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ALBERTA Government honours 16 “Great Kids” for inspiring and changing the lives of others


22 minute read

From Government of Alberta

The Alberta government has awarded 16 young people the 2019 Great Kids Award for inspiring and changing the lives of others.

Click to see a photo gallery.

2019 Great Kids Award reception

The 2019 Great Kids Award recipients.

The province gives out the Great Kids Award annually to recognize and celebrate kids who accomplish great things while overcoming challenges in their life.

“I am honoured to award these inspiring young people with the 2019 Great Kids Award. Their accomplishments and positivity in the face of adversity will only serve to bring people together, build stronger communities and improve the lives of everyone around them.”

Rebecca Schulz, Minister of Children’s Services

The 2019 recipients have achieved great things, including 10-year-old Mylon McArthur from the Pheasant Rump First Nation, who took a stand against bullying and spoke out about how he was being treated by kids at his school. In a YouTube video that has been viewed over one million times, his message of understanding and anti-bullying was spread around the world.

“IBM is proud to support the Great Kids Award, which celebrates outstanding children who achieve great things. We look forward to participating in this event every year, celebrating with the winners and their loved ones, and are honoured to help recognize the 2019 Great Kids Award recipients.”

Brad Butterfield, IBM

Here are this year’s recipients:

Blaire Decker, age 8 – Fort McMurray

Blaire is a courageous and compassionate young lady achieving great things in life while facing the daily obstacles that come with being diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome – a genetic connective tissue disorder. Even though she is often away from school at medical appointments in Edmonton and has to cope with integrating a wheelchair into her daily routine, she continues to be one of the top academic students in her class and a beacon of hope to others. Not only does Blaire face daily medical challenges, she and her family also suffered the trauma of losing their home to the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfires. Despite everything, Blaire’s optimism, wisdom and maturity provide support and strength to others in her school. Simply put, Blaire is a friend and helpful to everyone, living life with grace and beauty.

Colby Hanson, Age 8 – St. Albert

At just 8 years of age, Colby is already described by those around him as determined, joyful, inspiring, and selfless. Throughout his life, Colby has already endured many hardships due to the multiple surgeries he has experienced from hip dysplasia. He has remained strong and encourages others through his hard work and positive attitude. Instead of focusing on what limits him, Colby goes beyond and dedicates his time and efforts to helping others at home, at school, and outside of school. At age 5, Colby took it upon himself to support the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation by gathering donations. In the past three years, he has raised over $2,000 and is determined to raise another $1,000 this year alone! Those who know Colby admire his resilience, virtue, and enjoyment of life. He truly inspires others to accept themselves and find joy in each moment.

Adian Al-Shammari, age 12 – Calgary

Adian’s journey to where she is today covers many kilometres, experiences and challenges. Originally from Iraq, Adian’s family spent time in Turkey before being granted permission to come to Canada. Since then, Adian has enthusiastically immersed herself into her new school and community. She is always challenging herself and is always open to helping others. Adian put great effort into learning English so she could communicate with her peers and staff at school. By the end of her first year, she was translating for other students and some newer families who had yet to learn English. She made an even bigger impact by starting a kindness club in her school. Through this club, Adian and her classmates wrote notes and left them on other students’ desks as random acts of kindness. Adian’s hard work and thoughtfulness have earned her the distinction of Great Kid.

So-So Chen, age 12 – Calgary

Some of the greatest leaders emerge out of a natural desire to make a difference in the world. They do this by advocating for change and in doing so become an inspiration to others. So-So is one of those leaders. As a Grade 5 student, through their journey of self-discovery, So-So created a thriving safe space by founding the first Gender-Sexuality Alliance (GSA) Club for students at Captain Nichola Goddard School. So So’s courageous activism continued when they took the GSA Club to the Werklund School of Education’s Youth Leadership Forum at the University of Calgary. This evolved into a partnership with the graduate students’ GSA at the University of Calgary. Through this partnership, they are planning a GSA Youth Conference that is projected to be one of the biggest in southern Alberta. So-So is a passionate, humble, wise and humorous advocate who is truly making a difference.

