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Youth artist supports CDI with charity art contest win

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Eileen, 12, takes home top prize in Devron Development’s A Big Picture art contest; selects CDI as prize recipient to support children, youth and families struggling with mental health issues

When Eileen opened her Google Classroom and spotted a link to a national youth art competition, she immediately knew she wanted to be involved. Presented by Toronto-based real estate company Devron Developments, the A Big Picture contest had a dual purpose: to inspire and uplift the community through art while families were staying home due to COVID-19, and to support local charities with a substantial financial donation. For Eileen, both of these motivated her to enter the contest.

The contest itself was inspired by the sidewalk chalk art and messages of gratitude found in many family windows early in the pandemic. “Not being in any direct industry where we can get active with helping, we felt a little on the sidelines,” said Pouyan Safapour, President of Devron Developments. “We kept trying to think of different ways we can help, and we’d seen people and organizations get creative with how they were playing a part.” After discussing the idea with Devron Development staff members, Safapour saw an outpouring of enthusiasm from his entire team, who all voiced a desire to give back in a meaningful way. From there, A Big Picture was born. The contest quickly grew, attracting over 270 submissions from youth across Canada who wanted to be involved in artwork with a cause. “It’s been really obvious that what we’ve done has been good, and that’s been really rewarding,” says Safapour. “I think the fact that we enabled [the kids], encouraged them and gave them a platform and a canvas to practice doing something that they love and at the same time knowing that they made a difference…I think to teach kids at a young age that you can do something you love and make a positive impact, has been a really warm feeling for us.”

Giving back to the community is nothing new for 12-year-old Eileen, a recess and lunch volunteer at her Mississauga middle school helping children with autism before the quarantine. She had been learning about mental health in the classroom, making CDI an obvious pick as her charity of choice when entering the contest. After learning about how CDI supported the mental health of children, youth and families, she knew that her donation would have an immediate impact for those struggling during COVID-19. Eileen’s grand prize donation (along with a donation from third-place winner, Vihaan), will go toward providing urgent mental health services for 350 children and families in response to COVID-19.

To create There is Light Despite the Darkness, Eileen spent over a week developing her artwork using watercolour and acrylic paint. She completed her piece before showing her parents, who were as moved as the judges and community with the level of detail, positive messaging and talent. Painting the Earth, she said, helped her convey that the challenges of COVID-19 were being faced by everyone together. 

Her artwork was unveiled on a billboard at 1140 Yonge Street on July 8, 2020, on Breakfast Television. Eileen, along with Vice-President of the CDI board, Melanie Manchee, and founders of Devron Developments and Constantine Enterprises Inc. were interviewed live on air. “It means everything to us,” says Manchee. “We are an agency that serves about 3,000 children and families in our programs and across Canada. All our programs are focused on early intervention, so we know if we can help a child with a [small] challenge, when he or she is young, they will hopefully not grow up to be an adult with a [bigger] challenge. We’re also focused on self-regulation, all of our programs give kids the tools they need to regulate their own behaviour, to step away from unfortunate conflict, to keep themselves calm – and that leads to a happier life.” The billboard will stay up for the remainder of 2020, allowing Torontonians to be inspired by Eileen’s message of unity and hope as they pass by.  

Thank you to Eileen and Devron Developments for your support of CDI!