Two Clearwater Winners in Hallmark’s National Card Competition
by Renee Burrell
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Shedlock
CLEARWATER - Aj Stratemeyer and her mixed breed dog, Snowball, and also Elizabeth Shedlock and her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Lucy, all of Clearwater are among 67 finalists chosen from 7,000 entries in an online consumer-created card competition.
The contest was sponsored by Hallmark Cards, Inc. and Hill’s Pet Nutrition.
Last January, Hallmark announced that after years of customers sending in personal photos and ideas for cards, they were accepting funny photos of pets accompanied by a clever birthday sentiment that tied in with the picture for the second in their consumer designed card contest series.
Sarah Gronberg Kolell spokesperson from Hallmark Public Relations said Monday, "We received over 7,000 entries for the "YourPets" contest and announced the 67 finalists in April. When we looked at the list of finalists for the "YourPets" contest, as well as the other Hallmark Card Creation contest "Your Funnyness", we noted there were seven finalists from the Tampa/St.Petersburg area...and two from Clearwater! We're not sure if it's coincidence or if the metro area has extraordinarily talented residents! We're hoping the healthy competition will encourage people in Clearwater to vote for their favorite photo!"
The top prize in the YourPets competition is a people's choice to be selected from the 67 finalists. The card with the most online votes by September 14, will receive a $1,000 grand prize and a trip to Hallmark. The public is invited to vote online for their favorite at: Hallmark.com/you.
Stratemeyer's card is a photo she had taken of Snowball the first day she was trying out a new fisheye lens on her camera. The image entitled, "Jealous Much?" is a close up of Snowball's head with the fisheye's effect that inspired the sentiment, "Nany Nany Boo Boo, I'm younger than you! Happy Birthday".
"At first I didn't think they were serious," said Stratemeyer about being notified of the win. "Then, when I got the prize money in the mail, I figured out it was for real."
Stratemeyer, 17, a senior at Dunedin high school, said she had longed for a dog as a child and when the time was right five years ago, her family sought adoption from the SPCA. Snowball's mom was seen being thrown out of a moving car window while she was pregnant. Someone rescued her and realized she was pregnant and brought her to the SPCA. She was put in foster care till she gave birth to six puppies. Only two of the puppies survived due to worms."
Stratemeyer picked Snowball because she was the more active of the two. "She is so well behaved and incredibly smart….she'll let you do anything to her. Whether it be [dressing her in] sunglasses and clothes to staying in a certain position for a picture."
Shedlock said she was shocked when she learned she was a finalist. "At first, I thought it was one of my friends or family members playing a joke on me. I never win anything! Then when I realized the man on the other end was serious, I think I might have squealed like a 16-year-old girl that just got a car for her birthday."
Shedlock explained that as a pup, "Lucy’s head was disproportionate to her tiny body size and anyone with “accentuated features” would relate to Lucy’s puppy days. Her winning entry was shot from an angle beneath Lucy which accentuates her head and long ears that King Charles Cavaliers are known for and reads: "Don't worry. With each passing birthday your head will appear smaller and smaller. Happy Birthday".
Shedlock is studying to become an elementary school teacher at St. Petersburg College of Education and teaches musical theatre at Dunedin Fine Arts Center. Lucy was a Christmas gift from her parents last year. "Lucy and I have a bond that's so special. It's my favorite thing about her. I can tell when she's happy or scared or excited or sleepy or sick or playful... and she can pick up on the same things in me. We both strive to help each other out. If I'm having a rough day, and I sort of sigh while I'm dozing on the couch, Lucy sighs back, as if to say, 'Yeah, I know how you feel'…She's like a tiny, furry mirror of my personality."
Shedlock said she entered the contest on the advice of her mom. "My mom emailed me the information one day and she told me that I should try to come up with an interesting caption for one of the many funny photos I had of Lucy. She kept urging me to enter something, so I finally did, remembering that mom's are usually right."
When the finalists were announced, Stratemeyer and Shedlock learned they shared an additional connection. Stratemeyer's mom, Debbie, also teaches at the Dunedin Fine Arts Center.
Stratemeyer and Shedlock each won $250 cash so far. Their cards are for sale in more than 10,000 stores and online on Hallmark's site.
On seeing her and Snowball's winning entry in the card shop Stratemeyer said, "Mine happened to be on the front row and center. It was awesome."
Photo courtesy of Aj Stratemeyer
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