Leading an organization such as the Atlantic Award Group can be no easy task. We present on average 15-20 awards a year in Atlantic Canada and receive thousands of nominations during that time. Selecting award winners is no easy task and even though I don’t always have involvement in the selection process, I do have to sign off of on those recipients before an award can be presented. I take great pride in our award winners because I make sure that our awards don’t just go to anyone but to someone or something that really deserves it.
In early 2013 we launched the Isleawards on PEI which marked our second provincial award which was soon followed by the introduction of our awards in New Brunswick. The first ‘Isleawards” were presented at the Loyalist Lakeview Hotel in Summerside in April, 2013.
One of those award recipients was Eileen Higginbotham and her two canine companions, Kannon & KaBoom. The nominations we had received from countless people on PEI were in relation to the Prince Street Puppy Project but our award was presented on a more general basis because we discovered that Eileen, with the support of her dogs did a lot of other activities but the Prince Street Puppy Project made up a big part of the reason we were presenting the award. To date, the Prince Street Puppy Project received the highest number of nominations we have ever received.
It was with great sadness that KaBoom had passed away just days before the award was to be presented but we pressed on and presented the award to a full house in Summerside and the award presentation was met with a standing ovation.
It’s not often that I reconnect with award winners after a ceremony as we have to remain impartial to protect the award winners honour as much as our own values; but last night I had come across a story on CBC Compass that had said that the program had been canceled and changed to an optional after-school activity due to a complaint by one single parent based on a presumption.
As I said earlier we take great pride in who we present our awards too. It is not a decision we take lightly. The English Language School Boards decision to remove this project from Prince Street Elementary is not acceptable. The Atlantic Award Group is extremely disappointed in the choices that have been made based on the complaints of one indvidual. The ELSB should be more concerned about improving a childs education through extraordinary programs such as this rather than thinking first about their liability. It is refreshing to see a program allowing children to learn skills that the current school system fails to implement. There is a lot to be said about the therapeutic aspects of this project too but there are many studies that point out the advantages of programs such as these. It was thanks this project that other schools in other Atlantic provinces decided to roll out similiar programs. The ELSB should be standing behind this project proudly and the fact they are not is embarrassing. This is something to embrace and not to run scared from.
The Atlantic Award Group stands strongly behind the Prince Street Elementary Puppy Project and it’s program and calls upon the ELSB to immediately reinstate the program and review it’s policies to allow support for such programs and to encourage other schools in the province to do similar activities.
On a personal note, I myself have never been a ‘dog’ person, but I’ve seen what this program can do first-hand when I visited the school and as a soon-to-be parent, if I knew that my child had something this special taken away from them, I would not be happy.
I encourage everyone to sign the petition because this is something PEI should be proud of.