Great Kids Award – Recipients

These children and youth have positively influenced their communities while overcoming a variety of difficult life challenges.

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2022 Award recipients

Liam Jackson, age 5 – Cochrane

Liam is a compassionate and empathic young man who wants to improve the lives of others, even those he has not met. Despite working through a phonological disorder, Liam courageously uses his voice to express the ways he can help others. Earlier this year, he asked his mom how he could help people in Ukraine. Liam put his own money towards materials and created pins and a promotional video then set out with a goal to raise $500 for the Red Cross in Ukraine. To-date, he has surpassed $3,000 with all proceeds going to Ukraine and he continues to fund raise for this important cause. Liam has also assembled holiday-season meal kits for donation including creating 20 pancake kit hampers for families who access Cochrane’s Helping Hands Free Food Shed. Liam treats others with respect and always brings a positive attitude. His selflessness is inspirational to those around and he carries forward his great-grandfather’s words that “you are never too young to make a difference.”

Feather Bear-Bull, age 10 – Calgary

Feather is a quiet and committed young person who is dedicated to promoting her Cree culture at her school in hopes that she can help others develop confidence. This year Feather created Cree Club, which had initially started as a classroom-based poster project called “Cree Word of the Week.” Soon, this project developed into a school-wide initiative after Feather personally invited every class to join. Throughout the pandemic Feather continued to find creative ways to promote her culture and language to others at the school including requesting that a specific language learning app be downloaded onto all the school technology. Additionally, Feather helps bring two of her seven siblings to school and supports her cousins at school. Inspired by Feather’s Cree Club and vision, other students formed a Stoney Language Group. Feather not only inspired those around her, but has also inspired herself to engage in schoolwork and to be a leader in the school community.

Liesel Waschyshyn, age 10 – Kingman

When she was 5 years old, Liesel lost her father. This tragedy was very difficult for her family, and Liesel had to learn quickly how to adapt to a set of life circumstances. She always seems to know when someone needs help or a kind word. Even through her online schooling, she stands out as a leader who takes risks and has great self-discipline. She is also very responsible, dependable and supportive of others, always going “over and above the tasks that are expected of her.” An example of the exceptional consideration she gives others can be found in her relationship with a senior neighbour whom she calls “Oma”. For several years, Liesel has helped her by shovelling snow, doing yardwork, and helping out around the house. During Covid, she wrote Oma a letter every week to ease the loneliness that came with periods of isolation.

Erin Marsh, age 12 – St. Albert

The words others use to describe Erin are “resilient, hard working, kind, responsible, brave.” Erin lost her left eye to retinoblastoma but has not let it hold her back from working towards her goals. She is always challenging herself and helping others, which in turn motivates those around her to do their best. This year Erin was invited to be a mentor because of her kindness and her leadership in giving back to the community. She has demonstrated incredible grace and wisdom as a mentor, standing out as an exceptional role model. Erin is grateful for her health and takes joy in giving to those who need support through monthly food bank donations and other initiatives like gift giving to those in need at Christmas. Erin’s hard work and thoughtfulness have earned her the distinction of Great Kid.

McKenzee Cole, age 12 – Newbrook

McKenzee is always helping those around her, despite the personal obstacles she manages every day. One of McKenzee’s most precious qualities is that she does not help because she is seeking recognition; instead, her actions frequently go without formal acknowledgement. Her teachers often see her giving time to younger children who are hurt or need someone to play with. Outside of school, McKenzee has quietly lent a hand and volunteered for worthy causes. One year, she sent handmade Christmas cards to the Canadian Forces and senior centres; another year she donated bins of her own toys to a family who lost their possessions in the Fort McMurray fires. She has also delivered poinsettias to those who needed some cheering, and most recently, she worked with other students to raise money for the Red Cross to send to Ukraine. Within her community, she also keeps an eye out for those in need by delivering meals to those who live alone, shovelling snow and stocking wood for the elderly. Simply put, McKenzee is a friend and helpful to everyone, acting with real generosity.

