Legion public speaking Zone G7 finals

Madeleine Nicholson, Barry’s Bay (Second Place, Intermediate Level)  Photo: Erin Nicholson

Three of the winners from Stage One of the Royal Canadian Legion’s annual Ontario Command Public Speaking Contest went on to participate at the next level in the Zone G7 competition in Eganville on Saturday March 3, at Branch 353. (Click HERE for Feb. 19 article about Stage One competition.)

Elena Shaw, Junior Level, delivered her charming speech entitled Barry’s Bay, My Favorite Place to Live and Madeleine Nicholson, Intermediate Level, spoke eloquently about The Different Types of Tears. Both students are currently homeschooled. Mackenzie O’Brien, Primary Level, gave her speech about Cats. Mackenzie is a student at Killaloe Public School.

Madeleine placed second in her category and shared a little about her experience.

It was a wonderful opportunity to step out of my comfort zone. I enjoyed being able to compete at this next level. There were so many powerful speakers and I felt very encouraged to see the passion and awareness on the rise in my generation.

Twenty-one students participated in the competition, from Chalk River, Deep River, Petawawa, Pembroke, Cobden, Eganville and Barry’s Bay.

The topics in the Primary Level ranged from favourite pets, memories of family at the cottage and fishing. The Junior Level boasted quite a range of speeches from Elena Shaw’s ballad to her hometown of Barry’s Bay, to the Olympics, Greek mythology, choosing kindness, Stonehenge, global warming, the meaning behind a name and even a rousing motivational speech on finding your personal leadership identity.

The Intermediate Level was dominated by themes regarding body image, mental health and wellness, women’s equality, our evolving society, why we cry and a visually delightful presentation on the Jingle Dress.

The Senior Level had only one contestant, who spoke about the importance of sleep and the science behind sleep deprivation.


Back row Zone Commander Wayne Bennett, Intermediate Level Winners: Lydia Dillenbeck, Deep River (Third Place); Madeleine Nicholson, Barry’s Bay (Second Place); Helen Baillie, Eganville (First Place); Senior Level Winner: Zweltlana Rajesh, Petawawa (First Place); Liz Hobden.  The Zone Youth Education Officer. 

Middle row Junior Level Winner: Malik Chester, Deep River (Third Place); Logan Roach, Pembroke (Second Place); Jenna Schison, Eganville (First  Place)

Front row Primary Level Winners: Gage Skelhorn, Renfrew (Third Place); Presley Rochon, Cobden (Second Place); Lauren McBride, Pembroke (First Place)

Wayne Bennett, Zone Commander at Branch 353, said he was impressed by the young people’s speeches this year. He wanted to encourage more students to come out and participate in future years. He said,

The competition builds morale and self-confidence in the kids. Sometimes it is hard for teachers to include public speaking contests as part of the curriculum, but students can still register for the contest directly at the Legion even if they did not present speeches at school.

He mentioned that the hope is to increase publicity in the future, with posters in the schools and to spread the word that both traditional school and homeschooled students are welcome to enter the public speaking competition.

Erin Nicholson, mother of Madeleine who achieved second place at the Intermediate Level, said she was inspired by the way some of the contestants encouraged each other before the competition began.

I was chatting with several students and parents after the event and I really sensed that everyone was just so grateful for the opportunity for something like this in our area. Public speaking is challenging and a little scary for our young people, but to see them get up and stand before a crowded room and deliver a speech they have written themselves and memorized, that is something to be quite proud of whether or not they take home a prize at the end.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include another of the winners from the Barry’s Bay Legion competition. Our apologies to Mackenzie O’Brien for omitting her at first.



  1. Cathie Corrigan

    I was not at all surprised to read that Elena Shaw had placed first in the Junior Level at the Public Speaking Competition held at the Legion in Barry’s Bay on February 17th.
    Over the Christmas holidays, as I was skating at the arena with my granddaughters, Elena and I accidentally ran into each other on the ice. As I was picking myself up, I heard a little voice saying, “I’m sorry”.
    Near the end of our skate, she approached me again to see if I was alright. I can’t begin to tell you what a pleasant, polite, and well-spoken little 9-year-old girl I met that day. She put a big smile on my face.
    Her parents should be proud of her!
    Yours truly, Cathie Corrigan, Barry’s Bay

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