Kexin Su creates free form art concepts for consideration for prizes withthe Champkids competition at the Children's Museum on Saturday night (Photo by Joe Abate).

Kindergarten to 12th-grade students from throughout Nassau, Suffolk and Queens turned out to compete in the first Champkids Coloring & Drawing Competition May 12 at the Long Island Children’s Museum in Garden City.

Champkids is a Great Neck-based company that’s out to foster creativity and competition in children and teenagers by giving budding young artists an outlet for their nascent talents. It was started early this year by Fenella Kim, an electric power engineer who also founded and serves as the CEO and president of Reliance Star Payment Services, a credit card processing company also based in Great Neck. Kim was “inspired” to start Champkids by her 10-year-old daughter, Allena, who serves as its “chief inspiration officer,” Fenella says.

“She loves to draw and color – just like when I was little,” Fenella says, noting her daughter decided to enter art competitions at age eight.

But there was one problem.

“Most of the competition was mail-in,” where you create the artwork at home and then send it in, Fenella explains, adding that, instead of finding out right away who the winners are, “days and weeks go by and we never hear the results.”

Allena’s experience prompted Fenella to tell her daughter about the more than 200 art competitions she had participated in when growing up, when she had the opportunity to face off against other kids in person and, importantly, didn’t have to wait long to find out if she won or not.

“I was never athletic,” Fenella says, noting the art competitions allowed her to build up confidence and some of the same skills and competitiveness that young athletes get from sports, and played a role in the success she’s had.

Fenella is hoping that her daughter and youngsters who participate in Champkids events can benefit the same way she did from art competition, she says, noting she went on to start her first business – tutoring – at only 14, became a graduate of the Harvard Business School Executive program, and then started Reliance at 23.

“I like that the awards are live on the stage,” Allena says, pointing out she had to wait about six months to find out if she won one mail-in art competition last year.

View photo gallery to see winners. Photos by Joe Abate.

(lt to rt) Yash Patel and Rowan DeJean work at a table together to create art for prizes in the Champskids competition on Saturday night.

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Local experts who volunteered to judge the first competition included Michelle Palatnik, 28, who teaches art at the Nassau County Museum of Art in Roslyn and the Art League of Long Island in Dix Hills, and also has her own art studio in Huntington.

“Fenella approached me” to participate in the event and “it was a very interesting idea,” Palatnik says. The challenge for her in judging the competition was being fair, while also considering the young age of the participants, she concedes.

Competitors included Haley Singh, a 10-year-old fifth grader from Roslyn, who says she has already taken part in art competitions at school before this. But the Champkids event has given her the opportunity to face off against strangers for the first time, she says.

“I’m hoping to win,” but if she doesn’t, then at least “I tried,” she says with a shrug.
While the first Champkids event focused on individual competition, “in the future, we plan to do it in groups… maybe a team of four,” possibly including family members, Fenella says.

Next up is a second Champkids art competition June 16 at the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead. Registration will start at 10 a.m. and the event will cost $30 to compete, including aquarium admission. The drawing competition will start at 2 p.m. and end at 5 p.m., with awards presentation planned for 4 p.m.

Fenella is also looking to “set up a scholarship fund, so we can give back to the kids,” she says, adding she’s hoping to eventually expand the competition to the point that it can be held locally at Nassau Coliseum and even rolled out nationally. Champkids is looking for any art organizations interested in partnering with it.

Those interested can call Champkids at 1-888-699-0828. Sponsors of the May 12 competition included Long Island Press and Schneps Communications Events.

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