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If I could do magic like Harry Potter ...

Then perhaps a powerful spell could heal a heart shattered by a mother's death, a St. Petersburg teen writes in a contest.

Published June 12, 2003

[Times photo: James Borchuck]
David Dawson, 14, cradles a photo of his mother, Lisa Wagenman, who died two years ago. His essay reflecting on her death won a Scholastic contest.

ST. PETERSBURG - Grandma Grace told him he should enter. She read about the Harry Potter essay contest on the Web one day at work. That night, she called from Long Island and told her grandson.

"Do it, David," she said. "And if you win, you have to take me to England."

The contest was sponsored by Scholastic, open to anyone 18 or younger. Winners would be whisked to England on June 26. They would get to meet J.K. Rowling, who wrote the Harry Potter books.

David Dawson has read all four - seven times each. Grandma Grace - Grace Wagenman, of Long Beach, N.Y. - gave them to him for his 13th birthday.

"They really helped me," he said. "I got them at just the right time."

David is 14. He will be a sophomore at Lakewood High this fall. He never wins anything, he said.

But he didn't want to disappoint Grandma Grace. So he clicked onto the contest and read the rules: In 300 words or less, answer this question: "If you could have one special power taught at Hogwarts, what would it be, and why?"

David thought about being able to bring books to life. He thought about being able to fly.

Then he thought about his mom.

That night, while his dad made dinner, David got on the computer. He wrote and rewrote. Deleted and deleted. Started over again and again. He drove his dad and sisters crazy, reading every paragraph out loud.

Three days later, he called Grandma Grace. The essay was finished.

David wanted the power to cure broken hearts.

"Although I am only fourteen years old, I have the experience of a broken heart due to the death of my mother," he wrote, "and it still has not healed."

David's mom, Lisa Wagenman, died two years ago, on the day before Valentine's Day. She caught a cold. Then she went to the hospital. Then she died.

The St. Petersburg Times published a story about David's family on Feb. 10, 2002. David's dad, Jim Wagenman, had to quit his job as a truck driver to stay close to the kids. He's a teacher at Morgan Fitzgerald Middle School in Largo now.

Jim has raised David and his older sister, Ashley, 16, since they were toddlers. They call him Dad. David and Ashley seldom see their biological father. David also has a little sister, Giana, who is 7. David's family lives in a four-bedroom house off 38th Avenue S. Every room has framed photos of his mom.

"I love my mom and she is gone," David wrote in his essay. "I would like the sadness to start lifting somewhat."

David has brown, wavy hair he keeps pushing out of his blue eyes. Round cheeks. A wide mouth. If you cover his eyebrows, he looks just like his mom.

He misses her most at night, he said. He wishes he could tell her things, like how he's going to try out for football this fall. He wishes she could still wake him up with a kiss. Okay, so he misses her in the mornings too.

"I don't think, as young as I am, that I should have to, you know, feel like this," he said Wednesday in his living room.

"For this reason I am determined to learn how to acquire the power of healing broken hearts," he wrote in his essay.

The power, he wrote, should be packaged in a potion. The potion "should probably contain stardust, cloud puffs, sunrays, skylights, rainbow pieces, and a piece of chocolate."

David first heard about the Harry Potter books a few months after his mom died. His friend Chris had been reading them, and he told David about the other world he had found. David asked Grandma Grace for the books for his next birthday.

"They really gave me other stuff to think about, instead of my mom," he said. "And I like the writing a lot. They're not like other books that are boring. I mean, you feel like you're there with Harry Potter. You can smell stuff and hear stuff and be right in that scene."

David does well at school, but he's never been known for his writing. He pretended the essay was the FCAT, he said. Draw a circle, put the main idea inside it. Let the other stuff branch off, with little lines to connect everything.

He mailed his entry May 19.

Last week, the phone rang and David answered. A man asked, very formally, if he could please speak to someone about David Dawson.

"I was trying to figure out what I'd done wrong," David said.

The man said he was from Scholastic. He was calling about the contest. More than 12,000 kids had entered.

David won.

He is one of 10 winners, the only one from Florida.

David called Grandma Grace.

In two weeks, they leave for England.

"I know my mom would be excited," David said. "I just wish I could tell her."

The winning essay

This is the essay David Dawson wrote about Harry Potter. He was one of 12,000 entrants in the Scholastic-sponsored contest. He is one of 10 winners who will go to England to meet J.K. Rowling on June 26.

As a third year student at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry I have learned many spells and made lots of potions. One thing I have not yet had the privilege of learning is how to heal a broken heart. Although I am only fourteen years old, I have the experience of a broken heart due to the death of my mother, and it still has not healed.

For this reason I am determined to learn how to acquire the power of healing broken hearts. I don't care who makes it, evil or good, I just would like to have the chance to heal a broken heart. It can help people all over the world and cure problems. I loved my mom and she is gone. I would like the sadness to start lifting somewhat.

No matter how many people I talk to, no one knows the secret potion to help with this power, which means it has never been discovered or tried with the wizard or Muggle society. Since this definitely is a very complicated and seemingly difficult feat, it is only fair and just that one could hope to contact a Wizard who has attended Hogwarts School and be able to find a potion that, once drunk, would slowly ease the heartbreak pain. It wouldn't have to be so powerful so as to cause palpitations, so a few sniffs or drinks of the potion at intervals would do it. The potions should probably contain stardust, cloud puffs, sunrays, skylights, rainbow pieces, and a piece of chocolate. I think it would be great, especially for kids who really should have the privilege of happiness in their young years. For this reason I am determined to learn how to acquire the power of healing broken hearts.

To read the original story about Jim Wagenman and his family:

[Last modified June 12, 2003, 14:29:10]

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