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Church's Homefront Junior wins Emmy

One of the Church's Homefront Junior television spots, a 30-second public service message aimed toward children and youth, has won an Emmy from the grown-ups.

The spot, "Splash," features the heroic efforts in a swimming competition of Allie Schneider, an 8-year-old who is disabled by spina bifida. Allie, daughter of Kirk and Nata Schneider of the Parleys 3rd Ward in Salt Lake City, was the star in her own story."Splash" tells of her unconquerable spirit as she loses race after race.

The message was created through a cooperative effort by the Missionary Department, the Audiovisual Department and Bonneville Communications.

Pres. Sheldon F. Child of the New York New York South Mission received the award in behalf of the Church at a gala banquet of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences at New York City Aug. 25.

This is the third time the Homefront campaign has won television's highest honor, winning previous Emmys in 1987 and 1988. Of the four finalists in this year's public service announcements competition, two were Homefront messages. The other Homefront finalist was titled, "Service on the Run," and features a young woman doing some unexpected service for an older woman.

Gary J. Dixon, vice president of creative services for Bonneville Communications, a member of the Kaysville (Utah) 22nd Ward, said, "The Church wants to create a series that will lift and inspire people. I think this particular spot lifts you in a lot of different ways. You don't have to be Allie's age, you don't have to be a young person; it lifts you no matter what age you are."

He said that "Splash," which competed with other spots on such subjects as hunger and AIDS, "obviously changed the feelings of the Emmy committee, which had a whole country's worth of spots to choose from.

"It is a credit largely to Allie."

Michael A. Dunn, senior writer for Bonneville Communications, is the author of the message. A member of the Park City (Utah) 1st Ward, he said the idea for the public service message came after he had seen Allie in a swimming competition.

"I was at the swimming meet with my son. He finished and we thought the race was over, but in one lane, the clock was still running. I looked back to see this little object in the water, just slashing away with very protracted effort.

"It was Allie - she was finishing. I just wondered how in the world can anybody be this slow. I could swim faster with lead boots on.

"When she got to the end - it was a little different than we portrayed it - her dad pulled her out and you could see immediately that her legs were not developed.

"The reaction there at the swimming pool was just like the spot - wow, what an effort! This is where the gold medal belongs. But of course she didn't win it."

He said that after the idea for the public service message came, he couldn't decide how to cast the part to look authentic. Then, after long consideration, he decided to just have Allie portray herself.

"That's the magic of it," he emphasized.

Her parents and doctors said that while she physically might not be up to an arduous day of shooting, her spirit would be up to it. They encouraged the project.

"She was really excited in that little-girl excitement," said Brother Dunn. He added that she has "an incredible amount of self-esteem and pride."

She once even took issue with the script that said, "her relay team finished dead last in every meet."

"I know we didn't come in last in all the races," she said.

"Splash" was shown on television during the children programming hours, and it was also featured during adult programming. According to reports, it had the potential of being seen in 91 million households in the United States to an audience as large as 245 million people.

"We were pretty excited here at Bonneville after we received word that we'd won an Emmy," said Brother Dunn. "One day I received the biggest bouquet of balloons with all this candy. On a card, in little-kids' handwriting, it read, "You, for sure, got my vote. Congratulations on the Emmy. Love, Allie."

But, he said, the producers give credit to Allie for the idea.

"She's a really gutsy, determined little girl with some great parents who really encouraged her," said Brother Dunn.

He said the producers are also excited for Allie: after all her effort, and after all the times she's placed last, that she has finally won the gold.