Cathy Cairns holds the 2017 Extra Mile Award. Cairns, an administrative assistant, says she always tries to show students that she cares.
©TC MEDIA/Maureen Coulter
CRAPAUD, P.E.I. – Hunter MacLean, a Grade 5 student at Englewood School, was one of many students, staff, teachers and friends on hand Wednesday to honour a special school employee.
Cathy Cairns is “always nice, kind, sweet, caring and much more,” said Hunter, reading from a letter he wrote.
Cairns is an administrative assistant at the Crapaud elementary school.
“Thank you for having snacks for us just in case we forget our snacks at home,” said Hunter. “If we lose a tooth, you give us bags to put them in.”
Allie Booth, a Grade 4 student, also praised Cairns in a letter she read for the assembly.
“I wanted to tell you that you are sweet and everyone loves you as a secretary,” said Allie. “Thank you for giving us food when we forget our lunch and when I scraped my hand you took care of me even though the scrape was painful.
“You made it feel better with love.”
Cairns used to be the youngest staff member at Englewood School in Crapaud.
Now, she admits to being the oldest.
Throughout the years, Cairns has gone that extra mile, going above and beyond her duties at the school.
But wasn’t until her name was called during the assembly Wednesday that she realized she was the recipient of the 2017 Extra Mile Award.
The room erupted with boisterous cheers as people whooped and hollered for Cairns. Even her family members were there.
“Heavens, yes,” said Cairns about the award being a surprise. “Totally, totally. I don’t know how they kept it so secret.”
Cairns stood before the crowd with her award, flowers and gifts in hand as tears came to her eyes.
“I’m so honoured and touched,” she said looking out at all the friendly and familiar faces.
Cairns told The Guardian that she tries to show students that she cares whether it’s through giving them a hug or taking the time chat with them.
Cairns said this award shows her that she is doing something right.
“I’m a Christian lady and I do believe in kindness and I believe in loving each other.”
Students at Englewood School recognize those efforts. After receiving the award, a stream of children went up to give Cairns a hug.
Cairns was nominated for this award through the Englewood Home and School Association.
“Our Englewood Home and School Association was very pleased to submit a nomination for Cathy,” said Rosie MacFarlane. “It was an easy discussion that we had and we were very excited to learn that she won.”
Some of the things Cairns does that go beyond her regular duties include school bus transportation guru, school nurse, snack cupboard monitor, clothing cupboard organizer, Christmas basket distributor, one-person social committee for staff, and school decorator.
“(She) is the heart and soul of Englewood School,” said a colleague.
“She is the glue that holds everything together,” said a parent.
Cairns began her journey as an administrative assistant in 1983 at Bluefield High School. She then began working at Englewood School in 1989.
“I’ve been here a long time. It is a beautiful place to work.”
Cairns was even a student at both of the schools, attending Englewood School from K-9 and then graduating from Bluefield High School.
Principal Randy Reardon said, “Cathy Cairns is the single most important person in the building. Every team has a MVP-Most Valuable Player…but not every team has Cathy Cairns.”
As Cairns stood before everyone, she smiled brightly, seeming to make eye contact with everyone in the room.
“Thank you. Today is an honour. I will always cherish what you gave me. I love all of you and I love all your hugs. So anytime come give me hugs,” said Cairns to the crowd.