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Forsyth teen tops voters' choice in greeting card contest
Awarded $500 for art supplies
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Forsyth County student Elisa Sparks’ entry in the Pier 1 Imports/UNICEF Greeting Card Contest depicts children from around the globe. - photo by For the FCN

FORSYTH COUNTY — It seems like a local teenager’s artistic Christmas wishes have been answered in Forsyth County, so far.

Elisa Sparks, a 14-year-old artist-to-be, won the Fan’s Choice Award in the Pier 1 Imports/UNICEF Greeting Card Contest, which showcases young artists’ hand-drawn holiday card designs. Sparks is one of the contest’s finalists, for which the winner will be announced at the end of the month.

One other thing: she’s the only finalist from Georgia, and she’s never taken an art lesson. She was also born blind.

If Sparks wins — she gained her sight at 7 months and grew out of her double-vision after her parents decide against a corrective surgery — her card will be produced during the 2015 holiday season and sold in Pier 1 stores, with proceeds benefitting UNICEF (the United Nations Children’s Fund).

The partnership between Pier 1 and UNICEF has raised more than $39 million since 1985, the store’s website said. When the winner’s hand-drawn card is reproduced as an official UNICEF greeting card, 100 percent of the proceeds go to the organization’s U.S. fund.

This year, contestants ranged in age from 9 to 14 and spanned the country from Maine to California.

For now, Sparks can enjoy the $500 she won from securing the most votes online. A panel of judges decides the overall winner.

“I was at my dance school preparing for a recital,” said a giddy Sparks. “Everyone was waiting outside, and I was like, ‘You all don’t have to watch me dance.’ I just fell to my knees [when they told me I won], and I was two seconds from crying.”

She said she didn’t expect to win “even though everyone was telling me I would, but there were some fantastic cards on there.”

Her drawing depicts four children, shown from the waist down, each sporting a different pair of socks, shoes and clothes. The bottom reads “spreading cheer one step at a time.”

The iAchieve Virtual Academy/homeschooled student said she “was thinking about getting more canvases” with her prize money

She also has thought about evolving her art, she said. “I’ve been putting my designs on T-shirts, so I might expand to that more.”

Sparks also plans to attend a summer camp at the Savannah College of Art and Design, where she will stay in a dorm and learn more about the school. SCAD contacted Sparks after learning the contest finalist dreamed of attending the college.

“It really hit her I think when she got home [after dance class] and she started crying,” said her mother, Michelle Sparks. “We all started crying.”

Days later, her excitement had not abated.

“I was just saying thank you to everything in the room,” she said. “My heart is still pumping so much.”