(Rotary Club of Windsor 1918 Tell Your Story Writing Contest committee member Peter Hrastovec reading one of the winning stories during an awards ceremony at Families First’s Signature Tributes Event Centre in Windsor, Ontario on Tuesday, February 18, 2020. Photo above by Eric Bonnici / Eyes On Windsor.)
An evening of stories from the youth of Windsor uniquely brings to the forefront humour, fantasy and compassion. For the second year in a row, Rotary Club of Windsor (1918) working with Douglas Marketing Group and Families First, sponsors the Tell Your Story Writing Contest Awards. Judging by the response, it has become very popular among students in grades 6 to Age 21.
Out of 280 submissions, over five times the response in year one, the top 19 writers were honoured Tuesday night along with a public reading of the top three submissions in four categories at the new, and impressive, Signature Tributes Event Centre, a part of Families First, on Dougall Avenue.
All of the winning entries were either personal, tales of overcoming setbacks and roadblocks, or heartwarming. Some talked of life changing moments. Olivia Mocan, in the Grade 12 to Age 21, reported on how her life effectively changed when she met a classmate who understood her and showed her the “beauty of being vulnerable.”
Life, she admits, truly becomes fascinating when you can share a perspective with someone and you start seeing the world in colour.
Emily Hu, in the Grades 10-11 category, wrote one of the most amusing family tales about their newest family member, Kanye the cat. But before they settled on the little black and white kitten, they walked past rows and rows of felines at the Humane Society, all waiting for forever homes.
The meeting was nothing if not inauspicious. Kanye was able to practically, and accidentally it should be known, destroy Hu’s mother’s new winter coat. It may have succeeded in keeping her warm, but just wasn’t up to the sharp claws of the kitten. Despite this early mishap, they knew they had found their newest best friend, who, by the way, would go on to many other misadventures damaging a few other things, including a flat-screen TV.
Some of the stories were poignant, involving wars and death, but the story that won the hearts of the judges in the Grades 8-9 category was a personal family one from Sumaya Osman. Her grandmother, Fatima, was in a marriage that had reached it best before date. Despite being in war-torn Somalia, she escaped one night. Because of the precarious nature of her plight, her two-year old daughter was left behind.
Once on more stable ground she returned to retrieve the daughter but the mission was foiled by her ex-husband. Fatima then emigrated to Canada and again, once settled, returned. This time, with the help of a local constable, succeeded and brought her daughter to Canada.
Author Osman told Eyes on Windsor, the story was one she had heard before but writing it was important to put on the record the perils her grandmother overcame.
One of the most wonderfully whimsical tales was written by Madison Caruana, in the Grades 6-7 category. Caruana was able to so pleasantly share her excitement of going to Grandma’s house for a tea party and being given full access to Grandma’s treasures, including a purple dress, bracelets and other jewelry and even Grandma’s shoes, which fit.
With the assembled outfit, with its jeweled accessories, she felt nothing less than a princess.
Members of the Tell Your Story Writing Contest Committee, Kevin Blondin, Kay Douglas, Rebecca Rivard, and local lawyer Peter Hrastovec, took turns reading the top three stories in each category.
Douglas is also a member of Rotary’s Literacy Committee, the organization behind the event. She tells Eyes on Windsor, the goal is to encourage children to talk with their families and then write about their shared or personal experiences. It not only, she adds, “gets them off the phone,” but also encourages them to learn more about their own life and their family’s story.
The winning entries will also be assembled into a book, so the authors can say they are all published. The Rotary Club, noted former 1918 President Colleen Mitchell, has developed a program around reading, highlighted by organizing book drives, donating to organizations that support literacy initiatives, and its partnership with the annual Bookfest Windsor, slated for October 15-18. The writing contest adds to this effort.
At one point during the reading, Master of Ceremonies Greg DeHetre noted how much talent there is in the city. Each of the submissions was reviewed by an independent judging panel.
Writing Contest committee members include Douglas, Mitchell, Blondin, Rivard along with Ryan Mancini, Sushil, Nicki Harrisun, Brianna Kwiatkowski and Jennifer Wells.
The top writers in each of the four categories were: Grades 6-7, Caruana and Lisa Mastroianni, MacKay Jeffery, Noah Bradatnu and Justin Miehls. Grades 8-9, Osman and Andrew Wigeluk, Ali Mustafa, Travis Loughead and Nee-Kay Boggs. Grades 10-11, Hu and Isaac Czudner, Raida Farzat and Brooklyn Bailey. Grade 12 to Age 21, Mocan and Abigail Littkemann, Serena Rosa Marcon, Sama Al-Ani and Peri Garant.
The event was presented by:
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.