Service of Essential Answers: The Christopher Award Winners Have Some

May 18th, 2017

Categories: Awards, Books, Hope

From Left Katie Sullivan, Patti Ann McDonald, Conor McDonald

I’ve asked the question in many posts over the last nine years of this blog: How do people get over feelings of adversity, anger, frustration, helplessness and loss? Some of the answers were peppered throughout the room this Tuesday at the 68th annual Christopher Awards by the authors, writers, producers, directors, illustrators and special award winners honored.

Was it a gloomy occasion? No. Joy, hope, support and love stared pain, disappointment and loss in the face. It truly was a stunning affair.

Nell & Matt Weber with baby Rose

One of the winners for his book “Operating on Faith,” Matt Weber, brought newborn Rose and wife Nell from Boston to celebrate while Patti Ann McDonald, widow of NYPD Detective Steven McDonald who died in January, brought her son Conor. She was given the Christopher Leadership Award. Matt’s book tells with humor how Nell helped him through a life-threatening illness months into their marriage. Conor and his girlfriend Katie Sullivan are supporting Patti Ann who is suffering with the loss of her husband. From the time he was shot and paralyzed in 1986, Detective McDonald credited Patti Ann with giving him the will to live.

Caron Levis’s book for children, “Ida, Always,” helps young ones deal with loss through a story about two polar bears who lived in the Central Park zoo. The HBO documentary “Marathon: The Patriots Day Bombing,” provided an intimate look at the lives of those who lost limbs in the Boston terror attack, the physical and emotional battles they faced in the recovery process, and their unyielding efforts to reclaim their lives.

From left authors Joan Bauer, Kobi Yamada, Mike Massimino, Susan Hood, Susan Wern Comport & Caron Levis

Kathy Izard’s book, “The Hundred Story Home,” shares her journey from award-winning graphic designer to soup kitchen volunteer to developer of housing for chronically homeless men and women.

Dr. Chuck Dietzen

Mary Ellen Robinson, The Christophers and Dr. Chuck Dietzen

won two awards: The James Keller Award, named after The Christophers’ founder, recognizes individuals who are positively shaping the lives of children. He also won for his book “Pint Sized Prophets: Inspirational Moments that Taught Me We Are All Born to be Healers.” Dr. Chuck, as he likes to be called, is a pediatric rehabilitation doctor. He founded Timmy Global Health, which enlists students and medical volunteers in its mission to bring healthcare to those in need around the world. “We weren’t all born to be doctors and nurses, but we were all born to be healers,” he said. He arrived at the awards fresh from a trip to China.

This is just a sample. There were 22 winning feature films, TV/Cable programs, and books for adults and young people honored this year.

The ancient Chinese proverb—“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”— guides The Christophers’ publishing, radio and awards programs. The 72 year old organization has lived through plenty of periods of extraordinary rancor and divisiveness and it never loses hope. Have you read books or seen films or TV/Cable programs that fit this saying?

Marathon HBO producers, writers from Left Jameka Autry, Jake Abraham, a guest, Nancy Abraham and the Christophers’ Tony Rossi

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4 Responses to “Service of Essential Answers: The Christopher Award Winners Have Some”

  1. Martha Takyama Said:

    The event sounds lovely and uplifting. The stories of positive renforcement overcoming loss and fears sound exemplar and remarkable. The awards cover such a multitude of situations, degrees of loss and wide age range of populations but clearly all seem to reflect great generosity of spirit and thoughtfulness. The impact of the Christopher awards seems especially important and reassuring in these particularly troubling times. All the participants represent specific support and solutions as well as much needed concern for the general welfare and humanity. The post is non-denominational which makes it even more special!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You hit the nail on the head. The spirit of hope in that room is palpable. The Christophers is a nonprofit organization rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to God and humanity. The winners represent the spectrum of religions. It is the spirit of a person’s work that they celebrate.

    Some of the winners may not have suffered loss themselves but they are empathetic with those who have and who need help. They organize their lives to support people in need when they could easily apply their brains and knowledge to more lucrative occupations. I roll my eyes when I think of those with millions who can’t think of anything else but adding to them. Their wallets may be full but they are missing something.

  3. Lucrezia Said:

    Any act to better society deserves high praise, and the work of The Christophers is no exception — especially in an era of mudslinging & ill-will. I just hope the organization remembers, that while inspiration is vital, especially in times of tragedy and loss, it goes nowhere to fill any empty stomach growling in the here and now!

    Abolish hunger, and the resulting motivation will “Make America Great Again,” without the help of politics.

  4. jmbyington Said:


    When a person is hungry he/she can’t function –that is for sure. One of last year’s winners was a little girl who wrote about the community garden she started with its fruits and veggies to feed the hungry and through her organization, similar gardens have been started in other US towns. The organization’s objective is to feed the soul by trying to thwart despair and it leaves it to others to feed the hungry. However it amplifies the work of those who do when opportunities present themselves. I would also postulate that people who admire the organization’s messages of encouragement are in the front of the line when they hear of opportunities to feed others.

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