Kindness of students in Souris helps CBC journalist win international award

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

'They earned it, they won it'

Sarah Keaveny-Vos picked up her award in Florida last Friday. She says she was shocked to receive word she won. (David Vos)

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 around. The rest of the kids did the same in solidarity — without speaking a word to one another.

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

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

Kindergarten students at Souris Regional School, Charlotte Garrett, left, Charley O’Keefe and Faith Mills, proudly hold the Gabriel Award for best single news story. (Sarah Keaveny-Vos/CBC)

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 was picked up nationally, both online and on the radio. She said when CBC was looking for stories to submit to the Gabriel Awards she put her story forward to be considered.

She said she was "delighted" when it was chosen by a CBC panel in Halifax to be submitted.

Keaveny-Vos 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 took the award to Souris Regional School to show teachers, Cathy O’Keefe, left, Marie McGaugh and students the award they helped her win. (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."

More P.E.I. news

With files from Sarah Keaveny-Vos


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