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Girls’ retreat wins top prize

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The “I Am Awesome! (And I Know It)” self-esteem retreat for young women has done it again.

After being named a grand-prize winner in the Aviva Community Fund competition in January, 2014, earning a total of $45,000, the retreat has claimed another one.

It was announced last week that “I Am Awesome” won the $10,000 from the “Tbaytel for Good” competition, which is a sponsorship program to strengthen communities and support youth in Northern Ontario.

“It’s super exciting,” enthused retreat director Renée Martin-Brown.

“We’re very pleased to be the grand-prize winner.”

It’s the second time a local idea has captured the grand prize in the “Tbaytel for Good” competition.

The Border Skating Club won last year, earning funds to upgrade its sound system at the Memorial Sports Centre here.

“Our residents know how to vote,” said Martin-Brown, noting the first round of the competition was based on votes alone.

After a voting period, which ran Feb. 17-May 4, the retreat earned the top amount of votes over five other ideas to advance to the final round.

A panel of judges then determined which idea would be the grand-prize winner and take home the $10,000.

“Thank you so much to everyone who has supported the retreat in this competition,” said Martin-Brown.

“We couldn’t have done it without your votes, shares, and support.

“I have said it time and time again, I have the best voters in the world,” Martin-Brown added.

“Thank you for continuing to believe in this program and our youth.”

Martin-Brown said the money will go to help the retreat maintain the same quality of educators and support staff it had in 2014 after winning the Aviva Community Fund.

“And that is what I think is the most important aspect of the retreat . . . the support and the resources we are providing to the girls,” she stressed.

“Now we can continue to bring in wonderful, talented, and qualified educators,” she noted, adding the presenters come from throughout Northwestern Ontario to share their talents in drama, visual arts, music, yoga, and creative writing—just to name a few.

“And it’s important to us to reach out to various artist disciplines throughout the region,” Martin-Brown added.

She indicated the girls involved in the retreat last year also raised funds as part of a “pay it forward” initiative, garnering more than $17,000.

So with those funds, combined with the $10,000 won through the “Tbaytel for Good” competition, as well as a few local donations, Martin-Brown feels the retreat is on track to meet its budget goal for 2015.

The retreat also applied to the Moffat Family Fund and is waiting to hear about that.

Martin-Brown said that would put them in a secure financial position for next year.

“We’re looking forward now to our 2016 programming and the girls have already started their fundraising campaign,” she noted.

Without funding from the Moffat Family Fund, the retreat just will continue to fundraise.

“I just hope local individuals and businesses will continue to support us,” Martin-Brown remarked.

Residents likely will see the girls involved in the retreat fundraising throughout the district over the next four months, offering initiatives such as bake sales, yard work, tag days, a music in the park event, etc.

Meanwhile, registration for this year’s retreat is going well, with only a few spaces still available.

“The 11-12 [age] category is now full,” Martin-Brown said. “We are no longer accepting registrations for girls 11 and 12 years [old].

“And there are only three spots available in the 13-16 age group,” she added.

“So we’re almost full and we’re very excited.”

Martin-Brown said they have some new faces joining the program, as well as some alumni from last year.

“I’m excited to have our alumni back because I think it’s a great tool to see if our program is working,” she reasoned.

“It’s nice to be able to evaluate our girls on a yearly basis,” added Martin-Brown, noting they can see how the girls are doing, if the program is helping, and if there are areas where the retreat can improve.

The retreat, which this year will be for girls aged 11-16, helps young women from across the region nurture and develop self-esteem while exploring areas such as positive body image, peer pressure, confidence-building, exploring emotions, media influences, and much more.

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

The inaugural event in 2013 drew 19 participants but the retreat was expanded to included 70 young women last year after it won the Aviva money.

This year’s retreat will be held Sept. 24-27 at Sunny Cove Camp, with about 50 girls taking part.

Visit www.i-am-awesome.ca for more info.

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