On Saturday morning, Christy Richards received one of the nicest Mother's Day gifts she's ever gotten - a one-quarter carat diamond from the David Douglas Diamonds & Jewelry store on Sandy Plains Road in east Cobb, worth $620. It was the prize she'd won for her eldest son's essay.
"I was completely shocked. I didn't even know there was a contest," said Christy, a stay-at-home mom, who heard the essay read aloud Wednesday at the school. "I knew as soon as it said 'one of my brother's has cancer.'"
One of Max's two brothers, 9-year-old Carter, has leukemia. He said he thought his mother deserved to win because she hasn't had many opportunities to pick out jewelry for herself.
Max's essay reads: "Dear Mr. Douglas, My mom has three boys. That is very hard. What is even harder is for one of my brothers has cancer. My mom has such amazing strength and courage. It is very hard to support a family with cancer. It is even harder to make everyone in a good mood every step of our cancer journey. From, Max"
"He's a sweetheart," Christy said of Max. "His brother's cancer has kind of affected all of us. It's affected him just as much everybody else."
Fortunately, Carter is expected to complete treatment for his leukemia in July, said his father, Eric Richards.
In 1990, Doug Meadows, owner of David Douglas Diamonds, lost his mother, Barbara Meadows, to cancer. He started the essay contest eight years ago to honor her. More than 10,000 entries were received this year from students in Cobb and Cherokee counties.
"Some of the things that my dad tried to teach me as a kid was to honor my mom," Meadows said.
"One of the ways was he always made sure on Mother's Day that I got her a card whether or not I made it or bought it. So we just started playing around with the idea of kids writing to tell me why their mom should win a diamond."
A panel of judges composed of retired teachers, librarians and other community members chose the contest winners. They were chosen based on thoughtfulness and creativity.
Max was the winner in the fifth- and sixth-grade division. There were also a third- and fourth-grade division and a first- and second-grade division. Yesterday, the mothers of all three division winners had a chance to pick out their diamond at the store.
Donna Jones of Marietta became a bit emotional when she learned her daughter, Presley Jones - a Murdock Elementary School third-grader - had won the third- and fourth-grade division. Donna is currently studying sculpture at Kennesaw State University while also raising her two daughters with her husband, Warren Jones.
Balancing a family and school was the topic of her daughter's essay.
"I think my mom deserves a diamond because for three years my mom has been in college and now she's graduating in a few weeks and I wanted to get her something special," Presley, 8, wrote.
The essay of Savannah Kramer, a second-grader at Nicholson Elementary School, reads: "My mom deserves a diamond because she is so sweet and she gave me the cutest and the sweetest baby brother in the world! She helps me on my homework, comforts me when I cry, that's why I love her, and she makes the best fries!"
Haylie Kramer said she was proud to learn her daughter had won the contest and pleased she mentioned her 6-month-old brother Clay. She and her husband Sean Kramer live in Marietta with their children.
"It's the best Mother's Day present to know that your kids are happy with you," Haylie said. "I should win her a diamond."