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Girls’ retreat wins top prize again

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The “I Am Awesome! (And I Know It!)” self-esteem and empowerment retreat for young women can add another win to its books.

After being declared a grand prize winner and earning $45,000 from the Aviva Community Fund competition back in 2013, the annual girls’ retreat has claimed a top prize once again—earning $38,000 to fund its 2017 program.

“I am so excited,” enthused Renée Martin-Brown, director of the retreat that aims to nurture and develop self-esteem of girls aged 11-16.

“The abundance of gratitude that I feel at this moment is so difficult to express,” she added.

“I screamed, jumped, cheered, and then sat for a moment to try and let it all sink in.

“It’s all a little overwhelming.”

The retreat, which has been running each fall since 2013, had been vying for a share of the $1 million up for grabs through a process that began back in October.

“I honestly didn’t know if the judges would choose us twice,” Martin-Brown admitted.

“I tried to adequately express to the judges that they would be very proud of how we have utilized the money we won in 2013 to expand our program in the last three years, and how being chosen as a winner once again potentially gives ‘I Am Awesome!’ the opportunity to be sustainable for another three.”

She said she stressed to the judges the success of the program within the community.

“If they could see the benefit that the program has here, they would be very proud of the program and to be affiliated with something really awesome,” she noted.

Martin-Brown said she was surprised to receive the call last week informing her of the news, although the results weren’t announced officially until yesterday.

“Aviva is funding a lot of projects and I’m thrilled we were one of the ones chosen,” she remarked.

She indicated her budget for the retreat was $38,000, which is the amount she requested and received.

“When we received the $45,000, we had overhead costs—we had a sound system, we had computers—there were things we needed to buy for the program,” she explained.

“And this year we just need the money to run the program.”

The retreat is a four-day weekend experience that nurtures and develops self-esteem while covering areas such as leadership, bullying, positive body image, peer pressure, confidence building, exploring emotions, and media influences.

The participants discover more about themselves while participating in various arts-based workshops throughout the weekend.

These include drama, music, visual arts, yoga, creative writing, self-esteem education, and Internet safety—all presented by professional artists and instructors.

Martin-Brown said the funding helps to bring in the presenters and to cover the cost of lodging and food for the 70 girls, plus chaperones and presenters, for the weekend.

“And that’s what makes the weekend happened,” she remarked. “So I’m happy.”

While the prize money must be utilized within the year, Martin-Brown said the funds give the retreat sustainability for at least the next two.

She has incorporated a pay-it-forward initiative for the retreat.

There is no charge a fee to attend, but participants were asked to raise a minimum of $300 and also encouraged to participate in group fundraising projects.

They held a “Music in the Park” fundraiser and food booths at various community events, in addition to holding their own garage sales, bakes sales, lemonade stands, tag days, and bottles drives.

Participants this year raised $17,000, which now will be allocated for the 2018 program.

“Plus they will fundraise again next year,” Martin-Brown noted.

“It’s an existing program that’s continuing to grow,” she stressed. “We’re learning from the girls; the girls are learning from us.

“Where do we go next? How can we continue to support them?” she asked.

“This funding gives us the opportunity to continue; to have some sustainability.”

Martin-Brown said after having won the Aviva prize money in 2013, then $10,000 from the “Tbaytel for Good” competition last year, as well as money through the Moffat Family Fund, she was on the lookout for additional funding for the upcoming years.

When the Aviva Community Fund competition opened up this fall, she figured she’d try again.

And she’s glad she did. But she stressed she couldn’t have done it without all the support from the community.

The competition required people to vote for their favourite project, but instead of daily voting like back in 2013, each registered participant had 18 votes they could use at any time from Oct. 11-28.

The retreat secured just over 17,000 votes and finished the competition in second place in its funding category out of 102 ideas from across Canada.

Having made the top five, they received $5,000 and then went on to the panel of judges for the grand prize.

“I’m super-excited,” Martin-Brown enthused. “The messages of support are coming in and it’s exciting to see that excitement in the people who have supported us.

“We couldn’t have done it on our own,” she stressed. “The program would not be in this position today without their endless support, votes, and shares.

“We really owe this to our community that it’s happened.”

The 2017 “I Am Awesome! (And I Know It!)” girls’ retreat will be held Sept. 21-24 at Sunny Cove Camp here.

Registration will open at the beginning of May.

Visit www.i-am-awesome.ca for more information or check out the promotional video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8TwqYFBSeE#action=share

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