Ten outstanding children were recognized April 24 for their care, compassion and charitable contributions to the community during the third annual "Kids With Heart" event at Paul Bunyan Mall.
Among the 10 finalists, Lillian Main was selected as the 2009 grand prize winner. The nine runners-up were Doug Coutlee, Samantha Bohn, Nathaniel Olson, Megan Casper, Lucas Felts, Caleb Blackbird, Autumn Johnson, Beau Braun and Cody Puffe. These kids have embraced the spirit of "Kids With Heart" through their selfless acts of kindness.
The finalists and winner were selected by a panel of judges comprised of community leaders, which included Bemidji Mayor Richard Lehmann; Karen Kimbrough; Sue Bruns, Bemidji High School assistant principal; Ashley Bowen, executive director of United Way; Carol Williams of the Bemidji Public Library; Karl Mork, program director for The Boys & Girls Club of the Bemidji Area; and Laddie Elwell, executive director of the Headwaters Science Center.
A new addition to the "Kids With Heart" program was the community volunteer initiative called The Teddy Bear Project, which supported National Volunteer Month and National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Local youth took charge serving as teddy bear recruiters to encourage members of the community to donate new or gently-used teddy bears to benefit children who need a "Beary Best Friend" during difficult times. Many teddy bear recruiting bases were established around town with the help of Girl Scout Troop 41, Bemidji Bombers, First City Dance, Headwaters School of Music, Bemidji School District 31 and Northwest Technical College.
More than 1,200 teddy bears were donated during this event. Troop 41, collected more than 300 bears and the Bemidji Bombers collected more than 200 bears.