Kindness of students in Souris helps CBC journalist win international award

As soon as CBC's Sarah Keaveny-Vos landed on P.E.I. with an international award, she went to share it with the kids who inspired the story she told.

Keaveny-Vos' story was simple in premise — it was about kindergarten students in Souris, P.E.I., showing kindness to one another and it won her the Gabriel Award for single news story.

The Gabriel Awards honour excellence in film, broadcast, and cross-platform media productions released in the United States and Canada.

"They earned it, they won it," Keaveny-Vos said.

Her story was about a group of kindergarten students at Souris Regional School. When one girl had her shirt on backwards and another student laughed, her friend flipped her own shirt inside out. The rest of the kids did the same in solidarity — without speaking a word to one another.

When Keaveny-Vos pulled the award out of its gold box to show the kindergarten students earlier this week, they were "thrilled," she said.

"It's like something out of a princess tale."

David Vos

She said the room filled with gasps of excitement.

"They won this award. I want them to know for the rest of their lives that that kind act they did that day inspired an entire continent of people," Keaveny-Vos said.

"The bright and compelling storytelling lures a listener in, making us want to hear those children's voices and sit alongside them during their circle time," a judge at the award show said.

World is full of bad news

Keaveny-Vos brought cupcakes and celebrated with the students — winning a Gabriel was like winning an Oscar, she said. 

"It was the honour of my career, I was incredibly humbled by it."

Keaveny-Vos writes human interest stories in an industry littered with hard news and tragedy.

They are from a community where people care about each other. That's how they roll in Souris. — Sarah Keaveny-Vos, CBC

"As a society we're hearing bad news all the time and it can really wear us down."

She said while those stories are important — human interest stories really allow the audience to connect to people.

"What I have found for my own life is I want to connect with people and I want to share their stories and shine a light on — sometimes — the little smaller stories that don't always get noticed or picked up," she said.

Receiving the news

Keaveny-Vos said the story did well online and the radio treatment got national play. So, when the opportunity was presented to submit the story for a Gabriel Award she didn't pass it up. She said the students were just as happy to win the award as she was.

Charlotte Garrett was one of the young students in the room to see the award unveiled.

"When we won the award I felt happy because when Charley put her shirt around everyone laughed at her and she felt sad. So, me and Faith did it to make her happy and then everybody did it and everyone was happy."

Sarah Keaveny-Vos/CBC

Charley O'Keefe, the student who originally had the backwards shirt said it is important to support your friends.

"Then the other person that did something wrong will feel sad and then feel happy because they did the same thing as them."

Other children in the class said it felt good to be recognized for doing something kind.

Easy to find good news

Living on P.E.I., Keaveny-Vos said she doesn't have to search far for positive stories. She said the community of Souris and the students at the school are evidence of that.

"They are from a community where people care about each other. That's how they roll in Souris."

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