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‘Elsa’s Legacy’ Essay Contest Winners Announced!

Published 01/19/11

In conjunction with this month’s premiere of “Elsa’s Legacy: The Born Free Story” on PBS, we asked you to share your thoughts about how Joy Adamson’s book “Born Free” or the hit movie that followed impacted the way you think about wild animals. We were delighted with the responses, and want to share the best essays with all of you. Click “Read More” below to see our four favorites. Each writer will receive an autographed copy of “The Life in My Years,” the autobiography by “Born Free” movie star Virginia McKenna. And remember the lyrics, sung so beautifully by Matt Monro and that continue to inspire 45 years later: “Born free, and life is worth living. But only worth living, cause you’re born free.”

(Own the “Elsa’s Legacy: The Born Free Story” DVD.)

Winner: Carolyn F. Delesio, McCandless Township, PA

“I recently re-watched the film “Born Free.” The generosity, commitment and love Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers have shown for Elsa, Kenya, its people, and all that made their lives so inspiring never fails to leave me in absolute awe.

“How painful it is to see the “big cats” and all other wildlife so carelessly — even cruelly — treated, and what an exception to that you have as your legacy. We should not be complacent about the need for constant vigilance and help to wildlife. That complacency is what makes room for those who view the animal kingdom as property, creatures unable to feel pain — either physical or emotional — and expendable, existing only for our use to eat, to wear, to hunt for “sport.”

“Thank you for keeping alive “Born Free,” which has truly freed our compassion, our humanity and our love for the most beautiful of God’s creations.”

Runner-Up: Kathleen Judith, Winthrop, MA

When I was a girl in high school I saw the movie “Born Free,” and from the moment I saw Elsa I had a deep passion for wildlife and all animals. I believe animals in the wild are born to live free, as you and I do. I also believe humans need to stop destroying their land and building on it.

These creatures are beautiful, all having their own identity. They don’t bother humans, we bother them. I wish we could love unconditionally, like all animals. Our world would be a better place to live in.

I believe we as humans should help the wildlife if injured and nurse them back to health, but as much as we fall in love with them they are born wild and need to be free.

Elsa will be in my heart until the day I die. Together we all are the world, born to live free together as one — not to kill and make the wildlife disappear. Only if my fellow humans would stop the hate. We would have no wars and the wildlife would not be in danger of becoming extinct.

Runner-Up: Carrie Marsh, Cotati, CA

I was only 7 years old when I saw “Born Free,” but I understood to my soul the message being portrayed.

I believe I probably cried through most of the movie. Since then my relationship with animals has always been one connected through heart and soul. I was a child obsessed with “Born Free.” I announced to my third-grade class I was going to be a physician in Africa, I brought the “Born Free” record album and sang “Born Free” in front of the class. (Trust me, it wasn't a pretty sound — I can only hit three notes). Old schoolmates ask me if I had ever made it to Africa. Sadly no, I have not yet had the opportunity.

Although I did not become a physician, I did pursue the sciences and now am a middle school science teacher. Every year I begin the year by introducing the importance of our environment and discuss ways to help with global issues and endangered species.

In 1966 I received the message loud and clear and I have been proactive in community, volunteer and education services for animal rights whenever possible.

Runner-Up: Elaine Livesey-Fassel, West Los Angeles, CA

As a Brit-born American who arrived in this country at age 15, I was already an animal advocate, having been raised in the north of England in beautiful countryside surrounded by free-range cows, pigs, sheep and horses, all of whom I loved and respected.

After a few years in Los Angeles, Gretchen Wyler, myself and other like-minded animal advocates founded Ark Trust, which thanks the public media for raising consciousness on animal issues with The Genesis Awards. We are soon to celebrate our 25th year!

We have hosted many celebrities who are gracious enough to present our awards at this event. We also spotlight very special people who have done exceptional work on behalf of animals, one of whom a few years ago was the beautiful Virginia McKenna of “Born Free”! What a special treat it was for me, a Brit, to meet and greet such a magical woman who has done so much to introduce the public to the concerns of wildlife and zoo issues! May she, her son and staff be well and continue to further this important cause that we are all so proud to support!

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