BROCKVILLE -- A new initiative called the Remote Learning Heroes program is recognizing children in the Brockville area, who have gone above and beyond in their community while participating in online learning.

"We recognize that for the last year and a half or so it's been pretty tough on all of us, on our community, on our families, and on our youth," said Jack Butt, first vice-president of the Brockville and District Shine Club. 

"The Remote Learning Heroes program really emulates in a way our values as Shriners, it's about helping kids, it's about making a difference, and it's about making dreams come true. And those are the kinds of things that excite us," Butt said.

The initiative invites people to nominate kids or youth that have excelled in online learning, made a positive impact in their neighbourhood or learned a new skill.

"I've received about 30 some nominations and we've awarded about a dozen medals and recognized about a dozen (heroes)," said Butt.

The heroes will receive a special medal from the Canadian Mint, along with a t-shirt.

Recent hero Hayden Payne, a baseball player turned green thumb with his sports season cut short die to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"I didn't have much to do this year and our friend offered if we wanted to grow flowers at his greenhouse and we said yes," Hayden said, a Grade 7 student at Thousand Islands Secondary School in Brockville.  

The kids grew flowers and plants, donating 20 per cent of their sales to the Athens Food Bank, and helping walk elderly residents home with their plants.

"It was cool, she told me a couple of her stories and stuff and it was just fun getting to know her," added Hayden.

Hayden Payne

His mother Janell Payne said online learning this year has been stressful for the family.

"Their lives have been turned upside down," Janell said. "Some days are good, and other days when the WiFi is out in the country, it's tough. I know they all want to be back with their friends," Janell said. 

She wasn't surprised to hear of her son's nomination in the program.

"I did hear from a lot of people in the Athens community," added Janell. "They were sending me texts and emailing me saying, look, I saw your son out there. I saw your son walking in these older people home with their flowers."

Remote Learning Heroes

The exact kinds of things the Shrine Club is looking for in nominations.

"It stands out, kindness, being generous, helping others and always having a smile on your face," added Butt.

Janell insisting it's easy for kids to get involved.

"Just going over and chatting with the elderly next door or helping mow a yard. When you see an elderly struggling, just get out there and help," she said. 

"There's one little young man who's just found out he has epilepsy," added Butt. 'In spite of all these challenges, the teacher said he's in the front row helping out, doing the video calls, tutoring other kids. That's pretty good stuff and, you know, and if we didn't start this program, we wouldn't have known anything about it. It's wonderful."

"We're going to keep (this program) going as long as there's an interest. And we know we haven't scratched the surface. Our intention is to continue with it, to continue to not only recognize our youth, but to tell other people, you know, we're in good hands," Butt added. 

To nominate a child or youth in your community, visit the Shriners of Brockville website.