Sofia Hirani, age 12 – Calgary

Sofia is a brain cancer survivor who has fought exceptionally hard in her recovery. Despite the enormity of these challenges, she tackled them with a positive attitude and determination. Sofia is committed to seeing the spaces around her improved for others too. Sofia has lived experience with mobility, hearing and speech challenges and she uses her understanding to raise awareness and inspire others to advocate for change. Sofia reminds others of how to improve accessibility and equitable opportunities for others both within and outside the school. She also leads cancer awareness campaigns like Kid’s Cancer Care to support educating others about this disease and the impact it can have on a person’s life. Sofia’s gentle courageous spirit is an inspiration to many, and has led students, staff and others to get involved in the Big Brave-Shave a Lid for a Kid campaign.

Aura Bzdel, age 13 – Drumheller

Two years ago, Aura and her father were in a serious car accident and her father passed away. Aura spent a week in a coma and when she awoke, she needed to re-learn how to speak, talk, walk and use the right side of her body. Losing a parent is devastating, as is suffering a debilitating physical injury, and Aura experienced both at a young age. In the face of this adversity, Aura demonstrated remarkable resilience. Aura participated in physiotherapy and occupational therapy for several months, and 9 months later, she returned to in-person school and joined the swim team. Aura’s teachers and those around her have been touched by her courage and determination.

Keeson Steinke, age 13 – Calgary

In the last 2 years, Keeson developed life altering medical issues, upsetting the rhythm of his academic, athletic and social life. Some people would focus on the negative or feel overwhelmed, but not Keeson. Resilience is defined as having “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.” This is how others describe Keeson. Even though he has had to find a new way to navigate many parts of his life, Keeson took the challenge on. He educated his classmates and staff about his condition so that they could better understand and support him in his journey to recovery. Keeson is held in high regard by those around him because his positivity is infectious. Even though he was often away from school, Keeson exceled in his schoolwork and helped those who were struggling academically. His thoughtful way and optimistic outlook remind others that we still have choices, even when faced with major life changes.

Gemma Wells, age 14 – Calgary

Gemma truly exemplifies what it means to be a Great Kid. In recent years, Gemma has worked hard to take care of her mental health. She learned that she has ADHD and has found tools and supports to help her manage her neurodivergency. Gemma is an empathic leader who is responsible, trustworthy and dependable. She is always willing and eager to assist, as evidenced in her involvement in supporting school assemblies, mentoring younger students and volunteering as an office assistant. Gemma is also unwaveringly committed to social justice and was integral in founding safe spaces for students, including the Gender & Sexualities Alliance and school wellness room at her school. This year, Gemma took it upon herself to lead a donation project for the Calgary Drop-In Centre, which included care packages with homemade cards and 1,300 items. Rather than let her personal challenges weigh her down, Gemma has channelled her energy into making her community a better place.

Chloe Goodwin, age 16 – Coaldale

Chloe faced significant hardship as a young child, including a diagnosis of Fetal Alcohol Effects. Yet, she has risen like a bright star, showing resilience and courage, all the while advocating for those who need support. She is an active member of the athletic and fine arts programs at her school, and this year earned the Coaches Award for her leadership and sportsmanship. Chloe also plays a leadership role in several school groups – such as Mental Health Group and Gender & Sexualities Alliance – and she assists with school assemblies and events. She is dedicated to her academic studies and, despite a learning disability, Chloe maintains honour-roll status. Most recently, Chloe gained a seat on the Alberta Premier’s Youth Ministerial Council where she is determined to advocate for students’ interests. Chloe always puts her family first: she takes care of her two younger siblings, and when her grandparents need her, she is always there. Chloe truly is a Great Kid.

Hanna MacDowall, age 16 – Fairview

Two years ago, Hanna lived through a traumatizing experience and even though she now suffers from PTSD, her positive spirit shines through. She is kind and compassionate, and models perseverance and determination both in and out of school. Even though her mental health can make attending school difficult at times, Hanna continues to show up and do her best. As an athlete and assistant coach, Hanna promotes healthy and active living. Over the last few months, she has led an initiative to run a school-wide fun run event, including securing grants and sponsorship. This project has taken great leadership and has required Hanna to branch out in new ways. Hanna excels at what she sets her sights on because she does not give up, and this also applies to her personal struggles. Hanna is a Great Kid and a remarkable member of her community.

