Drayton Valley Derrick Toastmasters celebrated a double convention victory: Winning International Speech Contest and its president being elected as Division B Director. Yet only four years ago it was down to one member.
Mahlon Kitching moved the convention to tears: Of laughter, then sadness, then joy, to win the contest on May 5. He power-punched impeccably timed and delivered humour, raw emotion and drama into his riveting story of sibling strength Don’t worry. You are not going to die. I will not let that happen. The first thing Mahlon did when hearing his name was ask his brother – who’d never heard the speech before – to share the stage with him.
The small oil town boy from Drayton Valley, 90 minutes west of Edmonton, now carries Derrick Toastmasters flaring torch to light up Chicago, where he will speak off against some 300 world-class toastmasters from Vietnam to Venezuela. He is advancing and competing in a world championship of public speaking – having started his journey in a rural area of small Albertan towns. He says, “I still can’t believe I won – I was shocked to tell the truth.” Mahlon is Drayton’s first champion in its nearly 30-year history, and his team are on course to win distinguished club status – not bad for a club that had faced closure.
Drayton Valley’s hosting the area contest for the first time in 15 years were the embers bursting back into life. Here, Mahlon had to defeat a previous district champion Robert Brennan from Beaumont who delivered yet another near-perfect speech. It was possibly the toughest first round in the district – a veteran toastmaster described it as “The best contest I’ve ever seen” during his 15 years in the program.
Mahon attributes his and the club’s success to its dynamic president and next year’s Division B Director, Von Erik Tandoc, who says, “It’s rewarding and satisfying to be part of such a dynamic club and help its members reach their potential as I grow with them – I want to help grow the club that is responsible for my growth.“
Mahlon personifies “The Drayton Phoenix” as one of the team who helped breathe fire back into the club’s almost-cold ashes dubbed it. That crew of Beaumont and Devon toastmasters were put together by the then Area Governor Marc Haine, who built great camaraderie while traveling for more than a two-hour round trip on long, bitter winter nights. Marc says, “I’m so proud – I could not be prouder. I saw Mahlon come in as a nervous rookie and evolve into a world-class speaker.”
The same year that Marc’s crew rejuvenated, the now double-digit-member club, it celebrated its 25th anniversary. The mayor, MLA/government minister, and guest speaker – the semi-mythical club founder Peter Kossowan aka “Mr. Toast” attended.
The club invites everyone to celebrate at its open house, Weds, 9 May.
So how did Mahlon do it?
“I poured so much into this – I’ve obsessed over the details for the past months – I didn’t want to come up here and not give 100%,” he says. Quipping, “Hey, a plan actually worked for me for once.”
Go Mahlon! Go! May the Force be with you.
Von Eric Tandoc (left) and Mahlon Kitching (right) celebrate the double victory of Drayton Valley Derrick Toastmasters