The Best Present Ever Essay Contest

Three 8th grade students at Eagle Ridge Middle School earned awards in the Patriot's Pen essay contest sponsored by Burnsville VFW Post 5833 recently.

Students in the community in grades 6-8 were invited to submit essays related to the theme of “America’s Gift to My Generation.” Members of the Post evaluated the entries and selected three winners, said Bob Hansen, commander of Burnsville VFW Post 5833.

All three winners are students at Eagle Ridge Middle School:

  • 1st Place - Cynthia Kerubo received $100.
  • 2nd Place - Susan Nguyen received $75.
  • 3rd Place - Hayden Mathews received $50.

Now Cynthia’s essay moves on to district-level competition. Read it here.

The three students are in an honors literacy arts class taught by Mike Blair, who introduced the essay contest to students by talking about the theme and the intended audience. They reviewed the rules and parameters (300-400 words) of the essay and how best to introduce, support and summarize the "gift" within those parameters.  

“Each student had the opportunity to reflect on the theme and write to express their gratitude for that ‘Gift,’” said Blair. “They learned to write for an audience and to express their thoughts clearly and concisely.”

Every student in the class was required to write an essay and 17 of them chose to submit theirs for consideration in the contest.

“I was impressed with the students' depth of understanding of the impact the men and women of our past, present, (and future) have on our country,” Blair added. “Students really seemed to ‘get it’.”

Hansen agrees. “The students did a really good job on their essays,” he said. Twelve members of the Post assisted him with judging.

Entries are due by Nov. 1 every year for the Patriot’s Pen Essay contest for students in grades 6-8 and the “Voice of Democracy” speech contest for students in grades 9-12. For more information, contact Hansen at or (952) 388-3956.

Photo: From left, Howard Lundin, senior vice commander; Hayden Mathews, Susan Nguyen, Cynthia Kerubo, and Bob Hansen, commander of Burnsville VFW Post 5833.

Last month we asked Club Goodwill REwards members to tell us (in 500 words or less) about their amazing dads. Following are the four heartfelt winning essays! Each of the four winners received a fashionable necktie for dad (because every dad needs a tie), as well as a six pack of tickets for the Milwaukee Brewers vs. Washington Nationals game on Saturday, June 25 at Miller Park. 

Thank you to all who entered and HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!

Heidi V.

I didn’t meet my dad until I was 20 years old. By that time, he’d already raised 2 kids (ages 20 and 16) from a previous marriage. But the way he looked at my mom, watched her walk across a room like she was the only woman on a dark stage with a spotlight shining around her, made me believe in love. The first hug he ever gave me immediately began to heal wounds that had been raw and gaping for years. From there, his huge heart, wide smile, and endless love began to mend the scars that were ever present on my heart. The day he married my mom, I officially had the dad I’d always longed for. There has never been one day since he arrived on the scene that I haven’t felt like his biological daughter and I feel confident that he loves me like I am. Some fathers have notable business accomplishments or are world renown for their innovations. My dad doesn’t have those attributes to add to his resume; however, my dad is amazing because he changed my life. He has shown me what it means to be loved by a father. He’s taught me what to expect from a husband. He has blessed me with the understanding of how to love your grandchildren. Above all, my dad has shown me that love isn’t determined by DNA, age, race, religion, or financial status. My dad proves every day that every child, young or old, already a parent or just a newborn, sick or healthy needs a father to love them. My dad is beyond amazing and has changed my heart for the last 13 years in ways I never knew possible.

Thanks Dad – I love you!

Sofia, Isabella and Giovanni

Hi! We are three year old triplets and we want to tell you all about our amazing dad!

Since our dad first found out we were going to be triplets he was so excited and decided that he wanted to be a stay at home dad – full time! He went with mom to all of her doctor appointments and helped mom get everything ready for our arrival– and, he helped to keep mom calm - Dad’s good at that!

And, since the day we were born he has spent every day with us! He takes us on adventures all of the time- some of our favorite spots to explore are the Milwaukee County Zoo, swimming at the YMCA and story time at the library. He is great at packing a picnic and playing with us at the park in the summer! We love to play outside! Dad says it’s going to be summer again soon – we can’t wait!

Our dad also cooks us the most amazing meals! Having dinner as a family is very important to him- so he always makes sure it delicious- and it’s always a special time of day for our family.

We love our dad so much and we are so grateful that we get to spend so much time with him!

Our dad deserves this break to go to the Brewer game- he loves sports and it would be a great treat for him! Thank you for considering him!

Sofia, Isabella and Giovanni
(Mom, Sarah, helped us write this!)


To sum up my father in 500 words I would need more then that, but since I can't let me explain that he was very young when he had my sister who's 3 years older then me. He was 17 and my mother was 18. He did everything in his power to give us everything we needed. He had 4 beautiful girls and on top of trying to feed us, him and my mother, he brought in foster kids. My dad is a person who loves knowledge and loves to have a good time. He has taught me everything I know and I wouldn't be me without him. We used to go out on lunch dates when I was a kid to just reconnect because he was always working or we would go on bike rides. Unfortunately 13+ years now he was driving my sister to school and his car flipped. It was on the last bad snowfall and he got crushed In the car and due to that became a quadriplegic. He went through so much those first 3 years of hate and depression. My dad was never a man to sit still more then to go to bed for the night. He is one of the strongest, most bravest men I know. He deserves so much more then what life sometimes throws at him especially since we lost my mother 3 years ago come July. And now my dad not only is a quadriplegic trying to stay healthy, he has to act like a dad still and a mom at times and that is why this man deserves all the gifts me and my sisters can possibly give him if not more. He is also an awesome grandpa to 13 grand babies. I would love it if he could just once get a cool sweet gift/surprise for Father's Day. He is a wonderful man who deserves so much more than what life has given him the last few years of his life.

Thank you dad for making me who I am today. I love you!


I am submitting this on behalf of Emma L. Emma is a 14 year old girl with Down's Syndrome and in her words her father, Kevin Larson, is “the best dad ever”. This is because he makes her cheesy rollups, gets her milk and water, and walks by her when she rides her recumbent bike. When she is sick he gives her medicine and a warm bubble bath to help soothe her. When she is happy he goofs around with her and sings to her Taylor Swift CD. But most importantly of all, when she is sad he is there to tell her it will all be alright.

On a silly note, she now calls her father ‘Babe’ because it is his new fiancé’s nickname for him. They are getting married in July and now we are The Three Musketeers. Unfortunately, we can only spend time together on the weekends because of a crazy custody battle. However, our time is spent going to church, the movies, and playing in her play room. She couldn’t have asked for a more loving, caring, and giving father.

(Submitted by Ashley)


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