A Light That Never Fades

Dr. Brad Mills’ Free Braces Program

Every year, fourth-grade students in the community’s city and county school systems have the opportunity to win a scholarship for braces from Dr. Brad Mills Orthodontics, a value of $5,600 per student. To apply for the scholarship, students write essays based on a unique topic chosen by the orthodontics office staff and this year, the students wrote about their heroes. The topics drove many to tears as the winning essays were proudly shared by the seven scholarship winners.  

The scholarship program began as Dr. Brad Mill’s mission to give more than $1 million in scholarships to his community. This year, he surpassed that goal and has touched the lives of many young students by giving them the gift of a beautiful smile.  

“The essay contest gives us pure joy each and every year,” says Sarah Hamby, Treatment Coordinator at Dr. Brad Mills Orthodontics. “We love to see the winners’ excitement as well as the excitement from their fellow classmates.” 

The essays are selected based on grammatical structure and sentence formation but also on the content and value of the essay. Dr. Brad Mills and his staff want to teach students that when you work hard for something, the reward will follow whether that be in the form of a free pair of braces, good grades or a good job.  

This year, the essays were largely written about someone close to the hearts of each and every student who submitted an essay. The winning essays were read by the students during award presentations in front of their classmates, teachers, parents and grandparents who were often times the heroes in their stories.  

“We knew there would be moving essays written from each student, but we were pleasantly surprised to find the topic was ‘Who is Your Hero,’” says Maggie Armon, Co-founder of VUE Magazine. “Often times, the hero in the story was sitting in the audience as the student proudly shared his or her essay and seeing just how proud the ‘hero’ to be honored brought me to tears.” 

Within this issue and the following five issues of VUE Magazine, we will be featuring each winning “Who is Your Hero” essay from the scholarship winners. We hope you enjoy the heartwarming stories from the children within our community as we showcase each student’s talented writing skills and deep appreciation for the individuals they call heroes.

A Light That Never Fades

“Hard times don’t create heroes.  It is during the hard times when the ‘hero’ within us is revealed.” – Bob Riley

To me, this famous quote reminds me of my hero who has gone through too many hard times that should have left her dull; but yet still shines brightly and faithfully on the outside. When I first heard of this essay, I looked up the definition of hero and saw words like courageous, noble, and brave. All of these words came together and reminded me particularly of one person, my grandmother, Janice Kay Wheeler Jackson- Kendall.

Her name has many stories and length to it because all of her hardships have made her into who she is today. In 1950, she was born as Janice Kay Wheeler and grew up to marry a man named Wayne Jackson who served in the U.S.army. She had two children with him, Brandi and Tye. In 1998, he passed suddenly while her children were young and she later remarried my grandpa, Ned Kendall.

One reason she is my hero is because she followed her dreams. When she was a child in second grade, she had a teacher named Ms. Virginia. When she would come home from school she would pretend to be Ms. Virginia and decided she wanted to help children the way her teacher helped them. She grew up and attended college to be a teacher and said she would continue to teach until she lost the ability to inspire kids. She always loved helping others and ultimately retired from this career.

Another reason she is my hero is that she had so many tragedies in her life but has always stayed positive and happy. One tragedy is that she was young and  had young children when she lost her parents and her first husband, Wayne, suddenly. She still worked hard like her parents taught her and never lost her faith in God. Her mother was a homemaker and her father a farmer who also made extra money running a milk route. She says they were very close and taught her many things about life and how to live it. Since then, she has also gone through losing her son, suddenly, and my Grandpa Ned. Even after all these losses, she has kept going, smiling, and giving back. She has kept choosing to be happy. She volunteers with Hospice and helps other families that have gone through the same things she has. She also volunteers in classrooms at my school helping kids with reading. It is amazing to me how after everything she still stood so strong. She once told me, “Happy doesn’t just come, you have to work at it to keep it.” I’m glad after everything she now gets to travel, take me shopping, and enjoy being retired.

The last reason she is a hero to me is that she doesn’t give up. I often get too scared to try new things for the fear of failing. After Grandma she could have been lazy and stopped working. She could have lost hope and faith after losing so many people she loved. But she is doing the opposite with her new normal of a life. Because of her students stayed in school and looked forward to seeing her. Because of her families have a shoulder during really hard times. She makes me and other people want to be more like her.

Now you know three of the main reasons why my grandma, Janice K. Wheeler Jackson-Kendall is my hero. She followed her dreams, had so many tragedies in her life but kept choosing to be happy, and she never gave up. I love her and she has always been a special person to me. She has been loving, and leading others in her life and giving a helping hand.

By | Libby Kendall
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