students with backpacks full of supplies for the year. “Lent Us Your Bottles” was her next successful initiative. Emmah and her friends collected bottles to raise $525 for Safeway, Subway and Tim Hortons gift cards for youth at Youth Empowerment and Support Services. She also raised $4,500 by setting up lemonade stands and selling handmade crafts in her neighbourhood. Emmah’s generosity and empathy motivate her to make contributions that enhance the lives of others. She is a true example of a passionate leader who has made a significant impact in the lives of people.
Tyra Cardinal, age 11 – Sherwood Park
Tyra has shown tremendous personal improvement over the years. After participating in social skills classes, she blossomed from a quiet, kind little girl into a confident young lady. She found her voice and began to show leadership within a group setting. She also showed a natural ability for working with and mentoring younger children. Tyra is a mentor in two mentoring programs at school and mentors younger children in an extracurricular mentoring group. She is always welcoming and encouraging, and demonstrates a positive and willing attitude. These qualities make her an excellent role model to young kids, whom she teaches to form friendships and play nicely. Her growth, positive outlook and leadership skills are what make Tyra a great kid.
Aisha Symington, age 10 – Edmonton
Despite significant health challenges that cause regular physical discomfort, Aisha approaches everything with a positive attitude. This often inspires and brings good cheer to others. She models excellent behaviour to her peers, who often look to her for leadership and guidance. Aisha is considerate of the impact of her behaviour and takes her influence on those around her seriously. These qualities led to her endorsement as the Kid Prime Minister of Students in her school district. Among other volunteering endeavours, Aisha is actively involved with the Filipino Support Services Society and is their youngest volunteer. Those who know Aisha say Alberta’s future looks promising with kids like her leading the way.
Haylen Astalos, age six – Blackfalds
Haylen possesses a selfless drive to improve his community through service. He launched Haylen’s Ice-Cream Shop over a year ago to raise money for Ronald McDonald House Charities to help sick kids and their families. He has set and reached multiple goals, with no signs of slowing down. To date, he has donated over $5,630 and has made plans to expand his reach. He now sells a variety of other items and created a GoFundMe page for donations. Numerous businesses have also stepped up to help with his venture. Throughout all of this, Haylen has remained humble with his focus solely on helping kids and families who are experiencing difficulty.
Breanna Warren, age seven – Cochrane
In the first week of school, Breanna approached a school administrator with a $250 contribution towards fundraising efforts for her school’s playground. Her donation was the result of her making and selling bracelets, and recycling bottles during summer vacation. But, her initiative didn’t stop there. She was the top seller of Entertainment Books in her school for their School Council fundraiser. She also collected electronic recycling items to attempt to win a grant from the Town of Cochrane for an environmentally sustainable project for her school. Breanna demonstrates what it means to care about and contribute to your community.
Tyler Hayward, age nine – Pincher Creek
Tyler is learning disabled but that does not stop him from helping his community. He has been known to stack wood, haul vegetables, rake leaves and water lawns. Before his great‑grandmother moved, he would help her with many household chores, including yard work. Due to his grandfather’s limited mobility, Tyler also helped him with woodworking projects. Tyler loves to meet people and make friends, and because of this, he is well-known around town. His greatest gift is his ability to give everyone, young and old, his love and friendship. His genuine hugs make everyone feel valued and important and the goodness in his heart shines through in all he does. Tyler stands apart as a fearless and friendly extrovert and those who know him say the world needs more people like him.