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Isabel Lopez, Vet Fest Student Art Contest Winner

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A young girl stands poised before a veterans memorial cemetery, reflecting on the service and sacrifice of those entombed before her. Behind a nearby tombstone looms the angelic spirit of one of these veterans. Above the cemetery flies an American flag.

This powerful image, accompanied by the phrase, “Our generation is thankful for what you have done for us,” was the winning design in the First Annual Vet Fest T-shirt Contest, sponsored by the Weeki Wachee Area Club in conjunction with Vet Fest Hernando County, scheduled to take place Saturday, October 14, 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. and Sunday, October 15, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., at VFW Post 10209, 14736 Edward Noll Drive, Spring Hill.

The mission of this free event is to promote patriotism and honor military service and veterans in our communities. All proceeds will go to benefit Hernando County veterans, their families and the community organizations that serve them; including those generated from the sale of T-shirts emblazoned with the winning T-shirt design.

The design’s artist is 13-year-old Isabel Lopez. “We put a letter out to the Hernando County school board just before the end of the school year in June. We asked that they host a drawing contest for students, that it be about veterans and have an American flag in it,” said Maryann Johnson, President of Weeki Wachee Area Club. “The winner would win $100 and have the opportunity to learn how to print their design on the 1st shirt. Second place would be $50, and 3rd place would be $25.”

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“The girl, Isabel Lopez, who won, goes to Hernando County Public Schools, is 13 years old and loves to draw,” she said.

Isabel, an eighth-grader at Gulf Coast Academy, also loves to create art in tribute to veterans.
“The contest started around Memorial Day and so I thought about what that day means to me and I pictured myself honoring soldiers who have died for all the freedoms that I have,” said Isabel.

Isabel’s T-shirt design is a work of pencil art. When I drew that picture it was with pencil,” she said. “I like drawing a lot.”

Isabel was pleased to participate in this first annual Vet Fest T-shirt contest. “We heard about it at the school board meeting,” she said. “I love drawing and since it was close to Memorial Day, it made me want to draw about the day.”

Isabel is an avid artist. “I really don’t remember when I started drawing but it’s as long as I can remember,” she said. “I do remember when I was in kindergarten one of my pictures was chosen to hang in the hall at the school board building and I got recognized for that.”
Isabel’s artistic subjects are many and varied. “I love drawing animals, especially sea animals. I also like to draw pictures of people showing their emotions,” she said. “I draw every day. I have a sketch pad in my backpack and draw during school when I have a few minutes.I draw a couple of hours a day.”

Isabel’s artwork holds a great deal of significance in her mind and heart. And it means just as much to her mother, Gladys Lopez.

“My picture for the contest took a couple of hours and I was happy with it,” she said. “It made my Mom have tears in her eyes when she saw my picture and read what I wrote so I thought it would make other people feel like that.”

Gladys Lopez feels that her daughter’s participation in the T-shirt contest is a real learning experience. “I told her that, at her age, it’s important for her to learn about the sacrifices that our veterans made for us,” she said. “The people who came before us, to make this country free.”

When she won the contest, Isabel also claimed the honor of printing her very first Vet Fest T-shirt. She was invited by Vet Printz, which is a veteran-owned printing company, to learn how to print the shirt.

“Matt and Kathy Gosselin are the owners of VetPrintz,” said Johnson. “He took his time with this little lady and offered her to come back anytime if she had an interest in this line of work to learn more. She was very excited. I’m so happy we were able to offer this opportunity. Schools today don’t do much in teaching trades anymore.”

Isabel looks forward to a future career that balances science and the arts. “I go to Gulf Coast Academy and I’m in 8th grade. I want to be a marine biologist when I grow up,” she said. “I have a whole sketchbook of the animals I want to study.”

And thus far in this budding artistic career, the Vet Fest T-shirt just may be her proudest accomplishment. “I wanted to support veterans because veterans come home from wars and sometimes they are injured or have other problems and they sacrificed a lot for us,” she said, “so everyone should want to do what they can to help them and to show them how much we appreciate them.”

Isabel’s winning T-shirt will be available at a cost of $20 at Vet Fest, with proceeds going to support the veterans.

Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey
Megan Hussey is a features journalist and author who is the winner of Florida Press Association honors and a certificate of appreciation from LINCS (Family Support Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention Task Force) and Sunrise Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center for her newspaper coverage of these issues. She graduated cum laude from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., with a journalism major and English/sociology minor, and previously wrote for publications that include the Pasco editions of The Tampa Tribune and Tampa Bay Times. A native of Indiana, she lives in Florida.
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