Like thousands of Canadian teenagers, 16-year-old Joe Philion wants to get a driver’s licence. But first, the high-school student from Orillia, Ont., will have to learn to walk again—and that may take a miracle of perseverance, determination and courage. On March 10, 1988, Philion suffered thirdand fourth-degree burns to 95 per cent of his body when fire destroyed the family home. He spent the next 13 months in Boston and Toronto hospitals and, since his release last April, he has been confined to a wheelchair. In recognition of his heroic fight, Philion will receive a bravery award on Nov. 3 in Toronto as part of a nationally televised youth achievement ceremony. Said Philion: “I just want to get up and walk again, and do as much as I’m able to.”
The awards were created by YTV, a specialty channel whose educational and entertainment programming is aimed at audiences ranging from toddlers to teenagers. The Torontobased service, which began broadcasting in September, 1988, now can be seen from coast to coast in 5.6 million homes. YTV president Kevin Shea said that 15 awards will be presented to individuals or groups for outstanding achievements in fields ranging from Brig.-
writing to entrepreneurship and act-
ing. All of the recipients are 18 or under. Said Shea, 38: “We want these awards to become the Order of Canada for young kids.”
Each of the winners, selected from a field of 500 applicants, will receive a $3,000 cash prize and a trip to Toronto for the presentation. The $45,000 in prize money was put up by the network itself, with contributions from five corporate sponsors. Among the winners: Nicole Luiken, 18, a college student from northern Alberta who has written 14 novels, two of which have been published; Jason Goldberg, 18, a Winnipeg university student who ran his own computer-consulting company through high school; and Joshua Richmond, 15, a Dresden, Ont., high-school student who invented a burglar alarm, a mechanical hand and a device to make solar heating panels more efficient.
But even in that accomplished group, Philion stands out as an extraordinary example of human courage and determination. His ordeal began when he was awakened on a March evening by the smell of smoke in the family
home. He woke up his brother Daniel, now 12, and helped him to escape safely, then turned to search for his mother, Linda Hawkins. However, she had left the home to run an errand shortly before the fire started. Philion finally
escaped by plunging through -
his bedroom window.
His burns were so extensive that he had to have more than 40 operations to graft new skin. Doctors were forced to amputate all of his toes. Philion can barely bend his right arm and leg because the tendons and muscles were so badly burned. Despite that, Philion is attending high school for four hours a day in his wheelchair, taking Grade 9 and 10 courses to make up for the year of school that he missed. And his first goal is to learn to walk again.
Said Philion: “I want to get as mobile as I can.” For aspiring writer Luiken, discipline and a vivid imagination have been the key elements of her success. Raised in the farming community of Manning, 570 km northwest of Edmonton, she said that she spends at least two hours a day writing even though she is studying library management at an Edmonton community college. She specializes in speculative fiction, which involves the future or the supernatural, and writes for 10to 14-year-olds. Two of her 14 books, Unlocking the Doors and Escape to the Ovenvorld, were published in 1988, and several others are being considered for publication. Said Luiken: “My long-term goal is to become a full-time writer.”
For entrepreneur Goldberg, starting a business at the age of 14 seemed a natural thing to do. After all, his grandfather was a prominent Winnipeg businessman, while his father and an uncle are both chartered accountants. Goldberg, now 18, operated Jag Computer Services on weekends and summer holidays through high school. The company set up computerized accounting programs for small retail, service and construction firms, Goldberg said. He is now studying at the University of Manitoba and says that he hopes to become a chartered accountant himself. Said Goldberg: “Being financially independent is my goal.”
0'~~~~• Meanwhile, a childhood fascination with electronics turned Joshua Rich mond into a student inventor. Rich mond, whose home town is 300 km east of Toronto, said that he works on his inventions in his spare time and that each one takes six to seven months to develop. Richmond said that he has not been able yet to sell his creations commercially, but for the past three years he has entered the National Science Fair, a
nationwide student competition, and
won several prizes. Said Richmond: “I’ve always liked tearing things apart and creating new things.”
For YTV, the awards represent an attempt to play an even larger role in the Uves of young _ Canadians following a successful first year of operations. Shea said that the annual report of the Torontobased Bureau of Broadcast Measurement, a national audience rating service, revealed that YTV had attracted larger audiences in the year that ended Aug. 31 than other specialty services such as TSN, the all-sports channel, and MuchMusic, which speg cializes in rock videos. And I that in itself, noted Shea, was lt; a major achievement.
The story you want is part of the Maclean’s Archives. To access it, log in here or sign up for your free 30-day trial.
Experience anything and everything Maclean's has ever published — over 3,500 issues and 150,000 articles, images and advertisements — since 1905. Browse on your own, or explore our curated collections and timely recommendations.WATCH THIS VIDEO for highlights of everything the Maclean's Archives has to offer.