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NEW YORK, April 29, 2021 - Today, The Christophers announce the winners of their 33rd Annual Video Contest for College Students, in which entrants were asked to create a film or video that communicates the belief that one person can make a difference. This year’s contest drew close to 100 entries from colleges all across the United States. Tony Rossi, The Christophers’ Director of Communications, and Sarah E. Holinski, The Christophers’ Youth Coordinator, noted, “Our winning videos this year in particular, in the wake of our nation’s year-long pandemic, demonstrate to great effect how one idea, one person, can help transform a community, and by extension, the world at large for the better. For truly, where there is unity, there can also be found not only strength, but hope for a brighter tomorrow.”


     First prize winner Jillian Kay, a broadcast journalism major at Emerson College in Boston, MA, highlighted one such remarkable individual in her film entitled “The Hug.” In this video, Kay interviews former celebrity chef and California native Bill Bracken, who has cooked for countless famous personalities. Yet even with his culinary renown, Bracken felt like something was missing. It was at that moment, approximately eight years ago, that the idea for the nonprofit Bracken’s Kitchen was born. The purpose of this nonprofit was “to minimize food waste by transforming excess into gourmet meals,” for those living in poverty or who are food insecure.


     “Despite the coronavirus pandemic,” Kay notes in the video’s narration, “Bracken’s Kitchen has grown…serving more than 1.8 million meals in 2020.”


     Perhaps Bracken’s biggest epiphany came pre-pandemic, when he made the decision to drop off food on a weekly basis at the local Honda Civic Center, where 500 homeless people resided. Initially, Bill kept his visits brief, just quickly dropping off the packed meals, then promptly getting back into his truck and driving away. Bracken attributed this to the very human fear of catching an infection. But one day, as he was leaving, a woman named Ruby asked if he could give her a hug.


     “I was just floored,” Bill recalled. “Here’s this woman…everything she owns is on her back or in a cart over there…and in that moment, all she wanted was a hug…I hugged her back…and she finally let go, and I turned to beeline…and the next thing I know, they’re all lined up wanting hugs, so…I hugged each and every one of them. I got back in the truck…and something just really hit me. Of all the things these people needed at that moment…basic necessities that we take for granted, all they wanted was a hug. All they wanted to know was that somebody cared.”


     Second prize winner and president of the nonprofit “The Fassett GreenSpace,” Cassandra Bull, continues with the theme of a caring community in her video of the same name. Bull, an environmental policy and planning major at Tufts University in Medford, MA, established the Fassett GreenSpace in Wellsville, NY, just a few years ago.


     “It started with an empty lot,” Cassandra narrates in her film as corresponding images and video footage of the transforming area back up her words. “We wanted to use this space to explore the relationship between art, ecology, daily life and ritual.”


     Thanks to the generous donations of its hardworking brigade of volunteers, both young and old, the Fassett GreenSpace Project has grown tremendously since its establishment in 2018. In addition to an extensive garden of organic produce “available to the community to harvest as they need,” the Fassett GreenSpace is also home to a Little Free Library, a beautiful mosaic exclusively made by members of the Wellsville community, and an array of outdoor musical instruments mounted on cement for public use and enjoyment.


     In the third prize winning video entitled “The Ellie Jean Project,” Western Carolina University student Victor Venjohn interviews the Clothiers, a couple who, back in 2018, banded together with friends and neighbors to make their dream for their daughter, Ellie Jean, a reality. Ellie Jean was born 6 months premature at only 2 pounds, and also suffers from “toxoplasmosis, hydrocephalus and epilepsy.” All of these conditions render her unable to walk or talk. In spite of this, Ellie maintains a positive spirit, much to her parents’ delight.


     The Clothiers went on to have two more children, but had trouble finding activities that their children could enjoy doing together. They could take their kids to the park, but very few parks were user-friendly for kids with disabilities.


     “My wife…found a park in Raleigh for special needs students,” Brandon, a middle school teacher, recalls, “a 3 million dollar project…We got there, and we didn’t want to leave because we just saw what all kids, no matter what the disability, were able to do, and do together.”


     That visit sparked the Clothiers’ mission to build a park like that in their own community, a goal they continue to work towards achieving. So far, even with the upheaval of the coronavirus pandemic, the Clothiers have raised “$45,000 in 3 years,” to put towards fulfilling their goal of designing a playground for Ellie and kids just like her.


     “My goal right now is just to build a playground in Moore County, just a simple playground like Kiwanis Park in Sanford,” Leslie summarized with conviction. “Our next goal is we’re going to start adding wheelchair accessible swings into our local schools… We don’t let things defeat our family…So if we don’t have it here, we’re either going to build it…or we’re going to go find it. And in this case, we’re going to do both.”

     Truly wise and poignant words for us all to live by and remember as we work to continue to light our own candles, as Father Keller always maintained, rather than cursing the darkness.

First Prize 

Jillian Kay
Emerson College in Boston, MA
Major: Broadcast Journalism

“The Hug”

Link to video:

Anchor 1

Second Prize 

Cassandra Bull

Tufts University in Medford, MA
Major: Environmental Policy and Planning

“One Person Can Inspire a Community:

The Fassett GreenSpace Project”

Link to video:

Anchor 2

Third Prize 
Victor Venjohn

Western Carolina University in Cullowhee, NC

Major: Anthropology / Film & Television Productions

“The Ellie Jean Project”

Link to video:

Anchor 3
Honorable mentions

1) Callie Bowman

Ball State University in Muncie, IN

Title of entry: “Recovered”

Link to video:

Major: Telecommunications



2) Tram Ngo

California State University-Long Beach in Long Beach, CA

Title of entry: “Rising from War”

Link to video:
Major: Illustration


3) Carianne Youcheff

Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, PA

Title of Entry: “Continuing Conner’s Courage”

Link to video:
Major: Graphic Design and Communications

Image by Kushagra Kevat
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