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Children's First sneaks into top 10
Recounting and checking of votes means early childhood education project still in the running

Samantha Stokell
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, December 22, 2011

While hope seemed lost on the afternoon of Dec. 16, Monday brought a "Christmas miracle" to Inuvik and supporters of the Children's First Centre.

NNSL photo/graphic

Images like this one of Parker Burns helped the Children's First Centre to sneak into the top 10 finalists of the Aviva Community Fund. The project will compete with 30 other projects for a piece of $1 million. - photo courtesy of Children's First Society

The project had finished in eleventh place of the Aviva Community Fund on the final day of voting, but due to recounts on the weekend ended up as one of the finalists and a chance to win $150,000. The fund pits community projects against each other in a bid for a piece of a $1 million prize. Due to vote corrections on the weekend, the Children's First Centre in Inuvik will now face judges who will decide the winners.

"I was coming in from the hardware store and had paint in my hand and Peter Clarkson called and we were both freaking out," said Paula Guy, chair of the Inuvik Child Development Centre and director of the Children First Society. "My phone's been ringing off the hook and I can't stop smiling. People on Facebook are calling it a Christmas miracle. We're pretty psyched."

The project will provide a permanent home for early childhood education in Inuvik. The Inuvik Child Development Centre, Aboriginal Headstart, Totspot Daycare and Inuvik Preschool will all be housed in the new facility.

Voting ended on Friday, Dec. 16, at 10 a.m. and the Children's First Centre finished in 11th place with 13,685 votes, only 283 votes shy of 10th place. Near the end of the competition Aviva runs scripting to eliminate fraudulent votes to ensure that there is one vote per person, per idea, per day.

"We do it a little bit stronger at the end of each round," said Glenn Cooper, public relations spokesperson for the Aviva Community Fund. "That could account for some groups losing votes and yours going up."

Guy, who watched the website religiously in the final hours, noted that in the final days some groups had bounced around from 30th place to sixth and back. She's thankful of the way the community has supported the project through three rounds of voting.

"I would like to say thank you so much to the community to get behind it and excited about it," Guy said. "There was probably a team of 30 that were a large part of it."

Supporters spammed friends and family on Facebook and through e-mails, handed out pamphlets explaining how to vote, put up signs around town, appealed to celebrities on Twitter and even set up voting stations at the high school so students could vote. For a project in a community of 3,500 to receive over 13,000 votes showed an impressive effort.

"To think that in a national competition, we made it into the finals out of (1,288) projects," Guy said. "On Friday I was still holding out hope. It was a long shot but we still had a shot."

The Children's First Centre has fundraised $1.5 million, has received a promise of $2.3 million from the Town of Inuvik and still needs $1.7 million to complete the project. If the project wins it will receive a maximum of $150,000 from the fund.

The next step will have impartial judges look at the 30 projects and rank them based on a set of criteria. All projects will be looked at based such things as impact on community, likelihood of success, longevity and sustainability, originality and submission quality.

Once the projects are ranked 1 to 30, Aviva will fund one idea from each budget size, starting with the highest ranked ideas and will continue awarding funding to projects until the $1 million has been allocated.

"I think we've got a good chance," Guy said. "The number one criteria is impact on community and longevity and I think the project has more of an impact than a track resurfacing."

The winners will be announced on Jan. 25.

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