Mylon McArthur, Age 10 – Cold Lake

If you Google “Mylon McArthur”, you’ll get pages of results, including a YouTube video that has been viewed over 1 million times. At age 8, young Mylon, from Pheasant Rump First Nation, decided to take a stand against bullying and speak out about how he was being treated by kids at his school. In his healing journey, Mylon began to teach the meaning of First Nations culture and hair to others in his school. He learned to use his voice to talk with youth and adults about social injustices towards First Nations and First American people. His message of understanding and anti-bullying was spread on various networks, including American media outlets. Mylon went from being a kid who didn’t want to go to school to an active advocate with a strong message of embracing your culture and understanding its importance. Mylon’s story is used around the world to inspire kids in many communities. Today, he exemplifies courage, resilience, leadership, and determination as he continues to speak out and take action against bullying.

Maja Petrovic, Age 11 – Edmonton

Maja is an exceptional human being with a pretty simple goal: “brighten someone’s day”. As a member of her school’s leadership team, Maja is always willing to lend a hand and volunteer for worthy causes. She has helped organize and promote various kindness initiatives and activities in her school, including a cancer graffiti wall and prayers for cancer. Maja’s enthusiasm and zest for every project is contagious. Outside of school, Maja’s family has dealt with serious family illness. Through it all, she has become a source of strength and empowerment for her sister, exhibiting love and kindness at every opportunity. This strength has been an inspiration to the grown-ups in her life who are supporting their own aging parents through illness. Maja is the epitome of girl power, representing strength, kindness, perseverance and optimism – true super hero qualities.

Ava Roe, Age 12 – Paddle Prairie

Ava is described as resilient, compassionate, a leader, and an old soul. Ava is constantly challenging herself to learn new things. She spends time with community Elders and family, gaining knowledge and practicing new skills like baking, cooking, sewing, hunting and trapping. Her passion for taking on new challenges extends from her home life into her school life. Ava was elected class president and takes that role very seriously. She meets the expectations of that role with an upbeat positive attitude. Ava initiated a snack program for her school, planning bake sales to raise money to fill the snack cupboard for other students. The small and remote Métis community that Ava calls home is not without challenges. Despite that, she continues to excel and inspire others with her work ethic and enthusiasm.

Charles Ancheta, age 14 – Fort McMurray

Charles is a positive young man who brings happiness to everyone around him. But Charles’ life is not without struggles. Having immigrated to Canada from the Philippines with his family, he has experienced challenges adjusting to life in Canada. His family works very hard to make ends meet and provide opportunities. Charles uses public transportation every day to get to school where he leaves a positive mark on everyone he interacts with. Last year, after his mother gave birth to another baby boy, they both experienced serious health issues and were admitted to the hospital. Charles took a leave from school to be there for his family in Edmonton while his brother was in the hospital. Charles missed weeks of school but managed to maintain his marks, returning after a few weeks with a smile on his face. He shines a bright light on everyone he meets and that makes him pretty great.

Kyara Garnett, age 14 – Grimshaw

Resilience is defined as having “the capacity to recover quickly from difficulties”. There could not be a better way to describe Kyara. Even though life has not been easy for her, she has become a responsible, trustworthy and dependable “natural” leader at her school. She is frequently called upon to help around the school and is always willing and eager to assist, as evidenced in her active involvement in running the school’s theatre sound system and helping with morning announcements. Even though she has experienced trauma and persistent family struggles, Kyara is that wonderful friend who is empathetic, actively listens, gives advice, and always sees the positive. As a result, she is admired by her peers as someone who treats people with dignity and respect and will stand up for what is right. Simply put, Kyara has not let her difficult life circumstances change who she was destined to be – a great kid.

Drayden Laviolette, Age 13 – Lac La Biche

Two years ago, Drayden tragically lost his mother. Losing a parent is devastating, but Drayden demonstrated remarkable resilience. Drayden took up a leadership role at home, at school, and in his community. He holds himself tall every day and serves as a positive role model for his younger brother and other students at his school. As a full time ski leader at his school and gifted fiddle player, Drayden is always eager to help and bring joy to others. He values every opportunity and lesson to learn, whether from a teacher, friend, improvising assigned work, or through personal reflection. Drayden is making a difference in the world because he starts with himself, impacts his family, and goes on to share his gifts with everyone around him. The strand that Drayden weaves into the Kikino Metis Settlement sash will live long and strengthen the community as he grows older.

