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Cochrane boy recipient of Alberta government's Great Kids Award

At just five years old, Liam Jackson is the youngest of this year’s 16 recipients of the Government of Alberta's 2022 Great Kids Award.

Cochrane is home to one of Alberta’s Great Kids.

At just five years old, Liam Jackson is the youngest of this year’s 16 recipients of the Government of Alberta's 2022 Great Kids Award, which is given to children and youth who have a positive influence on their communities.

Earlier this year, the young Cochranite learned that no one is too young to make a difference after he set out on a mission to raise $500 for the Red Cross in support of Ukraine relief efforts at the beginning of the Russia's invasion of the country.

The initiative all started thanks to a conversation between Liam and his 95-year-old great-grandfather, Stan MacPhail, a veteran of the Second World War.

“My grandfather always said that he hates for my generation and his great-grandkids’ generation to have to experience war,” said Liam’s mom, Jennifer. “We’re fortunate enough to live in Canada that we’re not affected by what’s happening in Ukraine directly, but seeing this on the news has been breaking my grandfather’s heart.”

Seeing his great-grandfather upset, Liam asked if there was anything he could do to help. MacPhail’s response was: “there’s always something you can do, you’re never too young to make a difference,” said Jennifer, quoting her grandfather.

In the nights that followed, Liam kept mulling MacPhail’s words in his head.

“He’d always ask, well, what can I do?” said Jennifer.

And so Liam and his parents got to work brainstorming ideas on how he could get involved.

Liam’s love of buttons and his ability to use a button press is what led him to break his piggy bank and use his savings to purchase his own machine. The next step was to come up with a design.

Since Liam began producing and selling the $3 pins, which portray a hand making the peace sign on a blue and yellow background (the colours of the Ukrainian flag), with the text ‘Peace for Ukraine,’ he’s raised $3,000 for the Red Cross in support of relief efforts in the country.

“I’ve sold over 1,000 pins!” exclaimed Liam, who added he won’t stop making buttons until there is peace in Ukraine.

The boy’s button venture is hardly his first act of good Samaritanism. Around Christmas last year, Liam and his family, including his two younger twin sisters, Paige and Quinn, donated packages full of Liam’s favourite breakfast items to the Helping Hands free food shed at St. Andrew’s United Church.

“We talk with him a lot about food waste and about kids that don’t have enough food to eat,” said Jennifer. “He was asking me at breakfast one day what other kids like to eat on Christmas morning and I told him different kids like to eat different things, but also that not everyone has food on Christmas.”

Liam’s response was that he wanted those kids to have the same breakfast he was having: chocolate chip pancakes and orange juice.

“We thought it was a great idea, so we went shopping as a family and made up some food hampers,” said Jennifer.

Liam’s caring spirit carries over to other facets of his life, including at school. He was nominated for the Great Kids Award by his kindergarten teacher, Lauren Southwick.

“He’s very compassionate towards other kids. If he sees a kid that’s sad, he will go up and talk to them and try to figure out what’s wrong,” said Jennifer.

“We’ve tried to be a part of instilling that in him, too. We encourage him to scan around to make sure everyone’s okay and play or sit and talk with kids that may be on their own at recess. We’re very proud as parents that he’s listening to our advice and acting upon it.”

Airdrie-Cochrane MLA Peter Guthrie presented Liam with the prestigious award on July 30 at the Cochrane RancheHouse while the young award-winner’s family, including his great-grandfather who inspired his venture in the first place, was present.

Having his great-grandfather there, Liam said, made him feel “very proud.”