BRACEBRIDGE — A budding young Grade 6 poet here has helped the Muskoka Habitat for Humanity affiliate raise $11,700 for a Bala build next spring.

He was a runner-up in a national contest in which 170 local kids submitted entries to the queston: “What does home mean to you?”

A record 12,000 students from grades 4, 5 and 6 answered the call with a poem or short essay, including Castin Blanchard, a local Grade 6 student from Monsignor Michael O’Leary Catholic School in Bracebridge.

Castin Blanchard gave voice to a building that was no longer plaster, metal and chrome in national Habitat for Humanity contest: ‘Instead of a house, I was finally a home.’

His poem, ‘Finally, A Home,’ was one of the nine runners-up and won a $10,000 grant awarded to Habitat for Humanity Ontario Gateway North.

Every year, in addition to the $30,000 grant awarded to three grand prize winners on

behalf of their local Habitat for Humanity, and the $10,000 grant awarded to the nine

runners-up, each student entry also earns a $10 donation for their local Habitat.

For Habitat for Humanity Ontario Gateway North, this means that the 170 students from their service area who submitted an entry in the contest helped raise a grand total of $11,700.

These much-needed funds will be allocated to the Building Futures in Bala project,

scheduled to break ground in the spring of next year, providing two families in the

Township of Muskoka Lakes with affordable and universally accessible homes.

Here’s his take on a home:

Finally A Home

When I was first built, I was a sight to behold,
Ceiling and walls with colours so bold.

The volunteers worked quick and never sat,
They built me with care for Habitat.

A solid foundation made me strong,
But to the homes around me, I didn’t belong.

Try as I might, I didn’t know why,
I was three whole storeys and my peaks touched the sky.

My rooms were empty, like they always had been,
Until the day a family moved in.

Suddenly rooms that were peaceful and quiet,
Became loud and noisy, just like a riot.

The tiny ones screamed and marked up my walls,
They played all day and rode bikes through my halls.

But then in the evening, when the fireplace sizzled,
The parents read stories and the little ones giggled.

There was crying and anger, but also pure joy,
A family bond I wouldn’t destroy.

No longer just plaster with metal and chrome,
Instead of a house, I was finally a home.

“Habitat for Humanity Ontario Gateway North was excited to see students from our

communities reflecting on the strength and stability that a home provides. They each contributed in their own way towards Habitat’s vision of a world where everyone has a safe and to have a decent place to live,” says

Kimberley Woodcock, CEO, Habitat for Humanity Ontario Gateway North, in a release this week.