Danie Poole, Age 14 – Brooks

Danie is a shining example of perseverance, courage, and kindness. Danie has spent a number of years making the transition from female to male. He is open and honest about his journey, educating his classmates and bringing them alongside him in this transition. Danie has connected himself to organizations that have helped him learn more about what he is undergoing and how to deal with his emotions, as well as the emotions of others. He has overcome shyness and works tirelessly to experience success in his education. Danie is a tenacious young man whose work ethic is serving him well personally and educationally. He is truly a Great Kid.

Natalie Toltesi, Age 15 – Calgary

Natalie is a natural leader and she flexes her leadership muscles in a way that makes her unique. She volunteers at school and after school, and in doing so, Natalie’s passion for people shines through. She has led initiatives for students to get support or stay active, regardless of their physical challenges or struggles with success. Through her own struggles with mental wellness, Natalie has been able to relate to others, working with classmates to recognize and overcome their struggles together. She also earned the “Most Outstanding Volunteer” award from a local program where she spends time doing activities with seniors. Natalie keeps herself very busy, managing her own challenges and helping others with theirs. Her genuine interest in other people, their stories, and gifts is at the core of Natalie’s greatness.

Deyana Altahsh, age 19 – Calgary

In October 2017, at the age of 15, Deyana led her mother and two younger sisters to Canada. While she waited to flee her warn-torn country of Syria, and in preparation for her family’s new life, she began to teach herself English through movies and songs.  Arriving first in Trochu and finally settling in Calgary, Deyana has made herself a vital member of her school community. She is an active member of several clubs and activities at her school including the Italian Club, Rotary Club, Mental Health Project, Social Justice Club, and choir. She is also a peer member for newcomers and provides academic tutoring for others. Even with all of this, Deyana made her own education a priority. She is an honour roll student and dreams of going to Oxford or Harvard. She consistently displays enthusiasm for every learning opportunity that comes her way. She is described as “an amazing asset to our province and country” and “an awesome example for her fellow classmates, family members and friends”. That is why Deyana was selected to be a Great Kid.

Korcin Brown, age 17 – Edmonton

In 2014, Korcin was involved in a motor vehicle collision, losing his father and suffering life-threatening injuries that left him paralyzed. Korcin was confined to a hospital bed after the incident and was believed to be bedridden indefinitely. But Korcin defied the odds. He slowly improved to the point where he no longer needs help eating or with other daily tasks. Despite being confined to a wheelchair, Korcin’s outgoing personality, delightful sense of humour and dedication to improvement overshadow any doubt about his abilities. Korcin is not only dedicated to his personal development, but also to his community. As a member of the Louis Bull First Nation, Korcin often attends ceremonies and events, including sweat lodges and pow wows. He enjoys participating in these events, especially as a member of one of the drumming groups. Korcin continues to beat the odds and is an inspiration to those around him.

Luis Fonseca, age 18 – Brooks

Exceptional athlete, valiant leader and family provider are just some of the words used to describe Luis. At 12 years of age, Luis and his father came to Canada from Colombia to reunite with his mother in pursuit of a better life. If being a newcomer and not knowing English wasn’t daunting enough, Luis found himself thrust into an adult role when his father moved back to Colombia. His determination and persistence to succeed never wavered. By age 15, he had learned English, was excelling academically and athletically while providing ongoing translation support for his mother, and working 35-40 hours per week to support his family. The responsibilities Luis has undertaken since coming to Canada have been nothing short of extraordinary. Luis graduated high school this year and will be attending Lethbridge College in a Criminal Justice program. His goal is to become a police officer in hopes of giving back to Canada.

