Katie McDonald’s poem “Homemade Happiness” expresses just how important her home is to her and her family, and thanks to her writing efforts, an Ontario family is a little bit closer to having a home that they can call their own. Katie is one of five runner-up winners in the Meaning of Home national essay contest that was organized by mortgage specialists Genworth Financial Canada, and $5,000 will be given to a Habitat for Humanity project in her name.
She also received a new iPod and a pizza party for her entire Grade 6 class at Wellesley Public School.
“My mom heard about the contest, so I thought it would be a lot of fun,” said Katie.
Katie’s mother Sharon, a Grade 6 teacher in Kitchener, said she was surprised to learn that Katie was one of the winners, but that surprise quickly disappeared.
“She is such a creative girl. Her writing, her doodling, she’s always reading,” said Sharon. “She loves her home and is very passionate about our home and what it stands for. I wasn’t surprised by what she wrote.”
Katie’s poem touches on many themes that most of us can probably relate to. She describes how home is a place of joy and delight, and that it is like “arms that embrace.”
She also writes about how her creativity takes flight and that fun has no limit in her home – and she even makes mention of her father Ken’s homemade waffles.
“My dad makes those a lot,” she said with a smile.
This is the fifth year of the essay contest, and it has seen more than 10,000 essays submitted in that time. The latest contest was also Genworth’s best – a total of 3,190 essays were submitted from coast to coast, and the contest was open to children in Grades 4, 5 and 6, with the winners chosen from a list of 24 finalists.
Genworth’s leader of community relations said that Katie’s poem was well-written and truly conveyed the meaning of home, which was why she was selected as a runner-up.
“It’s not just a place to sleep, and it’s not just determined by the brick and mortar,” said Linda Belanger. “It’s somewhere where a family gets together and, as (Katie) said, the home is about the people inside and the love that’s around it.”
An Ethiopean-born Grade 4 student from Calgary, Edelawit Schnell, was the grand prize winner and $60,000 was given to a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in her name. Altogether Genworth has donated more than $450,000 to the charity since the contest began.
This year the company also donated $5 to Habitat for Humanity for every essay that was submitted.
“We added this element so that every kid can feel like they are contributing,” said Belanger.
Since this year also marks the fifth anniversary of the contest, Genworth will be publishing a book of all the winners and the runners-up from the past five years, with all of the proceeds going back the Habitat for Humanity.
Katie said that she didn’t know anything about Habitat for Humanity before the contest, but since she decided to enter she did a little more research on the organization and said that they are doing important work to try and build homes for those who can’t afford them.
She has donated her $5,000 to Habitat for Humanity in Stratford, and hopes the money can be used to help someone else discover the joys of home that she loves so much.
“I’ve always grown up in a good home so I thought it would be fun to write about it and tell other people about where I live.”