Nearly two months ago, Fabiola Benitez received a call from Metra’s Communications Department notifying her that her son, Andres, had won Honorable Mention in his grade for Metra’s 11th annual Safety Poster and Essay Contest. Andres’ school had submitted the classroom’s artwork for the students.
“My first thought was ‘that’s crazy’ because my husband had won a similar contest at about the same age,” said Fabiola.
Her husband, Octavio, won first place in a poster contest for Chicago Transit Authority when he was 9 years old. His winning poster, which depicts an elevated train traveling over traffic, drawn in bold lines and deep colors, still hangs on the wall in Octavio’s mother’s home.
But for Fabiola, the surprises continued. Andres has autism, which makes it difficult for him to grasp pencils and pens in his hands. Fabiola thought these challenges made creating artwork unenjoyable for him.
“It was a surprise to see the piece he made,” Fabiola said. “I was proud of him.”
On June 21, winners of Metra’s 2016-2017 Safety Poster and Essay Contest were recognized for their work at Metra’s monthly Board of Directors meeting. The contest serves as a creative way to remind children of the need to be safe around railroad tracks. This year’s theme was “Keep Yourself(ies) Safe,” which highlights the prevalence of technology and social media in our everyday lives and the dangers of using these tools near railroad tracks.
This year’s contest received 2,011 poster and essay entries, with 15 total winners.
As for Andres’ poster, it too found a place on the wall, this time in Fabiola and Octavio’s home. The framed artwork serves as a reminder of their son’s achievement.
“Andres has already been in the newspaper for work with his autism service dog,” Fabiola says. “We plan to hang all his achievements together.”