As part of their prize, Rebekah Lane and Zoe Wolfe will toss out first pitches at Friday's Cleveland Indians game.

Two Stark County students are among 10 youth winners in a national essay contest sponsored by Major League Baseball and Scholastic Books.

Rebekah Lane, an eighth-grader at Lake Center Christian School in Lake Township, and Zoe Wolfe, a fifth-grader at Orchard Hill Intermediate School in North Canton, won "MVP Awards" in their grade categories for essays commemorating Jackie Robinson breaking baseball's color line 72 years ago this month.

The competition, "Breaking Barriers: In Sports, In Life," was started in 1997. Since then, more than 37 million children and 5 million teachers in the U.S and Canada have participated. The pair are the only winners from Ohio.

Lane is the daughter of Rob and Lynn Lane of Jackson Township; Wolfe is the daughter of Ryan and Melissa Wolfe of North Canton.

For their winning essays, the girls were awarded certificates signed by MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, commemorative T-shirts, books written and autographed by Jackie Robinson's daughter, Sharon, and laptop computers.

Lane also will receive an authentic MLB jersey. Wolfe's class at Orchard Hill was given commemorative "Breaking Barriers" T-shirts and books, and she received a congratulatory phone call from a member of the Cleveland Indians Community Impact Team.

Lane's essay, "Mistake to Magnificent," detailed her overcoming challenges as a result of her transracial adoption, and being rejected by her birth mother. Lane said she was encouraged to enter the competition by her language arts teacher, Mindy Ickes, after Lane wrote about her experiences in her class journal.

Awareness kits

"We stress at our school giving students opportunities to be published," Ickes said. "We encourage them to take part in different competitions ... Rebekah is strong, independent, passionate and caring."

A musician and theater buff, the outgoing Lane said she was aware of Robinson, though she admits with a laugh that she doesn't follow baseball.

"I did know of his story," she said. "It was really interesting. I learned how he used his attributes, which still helps us today. It's not easy being different. It's not very often, but I get comments that are not the nicest."

"We try to talk through things as issues come up," said Lane's adoptive mom, Lynn. "You just try to be available for discussions when things happen."

Lynn Lane said that Rebekah, whom the family adopted at 3 weeks old, is outgoing and friendly.

"She's very good at including others in her circle," she said.

Wolfe, who has dyslexia, wrote about how she secured a grant to create "More Alike Than Different" disability-awareness kits, and detailed her own struggles and frustration.

"I've witnessed people making fun of people with disabilities," she said.

Family calling

Wolfe, who won a third-place and a Reader's Choice Award in the 2018 PBS Kid Writer contest, wrote in her essay: "I wanted students with disabilities to feel the courage like Jackie Robinson had."

"She is very tenacious and has an excellent work ethic," said Wolfe's teacher, Mercedes Zernechel.

Melissa Wolfe said her daughter has always been a kind and caring person. She volunteers with Challenger baseball and respite care programs at their church, First Christian.

"Zoe's just so creative," dad Ryan Wolfe said. "She sees things no one else sees. It's one of the things we love about her. We believe God's calling for our whole family is to serve people with disabilities. We could couldn't be more proud."

Both girls' teachers also were given laptops.

As part of their prize, Lane and Wolfe will toss out first pitches at Friday's Cleveland Indians game at Progressive Field in Cleveland.

"I cannot throw a baseball for my life," Lane said with a laugh.

To learn more, visit MLB.com/breakingbarriers.

Reach Charita at 330-580-8313 or charita.goshay@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @cgoshayREP