Caleb Lea, Age 17 – Brooks

At the young age of 17, Caleb has demonstrated remarkable resilience and strength of character in the face of life’s challenges. When his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Caleb was already struggling in school and his teachers were concerned about him. Caleb surprised them all when he decided to turn things around and “make his father proud.” Caleb now advocates and encourages his peers in uplifting and non-judgmental ways. His tenacity lifted him out of a dark period in his life and he uses his experiences to motivate himself and those around him. Caleb can often be found mentoring other students with attendance issues and will call or pick them up to make sure they get to school. His quiet strength and grace allow him to connect with others and his determination is helping him to excel in his schoolwork as he seeks greater heights.

The Alberta government’s partnership with organizations, including IBM and Fantasyland Hotel, helps recognize and celebrate Alberta’s young people for doing great things in their communities.

Since its inception, the Great Kids Award has been presented to 304 children aged five to 18. Winners are chosen by an awards selection committee of community representatives and event partners.


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‘Even if no one is watching:’ Parade marshal named for cancelled Stampede

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CALGARY — Filipe Masetti Leite has spent a lot of alone time in the saddle criss-crossing countries on horseback over the last eight years.

The latest journey for the long rider — from Anchorage, Alaska, to Calgary — will be bittersweet when he completes it in one month.

But he’ll have a new title.

Masetti Leite has been named the 2020 Calgary Stampede’s parade marshal, even though the event has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Masetti Leite was asked to take the job while still on his trek and before the health crisis shut down most of the world.

“To be named the Calgary Stampede parade marshal is the biggest honour of my life. I can’t wait to ride into Calgary on July 3, even if no one is watching,” Masetti Leite said in a news release.

“I’m finishing where I started. It’s a dream.”

Masetti Leite, 33, immigrated to Canada from Brazil when he was a teenager. In 2012, he began his first journey from Calgary and spent two years riding his two horses through 10 countries in North, Central and South America.

He covered about 16,000 kilometres before reaching his final destination: his home in Espirito Santo do Pinhal, Sao Paulo.

Masetti Leite, who has a journalism degree from Ryerson University in Toronto, began a second trip in 2016, which spanned 7,350 kilometres over 15 months and took him from Brazil to Patagonia.

His latest 3,500-kilometre trek from Alaska has him arriving in Calgary next month on the same day the Stampede was scheduled to begin.

Masetti Leite said he’s dedicating the remaining part of his ride to health-care workers around the world, who have worked tirelessly during the pandemic.

Despite the cancellation of this year’s edition of what is called the “Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth,” Stampede president Dana Peers said Masetti Leite was selected long before the world changed.

“The choice of Filipe Masetti Leite for the Calgary Stampede parade marshal has been many years in the making,” Peers said.

“He is proof Stampede parade marshals don’t just lead a parade; they exemplify western heritage, values and culture.”

A long rider is someone who has ridden more than 1,600 continuous kilometres on a single equestrian journey.

The inspiration for Masetti Leite came from a similar quest in 1925 by the original long rider, Aime Tschiffely, a Swiss school teacher, who rode 16,000 kilometres alone from Buenos Aires to New York City and wrote about his experiences.

Masetti Leite has documented his travels and written the book “Long Ride Home: Guts and Guns and Grizzlies, 800 Days Through the Americas in a Saddle.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 3, 2020

— Follow @BillGraveland on Twitter

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

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Calgary couple stranded in India by COVID-19 pandemic killed: family

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CALGARY — Family members say a Calgary couple stranded in India because of the COVID-19 pandemic were killed last weekend.

Kirpal Minhas, who was 67, and his wife Davinder, who was 65, were supposed to return the first week of April but their flight was cancelled.

Loved ones say the permanent residents were days from catching another flight to Canada when they were attacked in their home in the Punjab region on Saturday.

The couple’s son-in-law says local authorities told him three people overpowered the husband and stabbed him to death and that the wife was strangled.

Family say police have told them the caretaker of the home was arrested along with two other men, and that the motive was to get the couple’s money.

Global Affairs says it’s aware of the deaths, but cannot disclose any further information for privacy reasons. (CTV Calgary)

This report by The Canadian press was first published June 3, 2020





The Canadian Press

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june, 2020

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