Scene: The grand lobby of the Embassy Plaza, early in the morning of Sunday, April 17th. Hundreds of people are hustling back and forth, setting up booths, raising colourful banners, floating festive balloons, wheeling boxes around, testing equipment and rolling out the red carpet for the big day. The air is filled with excitement and anticipation; it’s electrifying! As one witnesses all this last-minute frenzy, one realizes how much work goes into the planning and execution of such an event, and how many hands it takes to do it all. In a very short time these halls will be filled with children and their families, who are about to experience a most memorable day that is all about celebrating them, our Young Authors. Fast-forward an hour or so and all is in place; volunteers are manning their posts and suddenly, as if on signal, hundreds of people begin pouring into the hall, faces flushed with excitement. Young Authors Celebration 2016 is officially open!!

Who do we honour during a celebration? Celebrities, of course! This year more than seven hundred Young Authors and Illustrators submitted stories and each participant was given the celebrity treatment. From all schools in all three regions of the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board, the community came together to celebrate. The final tally of attendance for the day was two thousand people, so many that the day was divided into three separate gatherings and Awards Ceremonies; Grades 1-2, Grades 3-4, Grades 5-6, as well as Secondary, Adult Education and Vocational Centers. And celebrate they did! Each year’s celebration has been bigger and better than the previous one and this year’s was no exception. After the Young Authors received their registration packages which included tote bags, bright green tee shirts, souvenir pins, passports, certificates of participation and their own stories, they were invited to participate in the day’s activities. First, in true celebrity fashion came the red carpet interviews, very professionally conducted by the Leadership Volunteers. From the red carpet, on to sponsors’ booths where the authors had their entry forms stamped passport-style for the raffles, then to the art activities, to manicures, to crazy inflatable games and even a Karaoke booth, people of all ages ‘had a blast’! It’s no wonder that attendance is always so high!

When the suspense could no longer be contained, on to the three awards ceremonies, which were the highlights of the day. At the appointed times, three different groups of children and spectators filed into the ballroom for the big events. Luigi Morabito, Managing Editor of Laval Families Magazine, with his usual kindness and generosity, planned the ceremonies to honour all of the Young Authors and not just the prizewinners in each category.

During the third ceremony a very touching presentation by Young Author Richard Brunel moved the audience to tears, and we are unanimous in wishing him well. Speaking on behalf of the sixteen volunteer judges, Morabito told the children that they are all winners in our eyes and that were it possible we would have awarded each one of them a prize. Many of those children did not go home empty-handed. Thanks to the generosity of all the sponsors listed below, twenty-five wonderful prizes were won at each ceremony, making for some very happy participants (and some parents too!) The children willingly posed for photos in true awards ceremony style, the ‘flashbulbs popped’, and the paparazzi (AKA proud parents and grandparents) were snapping away. Take that TFF and Oscars!

Many special guests and sponsors attended to support the children, and to participate in the draws. They gave so generously of their time, many of them spending the entire day celebrating with us. Representing the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board was Chairperson Jennifer Maccarone, who received enthusiastic praise for her stand against Bill 86 and in favour of elected school boards. On March 9th, Maccarone, in her capacity as President of the Quebec English School Boards Association, presented a brief at the hearings into school board reform. Maccarone had words of praise and encouragement for the young authors and their teachers and parents. Also representing SWLSB was Mr. Fred Greschner, interim Director General. Greschner looked back on his years as a teacher and administrator, and on how much he had enjoyed reading the writings of children. He encouraged the children to keep writing their wonderful stories. Commissioners Ailsa Pehi, Peter MacLaurin, Anne McMullon, Dean Dugas, Robert Dixon, Paolo Galati, Vicky Kaliotzakis, Angela Martorana, Guy Gagnon, Emilio Migliozzi, and Sergio DiMarco were also in attendance to support the children, representing the four corners of the SWLSB’s territory.

Four MNAs from the region were also in attendance, greeting the children and offering congratulations. Present were Mr. Guy Ouellette, Ms. Monique Sauvé, Mr. Jean Rousselle and Mr. Jean Habel. Though he had a full agenda, Mayor Marc Demers attended with Deputy Mayor David de Cotis, and City Councillors Aline Dib, Ray Khalil, Vasilios Karidogiannis, Paolo Galati and Michel Poissant. Mayor Demers and Mr. de Cotis praised the children’s effort and success, giving a nod to their parents and teachers, emphasizing the importance of believing in our children, our future. They graciously presented awards, congratulated the winners and posed for souvenir photos. Many of the sponsors were also in attendance for all three ceremonies, offering congratulations and posing for photos. This was a landmark year for honours bestowed on our children!

Thanks to superb organization by Morabito and his Laval Families ‘family’, Andrade Morabito, Event Planner par excellence Francine Carnevale, and an army of over 70 volunteers, 45 of whom were from the Student Leadership teams from Laval Junior HS. Other student volunteers came from Lake of Two Mountains HS, Laval Senior HS and Rosemere HS. There were volunteer judges, countless educators, administrators, retirees, family and friends of Laval Families, and the multimedia crew from Groupe Kloda Focus, all helping the day to run smoothly and seamlessly. LFM support staff included Sarine Sabounjian, Melissa Mignacca, James Di Sano and Despina Ioanidis. Thanks also to the generous sponsors, all of whom are listed below. We are especially grateful to the management and staff of the Embassy Plaza for their hospitality and attentiveness to every detail. We all are united for one purpose and we all believe in our children and in their future. In that vein David de Cotis shared a quote from Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe: “Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you will help them to become what they are capable of being.” This is exactly what the Young Authors Contest is all about!

Next year will be the 5th Annual YAC, and the wheels are already in motion for an even bigger and more extravagant event, with many surprises in store…