Ivy Mills, age 16 – Morinville

Ivy is positive and brings happiness to everyone around her. Her father is a Canadian Forces veteran of 22 years with a number of deployments in active war zones, and Ivy has embraced the opportunity to educate others about the story behind commemorative days like Remembrance Day. In her everyday life, Ivy shows real leadership and courage. Musically gifted, Ivy has bravely performed at school ceremonies, the Alberta Legislature, and the International Women’s Day celebration in her town. Her bravery extends into other areas of school where she advocates for other youth in the LGBTQ2S+ community. Ivy’s inclusive welcoming of others is evident in her volunteer work at local non-profits and community events. The positivity she maintained while coping with damage to her family’s home is a testament to her strength of character. In spite of their loss, Ivy continued to give back to the community with her music, including performing at local seniors’ homes.

Amie Eloise Hoffman, age 17 – Hines Creek

Amie is exceptionally determined, committed, and driven. Despite facing mental health issues herself and in her family, Amie has stayed focused and motivated towards her goals. This year, Amie is completing her last 2 years of high school in one year, which is an example of how she can accomplish what she puts her mind to. She is committed to giving back to people and animals – on any given day, she can be found coaching a team, collecting bottles, or helping an injured animal. Amie showed her high regard for her peers’ needs when she tore her ACL and continued as team captain, cheering on her team at every event. After 2 years of physiotherapy, Amie is now back playing basketball, another example of her resilience.

Erin Pelé, age 18 – Grande Prairie

In 2018, Erin was diagnosed with leukemia and relapsed again in December 2021. Instead of letting this devastating news weaken her resolve, she moves forward with resilience and determination. Erin was an active athlete with exceptional leadership and teamwork skills prior to her diagnosis. Throughout her treatment, she continued to attend volleyball games to support her teammates and when she was not well enough to do so, her coaches and teammates supported her. Not only is her commitment to recovery inspirational, but also her consideration for the well-being of others. At school, she shares her story with other youth so they too can see it is possible to tackle any obstacle, no matter how daunting. She also led an awareness campaign and fundraiser for sick kids as well as a project to create hygiene kits for vulnerable youth. Throughout all of these challenges, Erin has maintained excellent academic standing and she is set to start university in the fall. Erin’s courage and fortitude make her an exceptional person and worthy of the title Great Kid.

Dylan Symmonds, age 18 – Medicine Hat

Dylan is a key member of his community, both at school and in his greater community, and others describe him as “an active citizen.” He extensively volunteers in the community and works to address food insecurity with the highest quality food available. In giving to others, he has in turn gained a better understanding of who he is and his place. Dylan lives with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and he has not let that hold him back. He approaches his obstacles as an opportunity to build new skills and, when necessary, he finds creative ways to participate. These qualities make Dylan an excellent team player and someone others enjoy being around. Simply put, Dylan is a friend and helpful to everyone, and truly a Great Kid.

Katari Right Hand, age 18 – Siksika

Katari has demonstrated remarkable resilience and strength of character in the face of life’s challenges. After the 2013 floods, Katari was given the name Nààpiwa otó piim Akikowan which means Rainbow Girl representing the hope that comes after a storm. The responsibilities Katari has continued to undertake are nothing short of extraordinary. Raised by her grandparents most of her life, she helps take care of siblings, cousins and, when needed, her grandparents. Her accountability is paralleled in her academics, where she graduated at 16, and in the way she celebrates her culture. Last year, only a week before graduation, Katari lost her mother. She drew on her quiet strength and not only planned her mother’s funeral but also attended graduation. At the same time, she fulfilled her extensive commitment to represent the Niitsitapiiks as the 2021 Calgary Stampede Parade Marshal. As a First Nation youth, Katari has experienced racism but she has not let that discourage her from embracing and living her culture. She has brought her community together with strength, hope and optimism.


Connect with the Great Kids Award Team:

Phone: 780-887-8752
Email: [email protected]