The students watched in admiration as their classmate, Edward, stood up in front of his whole class inside the school auditorium, and learned that the bright red, brand-new bicycle next to him was his to take home, just in time for the holidays. Edward was judged the winner of a writing contest that received 110 submissions answering the question, Why is it important to protect the oceans? He wrote a compelling, beautiful essay describing the detrimental effects of plastic pollution, and how it is our responsibility to help. Edward wrote, “When it rains, plastic bottles get washed over into a sewer that leads to an ocean. But there’s a way to stop this. People have started using reusable items.” Edward was truly deserving of this extraordinary recognition, and the big surprise was yet to come.
Edward’s classmates were about to learn that they would also each receive a brand new bicycle! As Milena Phillips, Co-Founder of The Jonathan Sellers and Charlie Keever Foundation, presented Edward with his prize and announced the good news, the curtain slowly peeled back to reveal 31 bicycles and helmets displayed on stage, adorned with big red ribbons. The crowd erupted as the students realized that Edward’s hard work had not only earned him a new bicycle, but also a new bicycle for each of his classmates. Their enthusiasm overflowing, the children jumped up and down, cheered in astonishment, and embraced one another and Edward in a well-deserved group hug.
This event, part of the second annual Ocean Connectors writing contest in partnership with The Jonathan Sellers and Charlie Keever Foundation, is a way to recognize all involved in writing about an important issue – the effects of marine pollution and how we can all take better care of the planet – and also to honor the memory of two innocent children who were murdered years ago. Milena Phillips shared, “We are so happy to partner with Ocean Connectors. Our focus is protecting children and we welcome the chance to encourage them to play a role in the protection of the earth and it’s resources.”
National School District Superintendent Dr. Leighangela Brady presented The Jonathan Sellers and Charlie Keever Foundation with a certificate thanking them for their incredible contributions to the protection of children and the environment in National City. “There is no better way to go into the holidays, and it is due to the generosity of your wonderful foundation,” Dr. Brady said.
These pictures show the surprise and sincere happiness as only a child can express. The students’ reactions brought tears to the eyes of every adult in the room – their response was so genuine and joyful. It was an amazing reminder that moments like this are what the holidays are all about. The ability to bring joy – and even a little magic – into the lives of local students is truly an honor, and one of the greatest parts of the work that Ocean Connectors does.
Photos by Jonathan Lavan.