ABC radio’s Peter Goers can be a mischievous character on air at times. In one breath describing Victor Harbor as “The agapanthus capital of the world”, then after a sip referring to it as “God’s Waiting Room”.
The many avid city listeners grasp his every word, perhaps conjuring this decrepit vision of our community. It’s just entertainment, and beneath this charade lay a fine, talented gentleman.
There is, of course, a different side to our south coast with 3000 students nearly all with character and vision delivering Australia hope. What really is special is that we have a service club in Lions with its fair percentage of retirees looking beyond the rows of agapanthus and discovering some amazing talent amongst our youth. There is no generation gap, as Peter may believe.
The link is the Victor Harbor & Port Elliot Lions Club NAB Youth of the Year Quest, which brings together representatives of our senior schools to be judged on their academic level, leadership, sporting and community involvement, plus public speaking ability.
Incredibly, it started in Queensland 50 years ago, and this is the 30th year our local club – celebrating its 45th year – has participated. Rodney Lush, who won our first final in 1983, is a successful farmer in Coombe, in the South East, while 2005 winner Barbara Klompenhouwer, our only state finalist, is manager of an international agency that assists the underprivileged.
This year 17 students between Victor Harbor High School – which has entered students every year – and Investigator College were tested and asked impromptu questions by a panel consisting of Peter Francis, Heather Cochrane and Valerie Wyld, with seven students reaching the final on September 12 and speaking before judges Marilyn Connor, as manager of NAB Victor Harbor, deputy mayor Pat Chigwidden, Pip Burfield and Max Lane.
Investigator College provided the overall winner Brayden Mann, and Ashley Penny, who won the award for public speaking. They will now compete at regional level aiming for district, state and national level. The other finalists were Kiara Wiese, Ambrose Willoughby, Zoey Wade (Investigator College), Samuel Byrne and Nadi Cox (VHHS). All very talented.
This is far from “just another competition” and the significance is not missed by NAB – which is in its 17th year of sponsorship of the program – Lions, schools, plus students and their parents or carer. Once again, this year’s finalists delivered sincerity and eloquence with their five-minute prepared speech topics that should remind everyone that this region is indeed gifted with young talent.
Among the varied topics discussed was Sylvester Stallone by Ambrose. Unusual choice, we suggest, and one tried to imagine ‘Sly’ delivering something with such poise and anything resembling normal speech. Yet, it was an incredibly touching presentation as Ambrose spoke of Stallone’s teenage homelessness and general early life struggles, and how he refused to let go of his dreams.
Probably few in the hall knew of the deformity that makes Sly talk like he does. It was yet another example of today’s youth breaking down prejudices set by earlier generations.
Brayden’s topic focused on taking up opportunities, and it was a remarkable story. He talked of the opportunity to go scuba diving, starting with training at Encounter Lakes, and as per requirement had the basic health check. This was March 29 this year, only weeks before his 16th birthday. On July 2 he was fighting for survival in the brilliant Calvary cardiology care unit.
Brayden, a Year 11 student, explained that after his initial dives it was discovered he had an irregular heartbeat. Simply, the right side was beating six times to once on the left, instead of being balanced.
“It was discovered that I was born with a 3cm hole in my heart,” Brayden said. “I had played basketball and football and other sports since I was seven and there was never any sign that something was wrong, although I did not have a lot of stamina. It seems I wasn’t getting enough oxygenated blood which meant my body needed to work harder.
“I was told that had I not been checked the damage would have soon been irreversible and I may not have survived for too many years longer. I was basically given another shot at life because I took the opportunity to go scuba diving; the chance to appreciate life.”
Brayden story is not a ‘feel sorry for me” line, but a reminder that no matter how young and old we are life can be too short so we must make the most of every opportunity.
“I am, so grateful for being able to take part in the Youth of the Year quest,” he said. “Everyone appreciates the support NAB has given the award. It’s given me a shot to tell my story. It’s given me confidence and I am sure it will help me in my career path.”
Brayden’s cardiologist told him he could not play sport for three months. Last night (October 1) was the big moment he was due to return to the basketball court playing for the Lakers. No one would have been more proud, indeed relieved, than his very supportive mum and dad, Arna and Grant, and sisters Kiara, 19, and Makayla, 12.
This year’s quest was put largely put together by the Lions’ local quest chairman Fiona Picotti, with enormous support of other club members. It was her idea to celebrate the 30th year her Lions club has been involved in this program by having a shield made with names of all the winners. The shield will be displayed at Investigator College for 12 months, when Brayden will hand it on to the next recipient and so on.
Some may see it as just another shield; just another competition, but may we be like that American singer-songwriter Mac Davis who 40 years ago this year wrote Stop and Smell the Roses, meaning take time and to remind yourself about life. Okay, for Pete’s sake we will smell the agapanthus.